By Cameron Hurst '20
When Nicolette DiMura and Levi Malone arrived at St. Bonaventure University three years ago, neither of them could have imagined that their individual running careers would continue at the Division I level.
"In high school, I never thought I would continue running in college simply because I didn't want to," said DiMura, an East Greenbush, N.Y. native.
Malone, 255 miles away in Cohocton, N.Y., on the other hand, despite having been captain of his cross country team at Wayland Cohocton High School, never thought he was good enough to make a Division I roster.
"I never imagined running in college because I wasn't the number one guy in high school and didn't know if I had what it took to run at the college level," said Malone.
However, with a great deal of time, effort, and hard work, both Malone and DiMura found themselves walking on to the Bonnies cross country team, achieving great success for the program. Recently, their persistence came full circle as they were named team captains for the 2017 season.
Growing up in opposite parts of New York state, Malone and DiMura each accomplished a great deal in their running careers during high school.
Malone, who began running on his high school's team during his sophomore year at the behest of a friend, helped Wayland Cohocton secure two NYSPHSAA Section V championships and a trip to states.
And yet, it was thanks to a floormate that Malone started considering the possibility of walking on.
"I was friends with one of the [cross country] kids on my floor freshman year and I remember randomly asking him how fast I'd have to run to be on the team," said Malone. "[As the season went on, I] would ask him about his times and his meet."
The friend then alerted Bonnies head coach Bob MacFarlane about Malone's interest.
"One day I got a call from my friend telling me to come to [MacFarlane's] office for a meeting," said Malone. "Once there Coach MacFarlane asked me if I wanted to run for Bona's and if I would work hard enough to be an effective member of this team. I told him I would put in the work and the next thing I knew, I was beginning to fill out my NCAA paperwork."
Malone hasn't stopped his hard work since that day.
With the support of his parents, who Malone says have traveled to SBU meets as far away as Gettysburg, a best friend from home who trains with him on a routine basis in the offseason, and the coaching staff, Malone has exceeded his own expectations.
"Coach MacFarlane has been a tremendous influence on me," he said. "He gave me a chance many coaches would be reluctant to give. He's always believed I had what it takes to take my running to the next level and has given me the tools to be a better athlete."
"He's such a hard worker at what he does," said MacFarlane about Malone, who competed in every event last season, finishing in scoring three times. "He has improved so much. I think he's ready to get over that last hurdle to really becoming a top seven runner for us. He's progressed each year. When he came on board he struggled to finish workouts with us, but he was bound and determined to become a better runner."
Malone's work ethic has not gone unnoticed. Fellow teammates, including sophomore William Delaney, admire his dedication and have acknowledged that it has all paid off.
"Levi is in the best shape of his life," said Delaney. "With each aspect of his body he is prepared for the best season of his life. He listens to the nutrition and extra strength building advice and encourages us to all pay attention as well."
"He puts in such time and effort," added MacFarlane. "Even in the offseason, he was always the one there leading the pack in workouts. He shows such determination and is such a good kid. He's dedicated and works for what he gets."
His decision to lead by example is what has made Malone a convincing choice to be a team captain, according to Delaney.
"Levi is a quiet leader but is able to get the team together and focused when needed," Delaney added. "He's always there for encouragement and does not look down on anyone. He's a great team player, willing to listen to all sides."
For Nicolette DiMura, running has always been second nature.
"I've been running since I was eight years old and I haven't stopped since," said DiMura, who noted that she ran in her first 5K race when she was 10-years-old. "Running has always come natural to me. I find it to be a painful sport, but also rewarding."
So, when on a tour at her father Joe's alma mater (SBU Class of 1979), he convinced her to stop in to talk to Coach MacFarlane.
"Again, at the time I wasn't sure if I wanted to continue running," said DiMura. "But I thought 'what the heck,' why not. I have nothing to lose. So, I went to [MacFarlane's] office and I was terrified."
Two hours later, she was offered a spot on the team as a preferred walk on.
The opportunity to continue her passion was something DiMura felt she could not pass up, especially since it was an opportunity familiar to her family.
"My dad graduated from Bonas in the late 70s and he had the opportunity to play on the JV basketball team, which may have led to a walk-on opportunity and he turned it down," she said. "To this day he considers that his biggest regret in college. He didn't want me having any regrets, which was one of the reasons why he wanted me to run here because he knows how important running is to me."
Claiming that without her father she "probably wouldn't be here," DiMura has not regretted one moment of her decision to walk on to the cross country team. Additionally, she credits MacFarlane for pushing her to be the best athlete she can be.
"He's been a huge influence on me," said DiMura of her coach. "I'm the kind of person who always overthinks everything. I get nervous all the time; I have mini freak-outs, especially before races and even during practice. Coach [MacFarlane] knows me well and he knows I get stressed out, so he's always telling me to stay positive. He pushes me to always do better than the previous day and to remember to have fun."
MacFarlane, in turn, praised the journalism/mass communication and strategic communications double major for the way she carries herself in front of her peers, making her a natural team leader.
"We couldn't ask for any better of a leader," said MacFarlane. "She's a great influence on her teammates and is always team-first. She's been a great example for what we want our student-athletes to be from the time she joined us."
Stephanie Barry, a sophomore on the cross country team, shares similar sentiments about her captain. Barry has viewed DiMura as a mentor and friend.
"Nicolette has always been someone who I'm comfortable approaching when I need to talk about something," said Barry. "During my freshman year when I was struggling with being away from home and adjusting to college life, she always made time to talk when I needed it and also made me feel welcome in her circle of friends. In this way, she's served as a great mentor to me."
DiMura is cognizant of her leadership, though, and knows not to take it for granted. Further, she has come to realize that her selection as captain did not come solely because of her athletic ability.
"It's a nice feeling having the underclassmen look up to you, and it's important to set a good example," she said. "I wasn't given a captain position because I'm a senior. [MacFarlane] asked me to be one because of my attitude, and what I offer to the team. When I was a freshman, I thought that he just picked captains based on their performance—which is so not the case."
Heading into the 2017 season, both runners are looking to make their last season in the Brown and White their best.
Said Malone: "I've pushed myself hard the past few years and I feel I have worked especially hard this summer going into my senior year so I can achieve some goals that I have been thinking about."
Among his goals include dropping his 8K time as well as qualifying for regionals and compete at the Atlantic 10 Championships .
"We have a lot of talented guys this year and I just want to help them and myself be the best runners we can be. I have a lot of faith in our team this year and would love to see us step out of the basement of the A-10 and I hope to help as much as possible."
DiMura, on the other hand, just hopes to stay as healthy as possible as injury has plagued her in the past.
"Running is extremely mental," said DiMura. "It becomes discouraging sometimes knowing that there will always be runners who are faster than you—that's just the reality of the sport. I try really hard not to get injured, but somehow I always manage to—I'm prone to injury because I work too hard and I do too much. And I don't give myself time to recover. I don't like taking breaks either… it's hard to tell someone who is so involved with running to stop. Over the years being at Bona's, I've learned that staying healthy means following [MacFarlane's] training system. So, my goal this year is to just have a good and healthy season seeing how it's my last."
Both of them, however, remain grateful for the opportunity not only to be captains, but to be able to run collegiately in general. And, when asked advice on what they would say to someone who is considering walking on to the cross country program, both were not shy in their support for doing so.
"Do it!" said DiMura. "Walk on because your college experience will be so different in the best way possible. Some of my best friends are on the cross country team and I can't imagine what my experience would be like if I didn't run here."
Malone agreed, adding, that someone considering walking on should be disciplined in their effort.
"If you really want to run, give it a shot, train hard, and stay committed. If you stick with it you could potentially play an integral role to [your] team."
For the latest news on St. Bonaventure athletics, stay connected on social media. Follow the Bonnies on Twitter @Go_Bonnies and get cross country and track updates @BonniesXCTrack. Keep up with the Bonnies on Facebook /GoBonnies and on Instagram @GoBonnies.