Heather Gearity is fast. Upon entering her senior season at Montclair State, the senior from Rutherford is already a two-time Division III champion in the 400-meter hurdles. If she has her way, Gearity will rewrite the history books at MSU and be remembered as one of the best Division III hurdlers in recent memory.
She is currently fourth all-time in the 400 meter hurdles nationally (59.31) and second all-time at MSU behind former Red Hawk Tierra Hicks, who ran her best time (59.22) at the 2003 D3 NCAA Championships. Gearity wants Hicks’ record, but she is also focused on the national record (58.99) held by Carolyn Ross of Augsburg College.
If she accomplishes her goal, Gearity will leave MSU as the first runner to win three consecutive National Championships. Gearity and DeWayne Stevens are the only MSU runners to win back-to-back outdoor National Championships.
“She won’t back down to anything,” said MSU Head Coach Elliot Lightfoot.
For Gearity, each of her two national titles have different meanings and tell their own story. In 2012 she was ranked number one in the nation entering the D3
Championships for the first time in her career. She admitted the ranking set a standard and everyone was looking to beat her. In 2013 she was ranked No.1 again but had to overcome a tweaked quad. She headed to Wisconsin having to use a portable stim machine for nationals. During a practice session Gearity aggravated the quad going over a hurdle. Undaunted, she was still able to run and finish in first place.
Her tenacity did not go unnoticed.
“National championships are rare and very special,” said MSU Athletic Director Holly Gera. “Heather will be remembered as one of our most talented and successful student athletes.”
Gearity’s success also has a private meaning to her. During her time at MSU, former Head Coach Porscha Dobson left to coach at the University of Pennsylvania.
Gearity was close to Dobson and her departure was not easy for Gearity. That’s why winning without Dobson was special.
“I wanted it so bad and to prove that I could do it with a different coach,” Gearity said. “I wanted to prove to everyone that nothing changed.”
Her success did not come overnight. At Rutherford High she focused more on the high jump and pentathlon than hurdling. Dobson told Gearity to focus on the 400 and after working on her form during indoor season, the work paid off.
“Coaching wise she is a god send,” said Lightfoot. “You have to ask her to take a day off.”
A Biology major with a 3.85 GPA, Gearity was named to the Capital One Academic All-America First Team in 2013, making her only the fourth student athlete in MSU history to be named to the First Team. She is known by her teammates as a selfless leader who helps everyone. The guys even admit to learning from Gearity.
“Her attitude makes you want to try that much harder at practice,” said Mark DiGennaro, senior 800 meter and mile runner. “There was times last year she would jump in some of my workouts to push me and help me get the most out of my workout.
She is the face of this program as a whole.”
As her athletic career is winding down, Gearity still plans on keeping track in her life. She hopes to run on the side for a club track team and even coach one day. Track is now a part of her more than ever before.
“It boosted my confidence and made me grow up,” explained Gearity. “I think track will be in my life for a long time.”
Montclair State | New Jersey