Paul Norton '11 of Amherst, Mass., has led a resurgence for the Brandeis men's cross country team. An All-New England performer who was the Judges' top runner for much of the 2008 season, Norton is expecting big things from the second half of his Brandeis career. Learn more in this installment of Seven Questions.
1) What has been the highlight of your athletic career so far?
Undoubtedly making the NCAA Cross Country championships as a team [in 2008]. Brandeis had not sent a team in ten years and to be the team to end that drought was a very special feeling. I think it marked the beginning of a new chapter in Brandeis Cross Country. The feeling of accomplishing a monumental task like that as a team and knowing that all the hard work we put in had paid off was extremely gratifying. Running at NCAAs was also an amazing experience for all of us, as it was the first time we really got a chance to test ourselves against the best that’s out there.
2) What makes your team special?
While every team on campus is very tight knit, no other team
competes three seasons a year. We practice, compete, and travel
together with the women’s distance team all year long, which
I really think contributes to us having a very close team across
both genders. We do everything together, and always take over the
same corner in lower Usdan.
Another thing that makes our team special is that we have an extremely bright future. Despite coming off of the most successful season Brandeis has had in years, we are also a very young team. We only had one senior in our top seven, the rest were freshmen and sophomores. Knowing that we were 20th in the country and that we have two more seasons to gain experience and compete together makes me really excited about what we can accomplish in a year or two's time.
3) How do your experiences on the track translate to the class room/world?
Tenacity and discipline are two things essential to being a good distance runner. I run 90 miles a week and often have to be up as early as 7 to get in a run before my first class. As a result, I am forced to manage my time well and complete work in a disciplined and timely fashion.
Another thing that distance running has taught me is to never give up. When I started running I was one of the slowest kids on the team freshman year of high school. I could barely run a mile and never imagined myself as a competitive runner. However, I kept training as hard as I could and eventually became one of the better runners in Massachusetts and now a competitive collegiate runner. If I ever encounter setbacks in my life, I always think back to freshman year cross-country season and remember that as hard as something seems, hard work will usually pay off.
4) What is your favorite class and why?
My favorite class that I’ve taken so far is Tom Shapiro’s Wealth and Poverty out of the Heller School. As an economics major, the widening income gaps in the United States have always interested me, and I really enjoyed seeing different types of social science framework applied to a significant problem facing our country today.
5) What is your favorite non-athletic activity at Brandeis and why?
My favorite non-athletic activity would have to be the chamber music performance class. I’ve been playing cello for eleven years and I love classical music. Chamber music - performing in small groups such as string quartets and piano trios - is my favorite type of music to play, as it combines the individual aspects of solo playing with the group aspects of an orchestra.
6) What are your aspirations after Brandeis?
While nothing’s set in stone, I see myself eventually going into some kind of policy work. I’m not sure of the specifics, but I know I eventually want to go to graduate school for public policy and work for either some type of NGO or in government. I don’t want to go straight to graduate school, so I think right after I graduate I’d like to either get some type of policy-related job or do a service program like Teach for America or Cityyear.
7) What is something surprising we might not know about you?
The summer before my freshman year [at Brandeis], I was hit by a car running, and ever since then I have been extremely skittish around cars when I run. While some of my teammates might make fun of me for waiting for a walk signal at a stoplight, or yelling when one of them runs into the road, I figure better safe than sorry!