Oct. 29, 2009
SPARTANBURG, S.C. -
Sophomore Lauren Walker and the rest of her USC Upstate cross country teammates will compete in the 2009 Atlantic Sun Championships this weekend in DeLand, Fla.
In the three 5K events that Walker has competed in this season she has finished 25th or better. Her 25th-place finish came at the Charlotte Invitational as she posted a personal-best of 18:39.40. Her personal-best helped lead the Spartans to an overall third-place finish in the 23 team event.
The Columbia, S.C. native posted a time of 19:20 at last season's A-Sun Championship event. She was the second Spartan to cross the finish line and she finished 33rd-overall in the meet.
Walker recently talked with Alex Edwards of upstatespartans.com to discuss Saturday's A-Sun Championship event as well as her time here at Upstate.
The cross country teams are competing in the A-Sun Championships this Saturday, what are the team's expectations?
We are going to Florida to compete in hopes of performing our absolute best. Our team has several quality runners and if we are able to pull together and do our best on Saturday, then I believe we can win the conference championship. This is just my second season, but from last year to this year I have seen drastic changes in both our confidence and performance. I am excited for the opportunity to compete against the other teams in our conference and show them how strong of a team we are.
You were one of four women runners to set a personal-best at the Charlotte Invitational on Oct. 2, what was going through your mind as you crossed the finish line with your personal-best time?
To be honest, it was an extremely painful race, so I wasn't very concerned with my time as I crossed the finish line. I was mainly concerned with crossing the finish line. It wasn't until after I was able to catch my breath that I realized what an impressive personal-best I had just achieved. I was pretty shocked, as I improved from running a 19:28 in the 5K to an 18:39 in the 5K. It wasn't until after the meet in Charlotte that I realized what it took to run and how it should feel to achieve a quality time.
With your sophomore season nearly complete, what do you see as your biggest improvement compared to your freshman campaign?
I struggled with my confidence as a runner as a freshman. I thought that all the other collegiate runners were just as good as I was in high school, if not better. This year, with one year of experience under my belt, I am much more confident. Many of the runners that I finished behind last season I am either gaining on them or finishing ahead of them.
Aside from being a member of the cross country team at Upstate, you are also part of the track and field team. Do you enjoy one more than the other?
I would have to say I enjoy cross country a little bit more. I love running, so I do enjoy both, but because I am a distance runner running on the track in circles for a 5K can become monotonous. Last season, I ran the steeplechase during the track season, I feel that if I am able to practice my techniques this season I can do better in the event and begin to enjoy track more.
What has been your most memorable moment as a student-athlete here at Upstate? Why?
This is a really tough question. I would have to say last year at conference after we finished our race and we watched the awards ceremony. I saw the other teams getting trophies and t-shirts. I think that opened my eyes to see why we do what we do. Every day we wake waking up for 6 a.m. practice and run for a hour and a half, it is to win. It hit me that if you want to be successful, you have to put in the training and dedication.
When you are not training or in the classroom, what do you find yourself doing?
I constantly find myself eating. It never stops and I am sure I could out eat any male, probably any growing boy for that matter. With the amount of calories we burn each day, in order not to lose weight, we have to stay on top of our eating. I try to refrain from eating unhealthy, but sometimes I do slip up and have some candy. Other than that, I find myself hanging out with my friends. I don't have a lot of free time to spare between running twice a day and classes and studying for classes.
In your opinion, what is the biggest difference between high school competition and the Division I level?
That is easy, training. My training in high school was less serious than the training I go through now. People that didn't necessarily want to be on the team in high school tended to slow things down. In college, every person on the team is enthusiastic about running and is dedicated to give it their all. We work much harder in college and the training is much more specific, as we use different workouts to fine tune our running.
What is something that people may not know about you?
Since I was very small, I have been around horses. At the age of four, I got my first horse. I have always admired their ability to run. My family still owns horses and when I am home I will train with them. My dad saddles up his horse and we go to the Camden Hunt Country, a local horse park, where there are thousands of acres to ride and I run alongside him and his horse.
If you could spend the day with any athlete, who would you choose and why?
I would choose steeplechase runner, Anna Willard. It is because of her that I was inspired to attempt the event. I dyed my hair pink like hers during cross country last year. I think she is a great runner and the thing that I love about her is that she is different than most. She is able to strike a balance between being serious and having fun. We also ran similar times in high school, so that makes me think I can do anything.
What advice would you give to an athlete that aspired to be a collegiate runner?
I would say focus on preparation. Collegiate running is like nothing you have done before. You will learn a lot about yourself as well as your body. You will also develop great friendships within your team, unique friendships that couldn't be made with any other group of people. The team becomes a family and that has been the best thing about college for me. There are times when running is extremely challenging, but when you get through them you feel extraordinary.