Graham, a senior, has been a major contributor at MC in both her academic and athletic achievements. GOJASPERS / Courtesy
By Jilleen Barrett, Managing Editor/Features Editor
Rory Graham had college cross country and track and field coaches from all over the country trying to recruit her. She could have gone to an Ivy League like the University of Pennsylvania, or a school with bigger facilities like Northeastern. But after getting to know Coach Kerri Gallagher and finding out her aspirations for the team, Graham knew she had to become a Jasper.
Graham grew up just north of Albany, where she found her love of soccer and basketball. She used track and field to stay in shape during the spring, but by sophomore year, realized it was the sport she was meant to compete in. Graham says it was the camaraderie among the girls on the team who inspired her to do winter track and club soccer simultaneously during her sophomore year.
“It was just such a different atmosphere … with other field sports or even tennis, you’re fighting for that starting spot or number one singles and stuff like that,” Graham said. “But with track, it’s more like you’re working with your teammates instead of against them … it was just more of a cohesive and fun environment.”
After a period of time where Graham’s parents, Dave and Michele, were driving their daughter from soccer practice directly to track practice, Graham suffered an overuse injury that forced her to choose just one sport per season.
“It was kind of fun,” Michele said of this hectic time in Graham’s athletic career. “It was fun to go and watch her because she was successful at both [soccer and track] … we just love to watch her do what she loves to do, and it really doesn’t get better than that, until she got hurt. Then it wasn’t so fun anymore.”
After joining the Jaspers, Graham would sustain another injury, this time a labrum tear which she is still getting cortisone shots for nearly three years later. There have even been times in which she couldn’t compete or even participate in the same training as the rest of the team, but this only seemed to make her a better asset.
Graham was noticed by teammate Domenick Boccia for maintaining leadership qualities during times when the collective attitude was at its worst — like in January 2022, when the majority of the team tested positive for COVID-19 and could not train. During a team meeting, Graham took action and influenced her teammates to keep their heads high. When Graham was selected to join the Pen and Sword honor society, Boccia — a member of the previous class — discussed her influence on the team at the induction ceremony.
“You taught us a valuable lesson on what it means to lead and how to do so through serving others,” Boccia said about her willingness to revitalize their attitudes. “Your efforts do not go unnoticed; first to practice and last to leave, constant communication with our coach and your teammates will forever be remembered.”
In addition to being a runner, Graham enjoys writing, which is why she chose to major in English and political science in college. During this time, she served as editor-in-chief of Logos Magazine, an academic liberal arts journal, and helped high schoolers write their college essays.
Graham is graduating college in December determined to become a volunteer assistant coach for her high school track and field team and eventually, a high school English teacher. She will be attending Clarkson University to pursue her master’s in education.
Adam Koehler, Ph.D., who advised Graham in her role as editor-in-chief, says the idea of Graham teaching English to the next generation makes him feel “relieved for the future.”
“She’s going to be an advocate for students who don’t necessarily know that they have advocates in their lives,” Koehler said. “I think that is something a lot of young people need is an adult who is going to take them seriously, and with the kindness and with the intelligence that Rory brings to the table.”
Gallagher has seen this kindness play out in Graham’s athletic career since her early days on the team, noting her ability to detect when she should help a teammate hands on or simply lead by example. She believes that all of this comes from a place of humility, which helped her get through her injury.
“She has had to deal with significant injuries throughout her career which made her progression look a lot different than many athletes,” Gallagher said. “Her commitment to growth and development in all areas, however, is what allowed her to come out of two years of significant injury and establish herself as a key contributing member of both cross country and track and field scoring teams.”