Full house for BU All-American

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MARY ELLEN HILL SCHUPBACH ’00 revisits Laura Bradley Park, a popular place for her early morning workouts as a student, as her five children race by on the familiar path.

After graduation, life changes — no more classes, no  more late-night study sessions, and in some cases, no more cross country or track meets. Even though the collegiate experience ends, being a runner may not. Take two-time All-American and 10-time Missouri Valley Conference champion MARY ELLEN HILL SCHUPBACH ’00. Running is still a part of her life, and has been since she went to her older brother’s track meets in kindergarten. “It wasn’t like, ‘I want to grow up and do this.’ I just didn’t know anything else,” said Schupbach. 

Two-time All-American MARY ELLEN HILL SCHUPBACH ’00 is one of three outstanding Bradley athletes depicted on giant window shades in the Burklund Family Heritage Hall in the new Renaissance Coliseum.

Her family realized shortly after her first race at age 9 that Schupbach had potential, but she didn’t feel pressured; “My parents made it fun,” she said. 

After a stellar high school career with yearly appearances at the state meet, Schupbach knew she would continue running in college. The Princeville native knew of Bradley through her sister LINDA HILL FENNELL ’94, as did her brother JAMES HILL ’99. Schupbach remembers that she was drawn to Bradley’s small-town atmosphere. “A smaller Division 1 school with such individual treatment is a real rarity,” she said. 

Individual treatment worked to Bradley’s advantage during Schupbach’s sophomore conference race at Newman Golf Course. “We had a game plan for the whole team with multiple team meetings. [Coach Dave] Beauchem would look at our training and say, ‘OK, you’ve done this, so you should logically be able to do this.’ But then you add guts and glory to it, and you go a little bit further.” 

Going a little bit further was exactly what Schupbach and her teammates did as they nabbed the first-ever women’s Missouri Valley Conference title for Bradley. Schupbach remembers being impressed by the community’s support. “I knew it was going to be big, but I did not realize how many other people knew it was going to be big,” she said. 

Schupbach still holds the women’s cross country 5K record by almost 20 seconds with a time of 17:18. She also set school and MVC records in track in the 3,000 meters and achieved All-American status for the 5,000 meters. But the 2000 Watonga Award recipient admits that it is hard to choose which sport she enjoyed more. “I always enjoyed training for cross country more. It’s so much more varied, so much more beautiful. I think you get better workouts. But when it came time to race, I wanted to get a split … so racing and getting the times that you wanted in track was easier,” she said.

Making Bradley running history was stressful and required Schupbach to meet weekly mileage goals and prepare for landmark races, but she recalls feeling empty after graduation. While one chapter of her life closed, however, another unexpectedly opened. Schupbach married a college athlete, began her teaching career, and she and her husband Schuyler decided to become foster parents. 

Front row: Schuyler, Mary Ellen, and Tyler. Back row: Tyraina, Shayna, Krynn, Alexis.

Soon after their decision, two brothers and a sister arrived with nothing more than a bag of possessions among them. After several months, the temporary situation was beginning to look less temporary, and the couple had to make a decision. About a year after the children moved in, the Schupbachs adopted them, and within another year adopted their older siblings. 

MARY ELLEN HILL SCHUPBACH ’00

  • 2000 Illinois NCAA Woman of the Year
  • 10-time MVC individual champion in cross country and track 
  • 7-time Academic All-American 
  • 2-time Track and Field All-American (5,000 meters), 1998; Ninth in indoor and fourth in outdoor at the NCAA Track and Field Championships

Finished career with four league records:

  • 17:18 in cross country (5K) 
  • 9:35.61 in the 3,000 meters for indoor track 
  • 9:34.81 in the 3,000 meters for outdoor track 
  • 16:08.72 in the 5,000 meters for outdoor track

“I was 24 with five kids, the oldest of them a 9-year-old, and we were like, ‘Are we crazy?’ But it was obviously meant to be,” Schupbach said. “Schuyler can’t afford to be an average man. He is forced to be Superman daily. I am amazed that with an IT/business background and successful career, he somehow learned to be a great dad! We also had a lot of support from family and friends … I’m a strong believer in keeping families together.”

Schupbach’s time as an award-winning runner helped develop her resolve and strong mental attitude, and may have prepared her to be a young mother to five young children. “There are very few things that I question if I can do or not. I always just have it in my mind that if I want to do it, I can do it … like when it came to adopting our five, it wasn’t a question of being able to or not. It was, ‘I’m going to choose to, and I will be successful at it,’” she said.

Despite her job as an eighth grade math teacher at Chiddix Junior High in Normal and family duties, Schupbach still runs regularly and does a marathon about once a year. Running is now a stress reliever she can fit in while her kids are at their early morning swim practices. “The same basic concept is there; I’m still running,” she said, “but all of the reasons behind it are different.” 

She has passed along her love of exercise to her kids. “Even if it’s not running,” she said with a grin, “they’re going to know to keep in shape and that health is important.”