TEWKSBURY – Back in June, the Town Crier highlighted siblings Maci and Brady Chapman, who were four-sport varsity athletes, thanks to the abbreviated COVID seasons.
At that time, Maci was asked about her future plans after high school. She mentioned that she liked Merrimack College, wanted to study psychology, but didn't know if her running career would continue at the next level. She wanted to wait and see how it all panned out.
Last Wednesday, it panned out after she took a pen and signed her name as part of the National Letter of Intent Day. For the next four years she will be a part of the Division 1 Merrimack College women's cross-country and track programs.
“Merrimack has been my top school for a while, since my junior year. That was before I even knew that I wanted to run in college because at that time I was playing hockey, too and I didn't know what I wanted to do,” she said. “This past summer, I trained like crazy and my mileage was super high, I did a couple of running camps and then getting elected captain (for the cross-country team) I started to take (running) a lot more serious than I had in the past.
“Coach (Fran) Cusick then started talking to me about running in college and he told me that it was definitely possible. I toured Merrimack, not knowing that I would be able to run there because they are Division 1. I also looked into a couple of other schools, but I always felt like Merrimack was the best fit for me.”
During the tour, Chapman was undecided about a possible commitment to run. That decision was put on the back burner … but not for long.
“I filled out their questionnaire on the website and I answered yes about wanting to join athletics at the school. The next day, I got an email from (Coach Chris Cameron) basically thanking me for filling it out, keep him updated and he wished me luck for the season. I thought that was nice.”
Then a few hours later, things started to move a little quicker in the process.
“He called me and said that he didn't realize that my times were so close to the qualifying times (for the college team). We talked for a while, he told me about the team and I asked him some questions. Then right there he offered me a spot on the team and offered me (scholarship) money. I was like 'wow' this doesn't even seem real and I haven't even met this guy yet.
“I talked with my parents and they were super supportive and so excited because they knew that I wanted to go to Merrimack before they knew that I wanted to run in college.”
After the phone call and talking to her parents, she still didn't commit.
“I went back for my second tour to get that feel again and then about three weeks later, I gave my verbal commitment and that was around the end of September. (I made the decision because) I liked the location and I wanted to close, no matter where I went. I wanted to be able to come home whenever I wanted. I know a bunch of people who go there and they love it, and just the environment there seems so welcoming. When I verbally committed, I told my teammates and they were excited. It just doesn't seem real, this is all just overwhelming.” she said.
While all of that was going on, she was on the shelf from running with a foot injury. She missed about a month or so competing for the Redmen cross-country team.
“I couldn't run for a while and it was just super unmotivating, but hearing that I had a spot on the (Merrimack) team, got me through the month of not running, because seriously that was the worst time. When I got back from the injury, the first few races were tough and (being off for a month) sets you off a lot without ever realizing it,” she said.
In her third race back this past Saturday, she finished 16th in the Division 2B Divisional Meet held in Gardner. She was fully healthy and back, better than ever.
“I think this will be a great fit for Maci,” said Cusick. “We've had some kids go over there with Ashley Figucia, Ben and Joey Forest. They have a good program over there. They have transitioned to Division 1 for maybe two years now at this point. By going there, Maci will just continue to get better. She's really finding herself as an athlete and I think she will do amazing over there.”
If that happens, Chapman said it's all thanks to her coach.
“I started off a mediocre runner. I didn't even know how to run a mile. He has turned me into (a better runner). I was able to make second team all-conference (despite being injured). Coach Cusick's training is good and he provided a lot of support for us, which has definitely made it better so I definitely need to thank him.
“I also have to thank my mom and dad, who are my biggest two supporters in my life as well as (my brother Brady), my sister (Lyla), Coach Doyle and Coach Fortunato, who have all helped me get to where I am today.”