Cross-country star Holly Bullough looks to define her own MSU legacy

Oct 13, 2017

Holly Bullough (top row in center) along with dad Shane (top row left) mother Lee Ann (top row right) and brothers Byron (bottom row left) and Riley (bottom row right).
Credit Holly Bullough

The Bullough family legacy is normally rooted in Michigan State football, but Holly Bullough wants to expand the legend to Spartan cross-country.

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Last season, Holly Bullough established herself as an asset to the Michigan State women’s cross-country team, showing her progress in stages. She ran a season-best 22:08 in the 6k at the Roy Griak Invitational, then placed 43rd at the Big Ten championships.

She dropped her 6K time to 20:43.1 to place 76th at the NCAA Championships.

Not bad for a freshman year.

Now, as she embarks on her sophomore season, she is looking to push herself even farther.

“It would be so awesome to be an All-American,” Bullough said. “So I really want to do that. And then, eventually maybe by my fifth year, get in the top 10 in the nation. That would be awesome.”

Bullough came to MSU as a running star, earning All-Conference and All-State honors all four years in both track and field and cross-country. She won 14 total first place finishes at the state championships, both as a part of the Traverse City St. Francis team and individually, while running the 5K, 1600m, and 800m.

Being a Bullough, one of the most famous last names in Spartan Sports history, comes with its own set of expectations.

The last name Bullough is virtually synonymous with MSU football. Her older brothers Max (2010-2014), Riley (2012-2017), and current player Byron Bullough have been dominating at linebacker. Her father, Shane played linebacker from 1983-86.

Add in two uncles who played Spartan football and a grandfather who was a member of the MSU’s 1952 National Championship.

To many Spartan fans, the men of the Bullough family are MSU football royalty, but to her, they are just family.

“Everybody thinks I had no choice at all,” Bullough said jokingly, when asked how she decided to further her education and athletic career at Michigan State. “I could go anywhere I wanted, my parents weren’t pressuring me at all. They just wanted what was best for me.

“I honestly picked Michigan State because I loved the program so much, but I also liked how my brothers had gone here and how some were still here. I wanted to be close to them and be close to home.”

Lee Ann Bullough, her mother, agreed.

“Holly was all set up to go to look at some but then she went and did her visit at MSU and that pretty much sealed the deal,” Lee Ann said. “She wanted to run for the Spartans and go to the school her brothers were at - it is kind of a home away from home for her.”

In her decision to come to Michigan State, Bullough is not putting any pressure on herself to live up to the celebrity her brothers and family has created.

“Coming to Michigan State, I knew my brothers were all so successful and have made a name for our family,” Bullough said, “Obviously my dad did, and my uncle did too, but I knew I had the opportunity to take it a different route since I’m a girl and I was running. Coming to Michigan State, I didn’t feel pressure to be as popular as them or anything - just kind of do what I do best.”

Forging her own path doesn’t mean there can’t still be some harmless sibling competition every once in awhile.

“Oh yeah, we are super competitive,” she said. “In our family group chat, they will tell me I can probably beat them in a 400, and I always tell them, ‘Yeah, but you could tackle me pretty hard’.”

For any other Michigan State student, football Saturday is a time for fun and school spirit. For the youngest Bullough, it is all business.

“Oh my gosh, I get so into it. You can ask my friends,” Bullough said, adding a giggle. “I wish I could say I’m pretty chill, but I get really into the games. I don’t really like missing them and I will always stay for the whole game. It’s so different when you’re watching to watch someone, versus just watching because it’s your school.”

Now picture three young men, all over 6-feet tall and 200 lbs. Showing up to a cross-country meet. To cheer their sister.

For Bullough, that is normal.

“In high school, they would always come to whatever meets they could,” she said. “For Spartan Invite last year, my brothers came. If we have a meet close, they will always try to make it. Football is so time-consuming, so it is difficult for them, but I understand.”

More than just being supportive, her brothers and family members find her take pride in her athletic ability and commitment to her sport.

“Holly's brothers have watched her grow up and achieve goals year after year,” Lee Ann said. “They have always been supportive, and literally quite amazed at what she has accomplished, because running to them is not as enjoyable as taking a guy down to the ground on their football field.

“They also don't know how she continues to eat so healthy and actually enjoy it - it is a way of life for her and one that she will never give up on.”