Sept. 27, 2006
Junior Patrick Mellea of the men's cross country team was named ACC Performer of the Week earlier this season and finished second overall at the Boston College Invitational. Mellea, a North Arlington, N.J. resident, looks forward to improving his mile time this season.
Congratulations on last week's honor of being named the ACC Cross Country Performer of the Week, along with NC State runners Julia Lucas and Bryce Ruiz! What does this mean to you and what was your reaction to the news?
I just wanted to see where I was the first race and where the team was. The whole team trained hard this summer and I wasn't expecting to get ACC Cross Country Performer of the Week after the first race, but it was exciting when it happened. I think we're in a good [place] right now as a team and we're looking to have a great year after our first race.
You placed ninth overall at the New England Championships as a sophomore last year, leading the BC Eagles. What are your expectations for this season?
Right now we're concentrating on the pre-nationals. Our main team isn't going to be running at the New England [Championships] this season because we have a much more solid and deep team this year and we have higher expectations. We're hoping to be in the top three in the ACC and we're hoping to maybe get a national bid after regionals, come in the top four or five teams. The New England [Championships] isn't really in the picture this year.
What does your off-season training regimen consist of? Do you take some time off over the summer, or do you continue training throughout?
Over the summer we get emails from Randy Thomas and John Mortimer, our coaches. We get emailed the workouts each week and how many miles we're supposed to do. Our team was probably running about 80-85 miles per week throughout the summer. The main thing with our team is that we've always been a little hurt in the past and this is the healthiest and deepest team that we've had so far coming off our training, so everyone's looking really good.
Did you compete in any races this past summer?
Yes. A couple of us got together to do a race down in Belmar, NJ. We're pretty much on our own in the summer, but there are a couple of road races that we run. The race went well. It was a good indication of where I was at that time, back in July. It was a five-mile race, so I could see how my training was progressing and it let me compare where I was to where I am now.
Track is a very individual sport, whereas cross country is based more on the team. Tell us about the camaraderie amongst teammates and how you cooperate in training and in competition.
I like the camaraderie in cross country a lot better than in track. Track is a more individualized sport whereas cross country is really a team effort. Your team is only as good as your fifth man, so in the workouts when we're doing tempo runs or interval training, we're making sure that we have a group of five or six guys that are up front with us because again your team is only going to be as good as the fifth or sixth man. It's important that your whole team is running solidly. [In competition] we go out hard and for the first couple miles we stay together as long as we can, but when the race starts picking up if you're the fourth, fifth or sixth guy you really want to stay up with those number two and three guys, and even the first guy. [Runners] start to get separated because it's a five-mile race, so everybody might start out in a pack at the beginning, but [when runners separate] we try to stay as a group as long as possible.
There are two seniors on the team - Mark Alizzi and Stephen Walsh. What leadership qualities have they brought to the team this year?
They're doing well. Stephen Walsh, one of the captains, really stepped up his training this summer knowing that he was going to have that on his shoulders and Mark Alizzi is really good at making sure that those guys that are falling off the workouts stay up there. He might drop back on purpose once in a while just to get those fourth and fifth guys up with the first pack.
A big group of freshman joined the team this year (10). Among your 10 newest teammates, have any jumped out at you?
Yeah, I think Jordan Peeples is really going to be an impact runner on our team and I wouldn't be surprised if he's in our top five this upcoming week. As a freshman, he's really going to have an impact on the team this year, which is going to be very good because it makes our team even deeper.
You have run many different events from the 800 to the mile. What is your favorite event to run and why?
My favorite event as of now is the mile. I always did the half-mile in high school, but
I like the mile because when you're talking to people, nobody really knows times for track, but people want to know your mile time. Everybody knows what a mile is, so it's a great indicator of where you are. I have a personal goal to break the four-minute mile; it's just something I really want to do. I'm at 4:07 right now and this year hopefully I will get in the low four minutes and who knows, it depends on how the race goes, but maybe if I feel good on one day I can do it.
You were part of the 4 X 800 relay team that finished 5th at the New England Championships last year, in just 7:59.50. Tell us a bit about the differences between running a relay versus an individual event.
Running a relay obviously takes much more of a team effort in order to do well because all four of your guys on the relay team have to run well all at the same time. I have actually enjoyed the relays a lot more than the individual races because I enjoy a team atmosphere. I had a lot of fun my freshman year when we had three freshmen and one senior on our 4 x 800 team and we broke the school record during an indoor meet. I had more fun doing that than I did running PRs as an individual when I was a sophomore. We didn't run many 4 x 800 relays last year so when we did get to run one at the New England [Championships] at the end of the year, it was just great being back in that team atmosphere on the track.
Coach Randy Thomas has been with the BC cross country team for 14 years and Assistant Coach John Mortimer for five years. What kind of focus do they provide and what kind of advice or tips do they offer you or the team?
Randy is a lot more laid-back, but he knows his stuff and the team respects him. Mort's more outgoing and fired up and he really motivates us to run hard. Randy is in the background giving us the workouts and telling us what to do, whereas Mort's on the line yelling out our times, getting us fired up to push every interval or every workout harder than what we think we can.
There are a lot of championships coming up this fall including the Mayor's Cup on 10/22 and the ACC Championships in Charlottesville, VA on 10/28. Does the team prepare in the same way for each, or are there differences in practice routine based on the next match-up?
The Mayor's Cup is something that we're not going to be concentrating on. It's something that whoever isn't going to be running in the ACC Championships or the regionals, they'll be running in the Mayor's Cup. During championship season, we drop down mileage a little bit, it's called tapering. Right now we're up in the 90 mile range per week, we'll probably drop down to 65 or 70 miles per week during that period and really focus on coming in the top three in the ACC. There is no reason why we can't come in the top three in the ACC this year, we are definitely talented enough.
What do you enjoy most about the BC cross country team?
All of my best friends from Boston College are on the team. There are 10 of us who have an apartment together, all of the guys in my year. Our whole team is constantly together at practice, they're the guys that we hang out with when we eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner and we hang out on the weekends. It's a great team atmosphere and we have real strong camaraderie when we're running and when we're not running and just hanging out.
Interview conducted by Geoffrey Kehlmann