Nov. 15, 2006
Sophomore Mallory Champa of the women's cross country team received All-ACC honors at the ACC Championships and placed seventh overall in the NCAA Northeast Regionals with a time of 21:19.0. The Eagles took first place at the Regionals and qualified as a team for the NCAA Championships on Monday, November 20 in Terre Haute, Ind.
Congratulations to the team for winning the NCAA Northeast Regionals and to you for finishing seventh overall there, as well as for your All-ACC honors at the conference championship. Tell us what it was like competing against 40 other schools in the Bronx, and coming away with first place.
We knew that the competition was going to be very tough and we knew which teams we had to gun down for the race just to be able to qualify. We were not expecting to win by any means. We knew we had it in us to qualify even though we hadn't come together yet as a team. So winning wasn't expected, but we all came together and we didn't let the competition get to us. We used it to our advantage. We ran as we knew we were capable and it all came together.
In August, Coach Randy Thomas went on record as predicting the team would return to the national meet. His prediction has come true - what do you think accounts for the team's success this fall?
His making that statement in the beginning of the season led us to believe that he had a lot of faith in us and believed in everything that we could do. So the training and all the hard work [were important], but it was also the mental aspect of `we know we're good enough, we know we can do this' and that carried through to Regionals.
How would you describe Coach Thomas and Assistant Coaches John Mortimer and Erin O'Reilly, and what role does each play with the team?
All three coaches are very different, but they all contribute a lot to our program; we have an amazing coaching staff. Coach Thomas is our head coach, and he runs the women's and the men's side. He makes all of our training logs. We don't actually see John Mortimer a lot because he's the men's assistant coach, so he's with them. But he's the one who's always on the course yelling the loudest. He gives a lot of motivation, so that's how he contributes to us. Coach Mortimer will talk to us every once in a while and say `you guys are running awesome'. It's actually Erin and Coach Thomas who meet with us in our coaches' meeting the night before the race. Coach Thomas gives awesome, inspirational speeches that get us really pumped. Erin is awesome to have because she's our woman coach role model. She's always there for us and she competed at the level that we're competing at when she was in college, so it's nice to be able to relate to that.
You run distance events, particularly the 6000 meter. How do distance runners pace themselves for such long runs, and what do you focus on while you are running in an event?
It's completely different than track, in my opinion. When you're in cross country, you're thinking `okay, I have to establish position in the first mile', getting out and getting your place and you just have to concentrate on the next hill, the next corner, the next turn. Sometimes the most random stuff will go through my head, like `oh, that girl has really cool shoes', but you stay focused the whole time, you're always telling yourself `stay positive', `let's gun for this girl', or a lot of times when my teammates are bunched together in a race, we'll shout words of encouragement to each other like `here we go, now, we got this, we got this'. So I'd say that's a big part because cross country is a very team-oriented sport and especially since we qualified all together. We see each other throughout the race. We help each other throughout the race, so that's amazing.
At what age did you start running, and how did you choose distance events?
I was in fourth grade and my sister was in seventh grade. She went out for cross country and I was afraid to stay home alone, so I would go to cross country practice with her. The head coach there, he's a great guy. I would do the workouts with my sister in fourth grade. She ended up quitting cross country, but she likes to take all the credit for getting me to start running. I didn't really run much the next two years. I would say I was a distance runner and `I can't wait until I'm in seventh grade so I can do the mile in track'. It was basically in seventh grade when I started actually training and competing.
What is a typical amount you might run in a week of training, and how is it structured?
It varies and Coach Thomas is very good about personalizing our weekly mileage. I'd say on average we do in the 50s (miles per week). Sometimes we can get up into the mid-60s, or sometimes in the mid-40s. It depends on the week, right now we're tapering, so we're doing really low mileage, but I'd say upper-50s is probably the average.
What role does nutrition play and what do team members eat on the day of a meet?
We don't have a nutritionist, so on a nutritional level I don't really know. The day before the meet we try to load up on carbohydrates for lasting energy through the race the next day. The morning of a race, I'll eat cereal or some kind of oatmeal, yogurt, fruit. It varies.
Did you set any specific goals for yourself this season?
I came into the season injured, with an achilles tendon injury. I had high goals this summer - I really wanted to receive All-American honors at Nationals, but then once I got injured I was thinking `wow, I might not be able to achieve that this season'. I had to take five weeks off, which was kind of a bummer coming into the season. I missed the first meet, but I actually bounced back from my injury and felt as though that goal is attainable again. Another one of my goals was to qualify as a team again, because we qualified last year when I was a freshman and it was one of the most amazing experiences. I would have rather qualified as a team than receive All-American honors.
What do the co-captains, Kathleen Smyth and Jesse Mizzone, bring to the team?
They are very positive; they bring so much energy to the team. They have so much faith in the team itself that it's so much fun having them. They've been great captains this year, they contribute so much.
Freshmen comprise half the team; what role have they played this year?
It's been awesome, we have such a great relationship with the freshmen this year, and they've brought so much positive energy because they're always mentioning `oh, BC, wow, we're part of this great program'. We have two freshman girls coming with us to Nationals, so that's really exciting. They're contributing so much. They've helped us out so much, it's unbelievable.
We'll be wishing the team luck as you move on to the NCAA Championships at Indiana State on Nov 20. How will the team prepare for this big event?
Our motto right now is `keep believing' because Coach Thomas has relayed that to us. Now we have to pull through, because we have conquered the hard race in getting to Nationals. Regionals is by far the hardest race, and now we have to carry it through. Don't do anything differently, keep things in perspective.
Finally, tell us a bit about where you grew up in Kansas, about your family and what you like to do for fun when you're not training.
I live on a small farm, my dad is an engineer, my mom is a nurse, but we live on a farm. I grew up not really as a hard-core farm girl, but I had to help my dad with the fences, move the grain, feed the cows in the morning. I rode horses when I was younger and was really into that; I did a couple of competitions on my horse. So that's kind of my lifestyle there. I come from a really small town. There were about 400 students in my high school. It was a great community. I definitely live in the stereotypical part of Kansas, but it's great, I love it, it's home.
Interview conducted by Geoffrey Kehlmann