What Made Maddy Run- A Presentation on College Student Stress Levels and Depression

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By: Joe Durante

Contributing Writer

On Oct. 23, 2017, the Sacred Heart University Student Lecture Series welcomed ESPN sportswriter Kate Fagan, who is the author of the New York Times Bestseller “What Made Maddy Run.”

Fagan’s book is the story of former University of Pennsylvania track and field athlete Madison Holleran, who tragically died by suicide on Jan. 17, 2014.

Fagan wrote the story as an ESPN W article and by the time it was published on the website, it had over three million hits, which then inspired her to write her book.

“I thought it was very eye-opening and it made me realize that as a teammate, I want to be able to be there for all my teammates,” said senior John Hartnett.

Not only Kate’s story went up over three million hits on the internet, it also became the highest viewed story in ESPN W’s history. When Fagan began her lecture, she told the audience that when she was in college she did not do anything outside of the athletic department at all.

Then Fagan started to discuss the story of Madison Holleran. Madison Holleran grew up in Allendale, New Jersey and attended high school at Northern Highlands Regional High where she played soccer and ran track and field. Madison was then recruited to run for the University of Pennsylvania.

Her transition into her freshman year became really difficult for her and in the beginning of her second semester that January, she jumped committed suicide.

“I think tonight’s lecture gave a synopsis of what Madison’s story was about and Fagan did a great job on giving us the main idea of Madison’s struggle,” said Alyssa Pearce, a graduate of the Class of 2017.

The reason why Fagan cared about this story is that, during the time of Holleran’s death, she was living in Philadelphia. Fagan was touched by the tragedy and decided it was crucially important to shed light on the struggles student-athletes may have with stress and time management.

“It shed a light on the harder parts of being a D1 Athlete and people don’t like to talk about the bad parts of being a college athlete,” said Jay Oaks, Class of 2017.

As Fagan began to do more research on the story, she met with Madison’s family and learned about her past, as well as her final moments. In Madison’s computer, Fagan found old photos of Madison with her friends and also found text messages she was sharing with her friends telling them that she is going to make the most of the perfect college experience.

That experience not only shocked Fagan but also made her realize how much a person could keep to themselves.

“My main concern is when high school kids come into college, there has not been enough discussion for the mental and emotional and physical transition that it’s going to be especially for student-athletes,” said Fagan. “There is not enough conversation about how college is going to be challenging for a lot of kids not just to be away from home for the first time and to be challenged academically and on top of that deal with a shift in sports and school work.”

Overall, this presentation depicted that there are things happening to students mentally that can be hidden under the surface. The presentation stressed the importance of communication and patience for people who may have a hard time adjusting to college life or other stress-inducing parts of life.

 

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