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Distance not an issue for running duo

By Nick Phillips
Sports Editor

Braves rip Fayetteville State
Graphic by Kaleh Sampson
UNCP runners Kevin Clancy and Livia Mahaffie have made the trek from Puyallup, Wash., to Pembroke, N.C., to study and compete athletically for UNCP.

When looking at college choices, there are typically two types of college students.

There are those who want to go to a school close to home, family and friends, and there are those students who want to go away and have the experience of living on their own away from their family.

Every once in a while, you find the student who is willing to go whatever distance it takes to find the right college experience for them.

Rarer still, are the chances of finding two students from the same area at a school nearly 3,000 miles away.

Enter UNCP juniors Kevin Clancy and Livia Mahaffie, both natives of Puyallup, Wash., and both of whom are Education majors.

If balancing academics with adjusting to a new environment and missing home weren't enough, both Clancy and Mahaffie are collegiate athletes, with each running cross-country in the fall and track during the spring for the Braves.

Oh yeah, the two have also been dating since late 2008.

Early years

While nowadays the pair offers each other support on a number of plateaus, their first years knowing each other did not go as smoothly as they do now.

Having known each other since 2006, the two went to rival high schools, creating the obligatory bitterness and scorn towards both the other schools and, by extension, the other runner each time Rogers and Emerald Ridge High Schools squared off.

The two began to talk throughout the summer following graduation leading up to the beginning of college, where both accepted scholarships to attend Highline Community College.

After a school year there, Clancy was ready to continue his college career, as he used a college search system to find which colleges best suited him financially and academically while also giving him a chance to continue running.

UNCP came back as the place to be for Clancy, and he made his move to the East Coast for his sophomore year in 2009-2010.

For Mahaffie, she was faced with a dual problem watching Clancy ready to make the nearly 3,000 mile journey to Pembroke while also looking for another community college to compete at after Highline discontinued its running programs.

Mahaffie settled on Clackamas Community College for her sophomore season, where she ran track.

Challenging times

During their sophomore years, both Clancy and Mahaffie were away from home at different colleges. The bond that they had formed with each other was stretched by the burden of a cross-country distance between each other.

Similar to what he had done for himself a year earlier, Clancy performed a college search using the same tools as he had for his own to help Mahaffie come to her decision.

Mahaffie narrowed her choice down between a school close to home and, by chance, UNCP.

Wanting to experience something different, Mahaffie took a chance and signed with UNCP to run both cross country and track beginning in the fall of 2010.

Why UNCP?

Both Clancy and Mahaffie found UNCP from a database of colleges and universities across the country as the university that fit them academically and athletically.

Both explained that with the cost of school in Washington, they could come here with their athletic scholarship money as well as out of state teaching scholarship money and pay less out of state than they would if they stayed in Washington.

The only possible drawback would be that with the out of state teaching scholarship, recipients are required to teach anywhere in the North Carolina public school system for the number of years they were awarded the scholarship.

Both Clancy and Mahaffie said they have no problems sticking around North Carolina and the East Coast for three years to fulfill this requirement, although eventually both would like to head back to the West Coast.

East Coast bias

Despite missing home, both Clancy and Mahaffie both agreed that they would not be having the opportunity to travel and see the country if they were somewhere other than UNCP.

Aside from wherever their student travels may take them, both Clancy and Mahaffie also have the opportunity to travel endless places with the cross country and track teams.

"We never would have been able to go to these places" if not through athletics, Mahaffie said.

"Our parents are jealous," Clancy added.

And of course, both enjoy the Southern hospitality that North Carolina offers.

"People here are willing to hold a door open, where you would never see that at home," Mahaffie said.

"Everyone here is really nice," Clancy said.

"People here will just have a conversation with you without an agenda, without trying to get something from you, just to get to know you," he added.

Long distance blues

For many students, missing home is common while in college.

Clancy and Mahaffie have those feelings, too, only they have to suppress them with video chats and phone calls.

"Being far from home is tough," Mahaffie said.

"It would be a lot more difficult without Kevin being here," she added.

For Clancy, the distance has actually pulled him closer with his parents.

"We didn't talk as much when I was at home, but now that I'm over here we've gotten closer," he said of his relationship.

Clancy said he talks to his parents almost every day, while for Mahaffie it's usually two or three conversations a week.

Mahaffie said that missing family and friends is obvious, but that isn't the best part of being home.

"His parents are great cooks," Mahaffie said as Clancy smiled.

"Cafe food compared to his parents there is no comparison," she added.

Clancy's family has visited UNCP once, when he first moved in last year. "When I first came over, my mom, dad, sister and I, we all flew here together, and we were here for about a week for orientation before we went down to Myrtle Beach," Clancy recalled.

"They are planning on coming for graduation as well," he added.

"My dad came for Parents Weekend (in the fall)," Mahaffie said, adding that he fell in love with the school, the town and the area during what was his first visit here.

Successful

While at UNCP, not only have Clancy and Mahaffie fared well in the classroom, they have also done great in the athletic realm.

In cross country, Clancy set personal bests in both the 8K and 10K in fall 2010, while Mahaffie set a new school record with her 5K time in October.

Both runners were also named to the USTFCCCA Division II Cross Country All-Academic teams in fall 2010.

"My parents at first thought it was because Kevin was here, but then they saw how well I've been doing with grades and running and the opportunities I'm having," Mahaffie said about her decision to choose UNCP.

Both runners have seen minutes shaved off their times in races during both cross country and track seasons, a fact that Clancy attributes to the weather.

"The weather here is perfect for training. I feel more motivated to go out and train," he said.

Clancy also laughed and said that he loves North Carolina weather because there's no constant, daily rain the Northwest is known for.

"He hates the rain," Mahaffie laughed and added.

As both said, the one negative to being so far away is there are no weekend trips home or opportunities to see their parents, families and friends but so often.

"Summer break and winter break," Clancy quipped.

Big bang

This past summer, the duo drove back to school, embarking on a week and a half journey that took them past the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park, the Oklahoma City Memorial and the site of the Little Rock Nine's integration of public schools.

While a flight can get you there in a couple of hours, Mahaffie said, it was "more fun to drive, but way more exhausting."

Mahaffie also talked about having to budget for gas, food and lodging, while Clancy reiterated it is definitely a once a year trip.

With the success the duo is having at UNCP, both academic and athletically, anything is possible in the future.

With the cross country car ride checked off the list, maybe next summer they will get back to Pembroke with a cross country training run.

Maybe. But probably not. They deserve a break.

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Updated: Friday, April 1, 2011
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