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Sunday, December 04, 2011

Catching up with Scotts Valley runner, Vanessa Fraser...

Today we chat with Scotts Valley junior, Vanessa Fraser.  At the recently completed California State Meet, Fraser upset 2 time defending champion, Cami Chapus of Harvard Westlake to win her first state cross country title after 11th (2009) and 4th (2010) finishes in the two previous seasons.  She finished in 3rd place at the SCCAL final behind standout runners Nikki Hiltz of Aptos and Anna Maxwell of San Lorenzo Valley.  She improved to 2nd place at the CCS Division IV race trailing only Maxwell before her breakthrough race in Fresno.

1) What sports have you played besides xc and track and field?
I used to be really involved in equestrian sports, as well as tennis, but since the middle of my freshman year, I have focused solely on running.

2) How did you get your start in distance running?
I actually got my start as a third grader through a program called Girls on the Run. It is an after school program that prepares 3rd-5th grade girls to run a 5k at the end of the season, while incorporating fun team and character building lessons and activities along the way.

3) What was the first success that you remember in either sport?
I guess my very first success would have to be the first 5k race I completed in 3rd grade. Not only did this feel like a huge accomplishment as an 8 year old girl, but I would consider it a major success simply because it made me discover my greatest passion.

4) What do you remember about your freshman experience in both sports? Highlights?
Entering the high school cross country world as a freshman, every race was an incredible experience just because I got to experience the sport on a whole new competitive level. The state meet my freshman year was definitely a highlight because I felt honored to race some of the best runners in California, and happily walked away with an 11th place finish. Unfortunately I missed my freshman track season due to health issues, but in the end I think it fuelled my excitement for my sophomore season even more.

5) What about your sophomore seasons in both sports? Highlights? PRs from last track and field season in 400, 800, 1600 and 3200?
Again, a highlight of my sophomore cross country season was the state meet. I came in 4th and PRed for the 5k there with a time of 17:56, and was excited to medal after just missing a top 10 finish the previous year. Sophomore year was my first actual season of high school track, and I had a blast, especially earning a trip to the state meet in the 3200. I ran a PR of 10:37 there and was amazed at how much I fed off of and thrived from the energy of being in such a big race. For the 1600, though I didn't run it much during the season, my PR was 5:06.

6) Did you do anything different this summer in terms of training and with your preparation for the season? What do you feel was your toughest workout this past season? Longest run? About how many miles a week did you do during the majority of the season?
In terms of training this summer, I just focused on doing lots of distance to build a strong base. Some highlights of my summer training were going to Oregon, where I got to go on some beautiful runs, and racing in the Wharf to Wharf at the end of July. I'm not sure how much mileage I was doing during the season because I just follow and trust my coach's plan for me, but over the summer I got up to 50 miles a week. I can't think of any one workout this past season being the toughest, but my absolute favorite workout is a threshold 4 mile run we do the weekend before state.

7) You finished 3rd at your league meet behind Nikki Hiltz of Aptos and Anna Maxwell of SLV and behind Maxwell at CCS. How do you think those two runners contributed to your achievement of a state championship yesterday? 
Both Nikki and Anna have pushed me throughout the entire season, and they both inspire me to be a better runner everyday. I truly believe having that having the privilege to race these girls so often made a huge contribution to the success I had at state.

8) Tell us a little about your coach and how he has helped you develop in the runner you are today.
I really don't think I could ask for a better coach. He has taught me so many valuable lessons, and I could go on and on about what a wonderful job he does with our entire team. One huge lesson he has taught me, though, is the importance of being patient with your training and being able to race well when it REALLY counts. I absolutely would not be where I am today as a runner without my coach.

9) How about the area around Scotts Valley HS. How ideal do you think it is for a distance runner?
Living in Scotts Valley, we are fortunate to be so close to a variety of beautiful running locations from the beaches to the forests to the mountains. Santa Cruz County truly is a great place for distance running.

10) Favorite xc invitational? Favorite xc course?
Though I always look forward to and enjoy the Stanford Invite, my favorite course and race is, hands down, the state meet. The suble rolling hills and varied scenery at Woodward Park, combined with the excited energy of all the runners there in general, always seems to provide opportune racing conditions.

11) Your state meet race. Tell us a little about your plan going into the meet and how it unfolded and when did you first realize you were going to win and nobody was going to catch you?
I went into the race knowing there would be strong competion, so my goal was to just run my hardest and try to get a PR. After crossing the first mile mark with the lead pack, I took turns leading with defending champ Cami Chapus throughout the second mile. Once we hit the main hill, I felt strong and ready to go and slowly started pulling away from that point on. Though spectators would tell me I had "60 yards" on Chapus at some points, I did not feel safe until I crossed the finish line. Knowing what strong kicks so many of the runners in the race were known to have, I was scared of being caught right up through end. As soon as I finished, I had to pinch myself to see if it was reality. It truly was a dream come true!

Thank you very much for your time Vanessa!  AJC

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