Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Catching up with Santa Clara University runner, Stephanie Wilson...

Today we chat with current Santa Clara University and former Archbishop Mitty HS runner, Stephanie Wilson. She is coming off a historic cross country season for Santa Clara as she became the school's first ever runner to compete in the NCAA championship race. Wilson took advantage of her one opportunity to run in the national meet by finishing in 28th place which gave her All American status. Considering her competitive but not spectacular high school cross country and track and field times, it's been quite an ascent for her to reach that level. Without further adieu, here is my interview with Stephanie Wilson.

1) When and how did you start your involvement with the sports of cross country and track and field?
The summer before my sophomore year, a middle school friend invited me to her high school’s Cross-Country practice. I already liked running and hiking, and after running with that team I decided to try out for my own high school’s team. My first year I wasn’t very serious though; I mostly did it to get in shape for soccer. I continued with Cross-Country the next three years, but I only ran Track my senior year of high school.

2) What were some of your personal records in high school for cross country and track and field?
I ran 19:26 at Crystal Springs my senior year, and I ran a 5:34 mile in Track.

3) What was your first college experience at UC Davis?
I was really committed to soccer when I was in high school, and I wanted to play soccer for a D1 program. I tried out for the soccer team at Davis the summer before I started, and I was cut in the second session. Then I tried Crew for a little while, but I didn’t like the training very much. I started running while I was still practicing with the Crew team, and I entered the Davis Turkey Trot—a 10K. I remember running really hard and struggling to stay faster than my goal pace, and then kicking it in through the last stretch. I had forgotten how intense and rewarding running and racing could be, and at that moment I knew that I wanted to run again.

4) Why and how did you decide to transfer to Santa Clara University?
During the end of Fall quarter, I started to get really homesick. I’ve lived in the same house in San Jose my whole life, and even though Davis isn’t that far from the Bay, I really missed my family and my home. During Winter quarter I just got more and more homesick, and sometime then I decided that I wanted to move back home. My parents told me to think about Santa Clara.

5) What was the first success that you experienced at Santa Clara?
I guess my first real racing success was the 3K at Pepperdine my sophomore year. I broke the Santa Clara record and ran a lot faster than I thought would. But I think even more important than that was the time trial we did before that at the end of Cross. That was the first time I really applied the right racing mentality. I didn’t think about the end of the race; I just tried to stay in the moment and keep up with my teammate. I got a PR that day and for the first time that season I felt like I was racing.

6) What do you feel like you have done differently (training wise) at Santa Clara that has been responsible for your improvement?
Lots of tempos and lots of mileage. I’m running faster and longer than I ever did in high school, and I’ve been lucky so far and haven’t gotten injured. I’m also focusing solely on running now; soccer used to be my sport and running was sort of something I enjoyed on the side. I really believe in Tom and Felipe’s training (our coaches at Santa Clara)! I also know how to race now—I go into every race with the mentality that I will never give up at any point during the race and I will take the race one step at a time, focusing on the mile or K that I’m running right then. I’ve also learned a lot about the running lifestyle from my teammates.

7) Going into this season, what were some of your goals?
Tom told me at the beginning of pre-season that I had a chance of winning WCCs. From that point on, I took the season one race at a time. When Sac State came around, I told myself that if I was legitimately going to try to win WCCs, then I had to win Sac State. I didn’t think I would make it to Nationals though. I always knew that there was a chance, but it wasn’t until after Conference that I really thought I could go.

8) How did your past season progress going into the WCC race?
It went about as perfect as a season can go. I won Sac State and then I placed 10th at Stanford, and I got 2nd at our home invitational—the Bronco Invite. All my workouts went really well too, and I stayed really healthy during the whole season. Tom and Felipe planned out the workouts and my racing schedule so that I would be in top form during the end of the season, and it all worked out.

9) What was your plan going into the NCAA race?
I wanted to be in the top 40, which would mean I was All-American. Tom’s son JT Service, who ran at Nationals for UCSB, had warned me that the race would go out really fast. So my plan was to not get too phased by the start and to be around the top 60 or so going into the first mile. I wanted to stay relaxed in the beginning of the race and keep confident that the other runners would not be able to hold the pace, and then move up into position.

10) How did you first find out that you were an All-American and what was your reaction?
I had three teammates and a teammate’s sibling cheering for me during the race, and they would yell out what place I was in while I was running. Going into the final stretch I knew I was somewhere in the high 20s or low 30s. When I found out my actual place I was excited, but mostly just surprised at the whole thing. I never thought I would get that far, and I’m still sort of shocked when I think about it.

11) As you approach the end of your collegiate career, any thoughts of post collegiate running?
I would love to run post-collegiate, and I want to have a solid track season and then assess where I’m at. I really love the running lifestyle and as long as I’m healthy I want to see how far I can go. I’m going to run my first 10K on the track this season, and I think that will give me a taste of the longer distances. I’ll probably train for the marathon.

12) What would be your advice for current high school runners that have the ambition to run in college but might not have the times that would interest college coaches?
If you love it, then just do it. Don’t worry about standards or expectations. Running in college requires a lot of discipline and hard work, but it can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.

Thank you very much for your time Stephanie! AJC


Anonymous said...

One of the stories of the NCAA meet I think. Amazing how sticking with running and putting in the hard work will eventually yield results over the long run. Great running!

impressed runner said...

I saw many posts about Stephanie Wilson on the messageboards and her stunning improvement.

In high school, Nicole Blood could have probably run close to 3 miles at the same pace as Stephanie Wilson's mile PR.

Now, many years later, Blood and Wilson were virtually neck to neck at the West Regional meet and Wilson beat her by some places at NCAA.

Doesn't she also have one more year? Excited to see what she does on the track this year, as well as xc next year.

One thing is that since she started running in high school, she has improved every single year.

Anonymous said...

Another former Norcal runner who improved a lot is Cecily Lemmon from BYU. Top 10 finish at NCAAs this year as well as 2nd in the 10k last outdoor season. She was a bit under a 5:30 miler in high school (though she did have some much better cross country performances... but still).

Just shows that there are a lot of runners who can come out of the woodwork and excel.

Anonymous said...

She ran close to her high school Crystal Springs PR (2.95 mile course) on the tougher (extra hill) 6k course this year...

BKM said...

Go Steph!! :)

Anonymous said...

I heard she has done some pretty high mileage the last 2 years or so. It is great to see she is having her breakthrough now.

Evan Smith said...

Besides being a great runner, Stephanie is also a genuine and nice person. Congrats to her! And anyone who is looking for solid coaching at the D1 level, look no further than Tom and Felipe at Santa Clara Univ. They have taken 2 of my high school athletes and already each of them has improved dramatically in their short time there. And they obviously have done a great job with Steph.

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