By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — She’s been asked the question several times since arriving at the University of Virginia in 2008, and the answer is no.
She’s not related to Gene Corrigan, the former UVa athletics director and ACC commissioner. But senior Anna Corrigan has made a name for herself at the University, as an engineering student and as a distance runner.
Her formula for success?
“Just absolute commitment,” said Jason Vigilante, Virginia’s director of track and field/cross country.
“She constructs her lifestyle around doing things as well as she can. Everything she does is with the intention of becoming as good as she can be. Honestly, if every kid on the team were like that, we’d be better.”
At Lake Braddock High in Northern Virginia, Corrigan was an all-district runner but received little interest from Division I colleges. She didn’t blame them.
“I was not particularly good in high school at all,” she said recently. “I just really enjoyed running, and I really liked working at it.”
An exceptional student, Corrigan was accepted at UVa and enrolled there in 2008, hoping to join the cross country and track teams as a walk-on. Vigilante arrived at Virginia about the same time after nearly a decade at the University of Texas.
“It was interesting,” Corrigan recalled, “because they were going through the coaching transition. So I think I was originally supposed to have a tryout, but I’m not sure I ever really did, unless the first race counted as my tryout. But I felt like I was treated for the most part like most of the other first-years.”
Her new coach’s initial impressions of Corrigan?
“Very quiet,” Vigilante said Thursday. “Probably the furthest thing from a standout Division I recruited athlete. Anna’s about 5-feet tall and not very imposing and quite shy when you first meet her. But when you get to know her over the years, you see see’s absolutely capable and intelligent. It’s unbelievable the drive she has to do everything as well as she can.”
UVa’s cross country course is at Panorama Farms in Albemarle County, and both of Vigilante’s teams will compete there Friday. The field for the third Panoroma Farms Invitational consists of Virginia, Duke, East Carolina, Georgetown, Liberty, Norfolk State, UNC Greensboro, Kentucky, North Florida, Richmond, South Florida and VCU.
The men’s 8k race starts at 4 p.m. Friday, with the women’s 6k to follow at 4:45 p.m.
Corrigan runs cross country in the fall, indoor track (3k and 5k) in the winter and outdoor track (5k and 10k) in the spring. She placed fifth in the 10000 meters and eighth in the 5000 meters at the ACC outdoor championships last spring, and in September she won the Lou Onesty Open at Panorama Farms, completing the 5k course in 18 minutes, 4.5 seconds.
For that performance, Corrigan was named ACC women’s cross country performer of the week. The award was another reminder of how far she’s come at UVa.
“A lot of it is the improved training, and all of the resources here,” Corrigan said. “I was a really low-mileage runner in high school. We did, I think, good workouts, but we just weren’t putting the mileage in, so I wasn’t having the results.”
Vigilante said: “One of the wonderful things about our sport is that there’s no limits. Anna may continue to grow and progress and get better and better and better. If someone had told me when I first met her that she would be as good as she is right now, I would have said, ‘That’s not probable, and it’s going to take a lot of effort.’ ”
Effort is never an issue for Corrigan, whose father is a civil engineer. She’s majoring in systeming engineering, with a minor in civil engineering, and plans to work with water systems after getting her master’s degree. She’s vice president of UVa’s chapter of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society. When she has time, Corrigan said, she likes “to go to Bible study, but school and running are most of my life.”
Her experience as a runner at UVa has “been wonderful,” Corrigan said, and it got even better before this school year when Vigilante awarded her scholarship money for the first time.
“It’s really nice to know that the hard work has paid off and that I’ve actually been able to help the team,” Corrigan said, “especially coming in where I did and not being sure how much of a contribution I’d be able to make.”
As a coach, Vigilante said, it “feels good to be able to say, ‘You know what, pal? You’ve come every day and you’ve been committed to the program and you’ve done your best and you’ve earned this.’ And unfortunately as coaches you don’t get that situation very often. You have to recruit kids and give them scholarship money, rather than say, ‘Come on in and prove it.’ ”