Saturday, July 21, 2018

Catching up with Los Altos senior, Owen MacKenzie

Today we catch up with Los Altos senior, Owen MacKenzie. This past Track and Field season, MacKenzie won the 3200m at the CCS Championship meet with a new personal best of 9:07.95. You can check out a video of that race below thanks to Kristen Colonna. During the 2017 Cross Country season, MacKenzie was named to the 1st team All-NorCal team as he led his Los Altos team to the state championship with an individual 2nd place finish at the CCS Division I race. He went on to finish in 14th place at the state meet with a time of 15:32.7 after leading at the 2-mile mark. This coming season, MacKenzie will be favored to win the CCS Division I race and will contend for a top finish at state. He will also lead a talented Los Altos team that will be looking to improve their on their team places this past school year.

1) When did you get your start in running? Did you have any running experience before high school? If so, what were your PRs? What other sports have you played aside from XC and TF?
I began running when I was very young because I grew up in New Zealand where all primary school kids have to participate in a school cross country race every year.  I was fairly fast, but I still preferred playing soccer and cricket.  When I was 8 years old I joined my parents running club the Wellington Scottish Harriers, and I ran in a few kids races because I had to go watch my parents race anyway.  At the end of the year, we went to the awards banquet and I was so surprised to receive a medal for being the fastest 8-9 year old in our club.  From that day I knew I wanted to be a runner.  I moved to Los Altos in 6th grade and ran one season with Palo Alto Lightning. My personal bests at age 12 were 5:13 for the 1500m and 11:07 for the 3000m. I then ran with Egan Jr. High and my PR in 8th grade was 5:10 for the 1600m.

2) What do you remember about your freshman seasons in XC and TF? Who were the older runners that you looked up to (whether on Los Altos or other teams) who were mentors to you as a young runner?
I was very small when I was a freshman but I had big goals and I was very determined. I had two amazing mentors on my team, Ben Zaeske, and Andreas Godderis, who were seniors and I really looked up to.  They inspired me, believed in me and were great friends.  I enjoyed playing up my innocence to make them laugh.  I was very excited to run 17:00 on Crystal Springs at SCVAL finals but had to miss CCS because I got sick the morning of the race. I managed to break 5 in the mile, running 4:55 during track season.  I was not the fastest freshman, but I was confident that I was going to get better and be like Ben and Andreas.

3) At what point in your high school career do you feel like you made the biggest jump as far as your running times? What do you feel led to that improvement?
I made equally large jumps between freshman year and sophomore year and between sophomore year and junior year.  Part of the reason was that I increased my summer mileage each year, but it was also because I kept growing.

4) Looking back at last year's cross country season, what do you feel was your best race? Proudest accomplishments? Biggest lessons you learned?
Last cross country season my best race was the CCS Championships at Toro Park.  All I wanted was to go to the State meet with my team.  Los Altos had not been in many years and CCS only had two spots: one which was definitely going to go to the dominant Bellarmine, and the other was a toss-up between us, Homestead, Carlmont, and Paly.  I had never been able to beat the two Palo Alto runners Henry and Sam in the league meets, but I knew that if I could do that at this meet, our team had a great chance.  At the first mile Meika Bedouin-Rousseau started breaking off.  I knew what an amazing runner he was so it would have been easy for me to be complacent, but I forced myself to stick with him and I managed to come second.  I was so happy when I heard the Los Altos team also placed second and we were all going to the State meet.  My proudest accomplishment was being the first to cross the 2-mile mark at the state meet.  I knew that with all the big names in the race, it would be so easy for me to give up and fall out the back.  That is why before the race I made my plan to be up front at 2 miles then hold on.  I got passed by 13 runners in the last mile, but I learned that a runner's mental game and determination is almost as important as their training and talent.

5) Last year, you won the CCS 3200. At what point in the season did you feel like you had a chance to win the race? What was your plan going into the race? When did you feel like you were about to win and how satisfying was it winning a track section title?
At the beginning of track season, my goal was to make it to the state meet.  I did not really think about winning CCS because my goal was just top three and I was much more preoccupied with thinking about all the other races I had to get through first.  The morning of CCS finals was when I really decided I wanted to win even though everyone told me placing top 3 would be hard enough.  I had learned my lesson at Arcadia that it is not smart to try to lead the whole race, and I had been developing a very strong kick that I did not have the year before.  My strategy was to be patient in the pack, but still wary of anyone's attempt to break away.  I had to surge a few times to pull the leader back to the pack, but I never tried to break away myself because I trusted in my kick.  I felt like I was going to win with 200 to go because I felt really strong and fast, but I was not sure at all.  I was so tired after the race, but I had so much adrenaline in me that I couldn't sleep that night.  The next day it sunk in and I was satisfied but even hungrier for more.

6) For the upcoming cross country season, what invitationals are you most looking forward to racing?
I am most looking forward to competing at Stanford and at Clovis because our team should hopefully be able to compete in the Championship race for the first time.  I am also excited to race an invitational at Toro Park because I think that I can break 15:00 and our team should be able to get another school record.

7) What does a typical training week look like for you during the season? Any morning runs? Weight room work? Typical weekly mileage? Longest run distance? Pace of most of your easier runs?
A typical week of training would include a tempo run, hill reps or track intervals and a long run with easy days in between.  Last track season I went to the weight room a few times but it wasn't a regular part of my schedule.  I'm really excited to train harder this season adding in more weights and perhaps a double every Wednesday.  I like to build up lots of miles during the summer and then bring it down during the season.  Last summer I ran 70 miles one week as my max, but brought that down to 60 miles early season and then 50 at the end.  I still kept up a long run of 13-16 miles.  It is very hilly in Los Altos so the pace is slower, but I would say we do most of our easy runs around 7:00-7:30 minute pace per mile.

8) Favorite XC course? Favorite XC invitational? Favorite XC workout? Favorite long run?Favorite TF event? Favorite TF invitational? Favorite TF workout? Favorite free time activity?
My favorite XC course is Toro Park, my favorite Invitational is Clovis, my favorite XC workout is Hill-Tempo Sandwich, my favorite long run is a 16 miler to the top of Black Mountain, my favorite track event is the steeplechase although I haven't ever tried it, my favorite track invitational is CCS top 8, favorite track workout is 10 x 400m and my favorite free time activity is singing and playing guitar with my band the Shark Cops.

9) Tell us a bit about your coaches and how they have helped you get to your current status?
I will have had 4 different head coaches in my 4 years at Los Altos. The only constant coach I have had is my Mom who has been our distance track coach and assistant xc coach for the past two years.  She will be the head xc coach this year.  She is a great coach because she has read so many different opinions about training and she is good at communicating and individualizing the program not just for me but for my teammates too.  She still races xc so knows what we're going through and we get along really well which is also good.  Andrew Zaeske was my coach in my freshman year and still coaches the sprinters during track season so he has continued to be a big supporter of me and gives me great advice on race strategy and weight training.

10) This coming season, three teams will qualify to state from CCS in Division I. Who do you feel will be the biggest team competition for Los Altos? What about individually for you?
Our team wants to win CCS this year but to do that we will have to beat a very strong young Bellarmine team.  I'm a little biased, but I believe that my toughest competition individually might come from two of my teammates Kevin Andrews and Adam Sage.  I am so fortunate to get to train with them and the rest of my team every day.  Two more of my teammates Tomo Yoshino and Daniel Ghasemfar have been logging some fast long runs this summer, so there is no telling who is going to be the fastest Los Altos runner. Colin Peattie of Bellarmine had the best track season out of all of us so I am excited to see what he can do in cross country.  Henry Saul, Ryan Ma, and Justin Hsu will also be tough to beat.

11) Now that college is a bit more on your radar, how much will running in college impact your decision in choosing your college destination?
I am really looking forward to running in college so it is going to be an important part of my decision. I hope to study Engineering and be part of a strong running team.

Thank you very much for your time Owen! AJC

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