Duffy: A Local Inspiration

By Debbie Rosenfeld-Caparaz

Nov. 11, 2003

BERKELEY, Calif. - California is fortunate that sophomore Bridget Duffy is a better runner than volleyball player.

Duffy leads the Golden Bear women at the 2003 NCAA Cross Country West Regional Saturday in Gresham, Ore., and arguably has the best chance of any Cal harrier to qualify for the NCAA Championships Nov. 24 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The last woman to represent the Bears at nationals was Elissa Riedy in 1997 and 1998, the latter being an All-American performance.

As a freshman at St. Mary's High School in Berkeley, Duffy tried out for the volleyball team. Her performance in the conditioning runs and her average volleyball skills led the volleyball coach to contact the cross country coach.

'The volleyball coach was good friends with the distance coach,' said Duffy. 'I did better than all of the volleyball players during the mile-run, and the coach suggested that maybe volleyball wasn't my thing and that running was.'

As a prep, Duffy joined an unheralded running program and is credited with elevating St. Mary's track and field and cross country reputations. In cross country, the Oakland product won two Division IV individual state titles, three North Coast Section Championships and three league titles.

Duffy also enjoyed success on the track, setting school records in the 800m (2:11), 1600m (4:51), 3200m (10:48) and 5000m (18:15). The middle child of William and Mara Duffy made four state meet appearances, placing fourth in the 1600m in 2001. In 1999, she led St. Mary's to the NCS team championship.

The academics and the desire to build the Cal cross country and track and field teams into conference and national championship contenders attracted Duffy to Cal. The arrival of Chris Huffins in the fall of 2002 as Director of Track and Field further fueled her optimism.

'Cal has great potential to do well in the future,' said Duffy. 'Huffins brings enthusiasm to the athletes and coaches. He has so much energy. The additional resources he's been provided will help the program's growth.'

She also has a sincere belief in Cal cross country coach Tony Sandoval's running philosophy and long-range vision for her development.

One of Sandoval's former prot�g�s, Lori Riedy, Elissa's twin sister, was an assistant coach during part of Duffy's prep career. Lori and St. Mary's distance coach, Dennis Mohun, are both mentors to Duffy. After college, Duffy hopes to experience post-graduate success as both Riedys have done, adding to her confidence that Sandoval is the right fit.

'Coach understands what training works best for me,' said Duffy. 'We get along very well. He knows I'll be better with time and wants me to experience running success after college.'

Duffy, who came to Cal as one of the most touted high school distance runners in the state in 2002, had an immediate impact during her inaugural 2002-03 collegiate season. She led the Bears in all five of her cross country competitions, including at the Pac-10s (35th) and NCAA West Regional (48th), earning team Most Valuable Performer honors.

On the track, Duffy scored a point for the team in the 1500m at the Pac-10 Championships with a personal-best time of 4:36.59. Her success continued into the summer, as she finished fifth in the 1500m at the U.S. Junior Track and Field Championships, improving on her 12th-place showing the year before.

Duffy returned to campus in the fall of 2003 stronger and fitter than she has ever been, and her summer workouts are paying dividends during the fall cross country campaign. The co-captain has led the Bears in five of six competitions, including four top 15 results and three in the top 10.

The 19-year-old placed 13th at the Nov. 1 Pac-10 Championships to pace the team. She also defended her Strawberry Canyon Challenge Run title in September.

'Coming out of high school, Bridget had a nickname of Tuffy,' said Sandoval. 'That says it all. She's more valuable to our program than just as a runner. She brings leadership and cohesiveness to our team. She's an ambassador and helps with recruiting. For a young woman to have such poise and presence is special.'

After graduating from Cal, Duffy dreams of qualifying for the 2008 Olympic Trials and someday owning her own business.

Away from running, Duffy enjoys reading a variety of books, especially novels, and is an avid movie watcher. Cyclist Lance Armstrong's autobiography, 'It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life,' is a recent favorite of hers. Romantic comedies catch her eyes the most on the big screen. She and her younger brother, Matthew (older sister, Adeline), are fans of Pixar's movies, such as Toy Story and Toy Story 2.

Duffy may not have had to overcome what Armstrong has done to win five Tour de France titles, but an invitation to the NCAA Cross Country Championships would be an inspiration to her teammates.

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