Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Catching up with Campo's Laurie Finnegan

This week, we chat with Laurie Finnegan of Campolindo who is the defending NCS Division III champion as well as a 6th place finisher at the 2006 XC State Meet (State meet pic courtesy of Campolindo XC Website). Campolindo has a great tradition of success in Cross Country, which was started by Coach Chris Walsh and now continued by Coach Chuck Woolridge, formerly of College Park. I think you will find Laurie's answers to the following twelve questions to be interesting and very informative.

1) How did you get involved in cross country and distance running in general?

I began running cross country in 6th grade when I lived in London. When I moved to the U.S. on my 14th birthday, I was extremely eager to follow in the footsteps of legends such as Vera Ross, Lindsey Allen, April Dyer, and other successful female athletes in the DFAL. They were Goddesses to me, I wanted to become like them, I wanted to be fast, I wanted to be an example, and I wanted to be a legend. So, I started my freshman year at Campolindo High School and was scared out of my wits, but the girls were extremely welcoming, and I fit in right away. I immediately fell in love with Walsh's program and the goofy traditions of the Campolindo girls' team.

2) How is your season going so far? Training? Racing?
So far, the 2007 season has gone very well. I'm keeping my eyes on November, and visioning every workout and every race as a stepping stone towards my end of season goals. Each of these steps is necessary and needs to be focused on individually in order to piece all the puzzle pieces together to form the big picture. All I need to do now is stay patient, be smart, and lead my team towards what's coming in November.

3) Catherine "Sparky" Murillo was your training and racing partner for the past three years. Describe her impact on your running.
I love Sparky, and I miss her terribly. We are extremely competitive in all aspects of our lives, not only in running. Coming in as a freshman, I chased her and copied her every move- I wanted to be just like her. Entering my sophomore year, we were running workouts together, and became extremely close friends. However, any time a gun went off, we were out to kill each other, naturally. By the time I was a junior and she was a senior, we were team captains together, and practically sisters. Walsh referred to us as "the bobsey twins" and "the dynamic duo". We created our own language (or style of speaking, rather) and used it often. By this point, our personalities and goals were so similar that we bickered and fought constantly, like sisters. But, we always returned to the calm focus that is necessary for the level of training which we were running at. Sparky is my hero, she is my idol, I strive to be as fast, passionate and dedicated as her, and I can't wait to see her destroy at UCSB! I'm also looking forward to racing against her in college.

4) How was the transition going from coach Chris Walsh to coach Chuck Woolridge after your sophomore season?
I know that I have been extremely lucky about the transition from Walsh to Chuck, both being the coaches of state champions. I feel that physically, the transition has been perfect for me, going from a conservative freshman and sophomore year, and slowly building up to the level of training that I am currently at. I am also lucky to be divided 50-50 by these two very different coaching styles. Walsh introduced me to the Campolindo traditions, which I am currently trying to keep alive, as I am almost the last year of "Walsh Runners" on the Campolindo team. Walsh taught me how to run with heart and guts, how to love, trust, and respect my teammates, and how to run with the mind and soul of a true Cross Country athlete. He laid the groundwork for the mental aspect of the sport, and taught me how to prepare myself emotionally for any hardships I may encounter, athletically or not. Transitioning to Chuck, his training focuses primarily on the scientific side of the sport. We began to do drills daily, and words such as efficiency, stride frequency, velocity, lactate threshold, specificity, etc. began to creep into our daily discussions after workouts. Chuck constantly attempts to clean up my messy form, increase my efficiency and stride frequency, and teach me all about the science of the sport. I am privileged to have been coached by two polar opposites, as I now feel like a very well rounded athlete.

5) Describe your summer training. What did you do differently this summer? What was your mileage like in the summer? Currently?
This summer, my training circled around team runs and staying healthy. This week, we have just finished the first cycle of training, so this past week was our hard week, about 45-50 MPW and next week will be the beginning of a new cycle, involving easy days and scavenger hunt runs!

6) You had quite a finish to your cross country season last year with winning the NCS Div. III race and your 6th place finish at state. Did that meet or surpass your expectations?
Both races exceeded my expectations mentally, but not physically. Chuck had trained me to achieve both of those goals, so all I had to do was trust in my training, and to mentally prepare myself for the races. Winning NCS had always been a daydream for mine since my freshman year, never a realistic goal- until my junior year. NCS was a very thought-out race for Campo, each girl had their own job, and each of us executed our race plans perfectly, securing our win. My duty to my team is to complete my job for every race, and if I don't then I've failed myself and my teammates, and that's no fun! According to Chuck, my individual job at NCS was to win, so I did, without even thinking twice. My girls deserve the very best! After finishing the race, I didn't even realize that I had won until my former teammate and big sister Marie Casabonne ran over screaming at me. The moment of realization was intense, and only then did I realize that my 2-year-long daydream had become a reality. Whenever I think about everything that happened that day, both the good and the bad, I still get goose bumps.

At State, my individual job was to get top 18, but my personal goal was to get top 7. Chuck and I decided that my plan should be to go out relaxed in the first mile, in about 17th place, and then work my way up to my desired position in the middle mile. Halfway through the race, a feeling of fearlessness which I had never experienced before (and have not yet experienced since) crept into my mind and my heart. Energized from this feeling, I worked my way up through that middle mile, tried to hold on to my spot, and barely out kicked the 7th place runner at the end. I know that if I had not taken that chance in the middle mile, I would have barely finished top 20 or even 25. I finished in 6th place, saw a state medal for the first time (let alone received one), stood on the podium for the first time, and smiled until my face hurt. I couldn't help but smile, all of my goals for the season had been reached, and I had absolutely no regrets about the season. It was as close to the perfect season as I could imagine getting, which definitely exceeded my expectations.

7) Campolindo also won the team title after 3rd and 2nd place finishes your freshman and sophomore seasons respectively. Describe the difference between an individual and team championship.
My sophomore year, we were not only 2nd place at NCS to Miramonte (our school rivals in practically all sports) but we got 4th at state to Miramonte as well, barely missing podium spots. After NCS last year, the Campo girls team warmed down, wondering if we had won or not. Receiving my individual medal at the award ceremony was satisfying, but at that point, all I wanted to do was hear the team results. When revealing who the 2nd place team was, the announcer took his time- first mentioning how well the "cats" had raced that season, and how glad he was that they took 2nd place. But both the Campolindo Cougars and the Maria Carrillo Puma's are cats! We were going crazy, I couldn't stop fidgeting and shaking! When Maria Carrillo was finally announced as runners up, I began to cry uncontrollably. It was so embarrassing! I just couldn't believe we had finally done it. I was so proud of my girls! In all of the pictures, I'm all red and puffy with tears streaming down my cheeks- what can I say? I'm a big dork! I know that if we had gotten 2nd as a team again that year, then my individual medal could mean absolutely nothing to me. It would be sitting in my shoebox with all my other medals, instead of being proudly hung on my wall right next to my team medal.

8) Who are the closest challengers for this year's NCS individual title and for Campolindo for the team title?
Well, the Curtin twins from Maria Carrillo are ready to make some noise, as is the Maria Carrillo team in general. Other than that, I can honestly say that I have no idea what will happen at this point in time. It's all about who's ready in late October!

9) Have you narrowed your search for a college? How much will running impact your decision to what college you will attend?
I am definitely running in college, I'm just not sure where yet. I'm trying to keep my options open, as I am trying to find a good fit for myself both academically and athletically. I'm trying to keep in mind the question that Walsh often asks me: If God cut my legs off tomorrow, would I still want to attend most of the colleges on my list? It's a difficult process, especially with running mixed in!

10) What is your favorite training area? Workout? Race course? Competitor? Best tradition for Campolindo XC?
For LSD's, any Campolindo athlete will agree that Redwood Regional Park is heaven! My favorite workout is the 2x1600, 2x800 workout we run at Hayward HS the week before NCS. Everyone always runs fast, because we are peaking, and the crispness of the early morning air stinging your lungs really wakes you up. Plus, the satisfaction of warming down after a good workout while 10 other teams arrive to start their workout is always enjoyable. Actually, during this workout last year, Sparky tripped in a huge pile of mud during the warm-up, causing me to trip OVER her and ruin my nice white gloves, which are still stained! We're clumsy in the morning.

My favorite race course is the Woodward Park course, simply because it presents a different challenge every time I race there, so no one can ever really know that to expect! Sparky is probably my favorite competitor, although I always loved racing against Miramonte's Elaine Tanski because she is such a sweetheart. However, my new teammate Grace Orders is proving to be extremely entertaining to run with! Campolindo has so many traditions; it's extremely difficult for me to name just one favorite. However, the pre-NCS tea party is always a season highlight. Dress code requirements include: slacks, button down shirts, ties, and nice shoes for boys, and dresses and sun hats (if available) for girls. We drink tea, speak in British accents, eat scones, and act like the ladies and gentlemen that we are! Then, we proceed to run like savages the following Saturday at the NCS meet.

11) I am a freshman who has never run before. Why should I try Cross Country?
From my perspective, Cross Country has taught me values which I can carry over to all aspects of my life. Respect, endurance, friendship, loyalty, pain, fear, failure, success, faith, and many many others. In addition, no matter what speed you run at, running Cross Country in high school will be four years of fun memories which you will never forget. The bonds created between teammates who see each other's hard work pay off are unlike any other experience. There is a certain satisfaction in attaining your own personal goals, whatever they are, that can only be achieved through a sport of mental-toughness such as cross country.

12) Anything else that you would like to add.
I would just like to thank everyone who has made the past 4 years of my running experience so amazing for me. I'm going to make the best of this last year, but feel fully prepared to enter college not only athletically and academically, but as a person in general. I'll never forget the memories! Gal 6:9. COAST ORB STATE!

Thank you Laurie. AJC

No comments:

Popular Posts