Mary Goodwin's unexpected road to Bemidji State is one for the record books

Feb. 16—BEMIDJI — Believe it or not, Mary Goodwin wasn't even planning on running in college.

One of the best track athletes in Bemidji State history almost didn't make it to town. Instead, she planned on attending Montana State as a student. But when then-BSU assistant coach Mike Lynch found out about Goodwin, he put on his best recruiting pitch and did everything he could to entice her to join the Beavers. It paid off spectacularly for all involved.

"I coached in Anchorage, Alaska, and I knew her high school coach," said Lynch, today BSU's head coach. "So during COVID, I reached out to him and I said, 'Hey, do you have any athletes looking to run in college?' And he gave me a couple names. I reached out to Mary, and we texted and called. I called Mom and Dad and got everyone on board and tried to sell Bemidji as much as I could and the campus and the lifestyle here.

"I get the dreaded, 'Hey, I'd like to call and talk to you.' And as a coach, either they're saying no or they're saying yes. And she called and she said, 'I'm excited to be a Beaver. When do I sign?' That's history right there."

It turned out to be one of the most consequential conversations in program history. After moving to Bemidji from Eagle River, Alaska, Goodwin has habitually rewritten the Bemidji State record books.

She holds the program indoor record in the mile, 3,000-meter run and 5,000-meter run and was also a member of the record-breaking distance medley relay team. In outdoor competition, she has recorded the top eight program times in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, her signature event.

In cross country, she owns the top program marks in the 4,000 meters and 5,000 meters and is second all time in the 6,000 meters by 11.5 seconds.

"I did not want to run in college at all," Goodwin said. "I was like, 'Oh, no, I'm not good enough.' And then (Mike) called me up one day because he knew my coach from high school, and something in me was like, 'OK, let's try this out.' And I mean, look at me now. So I'm glad I did."

On Friday at the BSU Twilight, Goodwin competed in the 1,000 meters for the first time in her BSU career. She easily finished first among a field of five runners from BSU and St. Cloud State at the Gillett Wellness Center, recording a time of 3:03.4 to top teammate Maggie McCarthy.

McCarthy clocked a personal-record time of 3:13.14. Goodwin's mark was the 16th best achieved in Division II 1,000-meter races this season.

"That was the first time I've actually ever run that before," Goodwin said. "It was kind of just a workout today, more (to) get me ready for the conference (meet)."

She makes it look easy, but it isn't automatic. Goodwin runs up to 50 miles per week and strives to lead Bemidji State's runners in total weekly mileage. That dedication provides her an enviable aerobic base when competition time rolls around.

"Every race, I really try to go in and get a little bit better each week," Goodwin said. "I've always had a drive to get better and work harder. A lot of it is for the team. I know if I get stronger and I get faster, I'll get more points for the team. That support from everybody else has really given me the effort to be able to work harder every week, come to practice and work better. Every week, I want to take down the time a little bit more, a little bit more."

For Lynch, Goodwin's example provides a benchmark for the rest of the Beavers' runners to chase down. If they catch her or even get close, they'll find themselves inhaling rare air.

"She's super fun to coach, super coachable athlete," Lynch said. "(She's) willing to put the work in. Communication's really good with her. That's what's really helped her grow as an athlete, that big piece right there. ... She's a big contributor. She's a great leader. Her leading is done with her feet, and sometimes you need that in a program. Her mileage package is pretty good for her, and it's helped her stay healthy."

In the spring, Goodwin will look to chase down Bemidji State's first-ever steeplechase berth at nationals. But for now, she's savoring her senior season ahead of an anticipated move to Washington University in St. Louis, where she will attend graduate school for physical therapy after graduating with a degree in exercise science from BSU. Joining the Beavers is a decision she didn't expect to make, but she's truly satisfied with the end result.

"This year, (I'm) enjoying the season completely," Goodwin said. "This is my last year. (I'm trying to) go out with a bang and trying to break those school records that I set last year. Hopefully in the outdoor, my big goal is to go to nationals in the steeplechase. So that's what we're looking forward to. ... I am very happy (here), and if I could look back, I would make the same decision over again."

Bemidji State placed first at the two-team meet, easily topping St. Cloud State 79-28. Numerous Beavers also recorded event wins.

Janice Cole topped the 60-meter dash in 7.82 seconds. Carol Miller won the mile run with a time of 5:27.84. Cole also took home the 400 with her 59.82, while Bemidji High School alumnus Josie Aitken placed third with a season-best time of 1:01.03.

Cole picked up her third event win in the 200 with a time of 26.37. Abby Syverson was right behind, finishing in 27.46. Nadia Vaughn paced the 3K at 11:32.85.

Olivia Olson led the pole vault with a clearance of 3.01 meters. Natalie Fultz led the long jump field with a distance of 5.21 meters, followed by Abbie Disbrow at 5.06.

Tierra Doss won the shot put with a mark of 13.4 meters, trailed by Mikenna Patrin (12.06), Emma Erickson (10.54) and Cassidy Schmidt (10.47, PR). Patrin paced the weight throw with a distance of 15.89 meters, followed by Erickson (13.95), Hannah Baker (13.5, PR), Schmidt (11.98) and Zoe Lennon (9.33).