Christine Mancini runs six days a week, skipping only Wednesdays because that’s the day she has a 12½-hour clinical shift as part of her nursing major.
She was part of the La Salle track team that swept the Atlantic 10 championships in 2019. She made the all-conference team during the 2020-21 season. She runs cross-country in the fall, indoor track in the winter, outdoor track in the spring, and trains in the summer.
But visiting with a reporter in the La Salle University quad, Mancini is like any other student you might run into on campus as she talks about the Harry Potter books (her favorite is either Prisoner of Azkaban or Deathly Hallows), having sisters, and how she ended up at the school.
“I’m from Delaware County,” said Mancini, a junior from Cardinal O’Hara. “Growing up, I played outside a lot with my siblings. I went to Catholic school in Delaware County, I went to the same school for years and years and years. I tried other sports. In my senior year of high school, I was on the swim team, and I played soccer. But I guess with each year, running just became a bigger and bigger part of my life.”
It’s easy to see why. Mancini was a PIAA state champion in cross-country. In her senior year, she took fourth place in the 800 meters at the indoor state championships and seventh in the 800 at the outdoor championships. She finished sixth and fifth in the 800 in her sophomore and junior years, respectively. She holds the 800 record for Delaware County.
When it came time to pick a college, La Salle was already on Mancini’s radar, seeing as her three older sisters — Grace, Liz, and El — ran track for the Explorers.
“I think my interest in La Salle began when my [oldest] sister, Grace, committed here when I was a freshman in high school,” Mancini said. “So always since then, it’s been in the back of my mind. And then, I think what really sold it for me was I saw how well my sisters did here. Not only did they decide to come here, but they loved it here, they were happy here. They loved the school, the coaches, the program. ... I would come visit them, and it would feel like home to me.”
It’s easy to assume that she would just commit to the college that her sisters went to, but make no mistake: She came to La Salle on her own terms.
Said Mancini: “They definitely played a big role in that, but I also am an individual. I didn’t just come here because my family made me.”
In her freshman year, she had a stellar season. In her collegiate debut at the Iona Meet of Champions, she finished 52nd out of 164 in the 5,000 meters. She also finished in the top 50 runners in that event at the A-10 championships, where La Salle took home the team title.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and threw a wrench in the 2020 cross-country season. During the 2020-21 season, she improved her A-10 positioning by 40 spots. She placed 12th in the A-10 championships, earning a spot on the all-conference team. It was by no means a disappointing year, but Mancini, like any college athlete, is grateful to have a more normal year in her sport.
“I’ve really missed — and I think the team as a whole has really missed — the normal atmosphere of practicing as a team all together, traveling normally, and just having that normalcy,” she said of the cross-country season. “It’s been really, really great, I’ve really been enjoying it so far. Hopefully it stays this way.”
Although she’s excited for a full year running, Mancini can’t pretend like it’s not hard work to properly commit herself to her sport.
“The schedule does get a little bit crazy,” she admitted. “I feel like we’re the only sport that goes three seasons of the year, but thankfully our coach [Tom Peterson] is really good at giving us time. He’s never pushing us too hard, he never wants to dig us into this hole where we’re not performing well and we’re tired all the time. His No. 1 priority is to make sure we’re feeling good every single day. You do see it in other teams, they’re racing so often and they’re so tired it’s a lot, but our coach is really good at keeping on top of us. If we need a day off, he lets us have it, no problem at all. Even a week off, he’s totally OK with that.”
A week off can be a godsend, especially when you take into account that Mancini is a full-fledged nursing major along with being a successful Division I runner. It’s a “tricky” balancing act, but she has no shortage of motivation to excel in the classroom and on the track.
After getting home from a 12½-hour clinical], I’m exhausted,” she said. “It’s just too hard to get out there and run. I’m supposed to run 10 or 11 miles, and I just can’t physically do that. ... It is a bit of a balancing act. Sometimes the stress of exams can cause me to not perform as well, but there’s older girls on the teams who I look up to as nursing majors, and they can do it. And I’m like, ‘If they can do it and I see them being successful, I can do it, too.’”
It’s evident that she loves nursing as much as she loves running, but even she admits that the love for running is sometimes a choice rather than just an emotion.
“I think the misconception about people who run cross-country and track is that every step of the way we love running. I do love running most often, but I do feel the pain that everybody else feels. Some days, I really don’t want to get out there, I feel lazy, but I think the team, the coaches, just the idea of us all being together and doing it for each other is what really motivates me. So when I am having a bad run or I get a cramp or my legs hurt, I think about my teammates and how we want to win that A-10 trophy and I push through.”
In the end, Mancini finds a way to make it all work. She’s looking into working in the psychiatric unit of a hospital for her nursing specialty and maybe even becoming a nurse practitioner one day. She loves having two of her sisters still on campus to train with. She has her sights set on bringing another conference title home to La Salle, and improving her individual performances at every opportunity.
So whether it be on the grass and hills for cross-country (which she isn’t partial to), the rubber of the track, or the linoleum of a hospital floor, Mancini is going to give it her all.
“The quality I want people to see me as most is hardworking,” She said. “Not even just in running, just across the board: in nursing, in everything.”