Emily Borchers, Dayton track athlete. UD photo

Coronavirus: Dayton Flyers runner sees career come to unsatisfying end

Cross country, track athlete hoped to return to nationals in steeplechase

The dominoes fell one after the other , following the NBA’s suspension of its season the previous night, and that soon meant the end for NCAA spring sports. For Borchers, a fifth-year senior, the news not only ended her season before it really began, but it ended her career as well. She had no idea that practice was the last of her career.

The NCAA will give spring athletes another season of eligibility, but not all will take it, Borchers among them. She earned her bachelor’s degree in arts and communication last year and was working on her master’s degree in communications. She’s ready to move on with her life and is starting to look for jobs.

“I think anyone in this position, a senior participating in spring sports, is basically devastated, just not being able to get the closure they hoped for,” Borchers said. “For me, in particular, coming back for a fifth year basically to go to nationals again, it’s very unsatisfying.”

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Borchers, a 2015 graduate of Russia High School, qualified for the NCAA championships in the 3,000-meter steeplechase last season. That race was marred for her by a fall at the first water pit, something that had never happened to her in competition or practice. She finished the race in 11 minutes, 8.38 seconds, a minute slower than her school-record time of 10:08.39.

“She had a bit of bad luck,” her coach Jason Ordway said at the time. “Her foot slipped on the first water barrier. … When something like that happens in a championship-style race, it’s nearly impossible to come back from. She fought all the way through the line.”

Borchers used the moment as motivation heading into this season. Now she’ll never know what she could have done.

“It’s very unfortunate to think I had worked nine months for this season to be here,” she said, “and in a few hours, it’s just taken away.”

Even without the perfect ending, it was a memorable career for Borchers. She was part of the 2017 women’s cross country team that won the program’s first A-10 championship since 2009 and set the UD 5-K record (17:16.9) in the 2018 cross country season. She also won the Atlantic 10 championship in the steeplechase in 2018 and 2019.

“The level of importance and value Emily has brought to this program is simply immeasurable,” Ordway said. “From strong academics, to Atlantic 10 Conference titles and all-conference honors, school records and regional and national qualifying performances, she’s left a mark on this team and program that will stand for years to come. A student-athlete of her work ethic, attitude, and talent are few and far between. She’s been a true pleasure to work with, and I can speak on behalf of the entire team that we are better as whole because of her influence.”

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Borchers followed in the footsteps of her sister Katie, who is four years older than her and ran at Ohio State, where she was an All-American and Big Ten champion in the 800-meter run.

“Seeing her success kind of drove me,” Borchers said, “and I would say I never really realized my potential until sophomore year of high school, and then I started kind of taking it more seriously and realizing that I wanted to run at the Division I level.”

All these years later, instead of getting ready for the peak of her career, she’s stuck at home like almost everyone else in Ohio. She’s still running every day, of course.

“Basically just to keep myself sane,” Borchers said. “You can only sit in the house for so long. I kind of use it as a way to get out. I’m thankful that I’m healthy and can run. I’ll always have running to fall back on. You can take away a senior season, but you can’t take away running.”

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