Amy Cantrell ’22 arrived at Gettysburg College on move-in day in the fall of 2019 without ever visiting. The cross country and track and field junior transfer grew up on the west coast but wanted to branch out and try something completely new.
Cantrell graduated in 2017 from Wood River High School in Hailey, Idaho, and then went on to attend Montana State University.
“Montana was such a big school, and it was very similar to what I was familiar with,” said Cantrell. “I learned during my freshman year that I wasn’t one for big lecture halls and started thinking about maybe attending a smaller school. I also realized that I wanted to challenge myself academically as well as have an opportunity to run on a team.”
Cantrell reached out to her high school college counselor who provided a list of 10 schools for her to check out along the east coast with programs that fit her academic goals. She picked and applied to schools of interest to her, and ultimately decided to attend Gettysburg.
Cantrell had no east coast connections as her family lives on the west coast or down south. She did not know anyone who attended Gettysburg when she arrived on campus in August of 2019. While Cantrell was unfamiliar with the College before arriving, she knew about the history of the Battle of Gettysburg.
“Every time I tell people from back home where I go to college they instantly bring up the battlefields,” noted Cantrell. “I share that our teams get to run through the battlefields for practices. People don’t realize that is something that we get to do daily.”
When looking to transfer, academics along with athletics played a factor in her decision-making process. Cantrell had been running competitively on a cross country team since sixth grade but decided not to compete at Montana State. After not having a great senior season in high school, she took a year off to see what college would be like without running. She quickly realized during her freshman year of college that she missed the team environment.
“I realized, more than just the competitiveness, being on a team was so motivational for me to stay active and keep up with my running and my training,” said Cantrell. “The camaraderie of a team is something that I missed.”
In the spring of 2019, Cantrell emailed Coach Shenk expressing her interest in being a member of both the cross country and track and field programs.
“Coach Shenk was so nice and sincere in his email response,” said the political science and international affairs double major with a minor in history. “He welcomed me with open arms and was happy to have me join the teams. He was amazing.”
Cantrell made an immediate impact for the Orange and Blue in 2019 as she competed in all nine races, finishing as the No. 2 runner in six. She guided the Bullets as the top runner at the Centennial Conference Championship, which was hosted by Gettysburg, placing 34th with a personal-record (PR) mark of 24:05.7 in the 6,000-meter course. Cantrell concluded the season by finishing as the team’s No. 2 runner at the NCAA Division III Mideast Regional, taking 147th with a 24:31.5 time out of over 345 runners.
Transferring can be a challenge mixed with feelings of the unknown, especially when attending a college across the country that you have never seen before. Cantrell trusted the process and had the mindset that everything will work out how it is supposed to.
“Choosing to attend Gettysburg was and remains one of the best decisions I have ever made,” noted Cantrell. “Gettysburg has been so great for me. I have enjoyed all aspects of the school. The coaches and the team were instrumental in making the process and transition easier.”
With the 2020 cross country season on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, Cantrell has taken a gap semester and will return to campus once athletic competition resumes. While she may not be able to train with her teammates physically, she does stay in constant contact virtually as the team uses the Strava app, which tracks everyone’s running distance.
By Jennifer Mower
Photos by David Sinclair and courtesy of Amy Cantrell ‘22