bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the performance of your two teams at the Pre-Nationals this past weekend?
Paul Harkins: I thought the men ran pretty solid, especially for a field that size as well as how many people were there and how competitive it was. The men's side had 10 nationally ranked teams in their race. They also were fighting pretty hard to get to Utah State. They came up a little short but not that short. I don't think it's an unreachable goal for conference next week.
The women, I thought a couple ran fairly well. I thought the twins did a decent job but our pack is a little bit too spread out at this point. They're a very young team and going to a meet like that is an experience that is definitely a shock the first time you go.
I definitely believe that this was a necessary step for both of our teams if we want to reach that next level of reaching the national championship meet. They got to see what it takes, what type of competition is there and that sort of thing. There were solid performances but I definitely know we're capable of a lot more and when we go to conference next week I'm confident that they'll have a lot more confidence in a much smaller setting which is more of what they're used to.
The last two races have been so large that I think they've been running a little tight. I thought the men ran solid and pushed pretty hard but I definitely think they're capable of a bit more as well.
bc.net: Coming off of these last two meets, what have you seen from your kids, what have they talked to you about as the things that they've learned or the things that they feel they need to improve on heading into the conference meet?
PH: I think confidence is the main thing. I think they'll be more confident running in a setting we're used to where there's only eight or nine teams as opposed to 40. That's definitely something that I don't think they had the confidence running in those meets and I think our performances suffered a little bit for it but it's an experience they needed to have in order to attain that level next year. I think when we go back, I think that's definitely an advantage that Utah State had on both of our teams in that meet. They've run there before, they've been at Pre-Nats, they've been to those big races where they have 40 teams and 10 of them are ranked nationally and things like that. I know the Utah State women suffered quite a bit when they went last year. Your first time out there, I was talking to the Florida State coach on the way back and he said, "Young teams always get crushed at that meet the first time they come." It's the nature of the beast. They're wide-eyed, they've never experienced anything like this. Even if they're running in their state championships in high school, that does not compare. There's several state champions on our team, multiply that by 85 teams or whatever were at the meet and if there's that many state champs on that many different teams, it's going to be one of the most purely competitive experiences that you will have experienced. It was and it was tough. But they've seen it now, they've been there, I think with another year of strength, another year of growing and another year of growing confidence I think they'll be a lot better and will be set up a lot better next year when we go.
bc.net: How did Madelyn Stoltze perform in the open race at Pre-Nationals?
PH: She was competitive the entire time throughout which is what we asked her to do. We told her, "You've got a shot to be in the top 30 or top 40 in this meet." There were probably still close to 200 girls in her race. She went out, she was in the mix the entire time and ended up 43rd and ran tough. Her time would have put her as our fourth girl just ahead of Sam Thompson and just behind Chelsa McDonnell. Madelyn has definitely showed this past weekend what we recruited her for and what she's capable of doing. Having her in the mix, she's one of those girls that can run with Chelsa, can run with Brittany and with Chelsa and Brittany being top 10 last year, if we can put Chelsa, Brittany, Sam and Madelyn all into that top 15 I think we can win again. It's going to be tough, Idaho is looking real good on the women's side, they have a real tight pack, Utah State obviously they got us this past weekend but with Madelyn in the race I think we would have closed the gap to six points on Utah State.
It's definitely possible for the women to repeat and like I said on the men's side, I would love to bring home two championships. I want our kids to run the way they're capable of running and if they do that, I think the results will speak for themselves.
bc.net: With the WAC championship meet taking place next week what will your training be like this week and what are some things that you're able to draw on from last year's performances that you will incorporate into this year?
PH: I definitely have to draw on the conference championship for the women. If that's not a huge confidence builder I don't know what would be. For the women, we have four girls on our team this year that were in the top 10 last year including the Schultzs who were 1-2 and Brittany [Hurtado] who was ninth and Chelsa [McDonnell] who was 10th and Sam Thompson has conference championship experience and then we have newcomers who are able to run within that group. If we can go just run relaxed and duplicate what we did last year I think we'll be very well set up.
On the men's side they've improved every conference meet that they've been in since we've been here. From 7th to 6th to 6th with a lower point total to fourth last year. Right now I think we're sitting third potentially and that would be behind Utah State and Boise State but I think we have the potential to definitely get Boise State because they've got a pretty wide gap from their one to five and I think Utah State is reachable if we run like we're capable of doing. It's exciting because the men have improved every time they've been to a conference meet in the last four years and they're very very hungry and very excited about next weekend.
Going into these next two weeks training wise this will be the first time all season that we've rested them at all. We want to make sure their legs are under them and they're not running tired anymore, they're feeling fresh with a little bit of bounce in their step and just making sure that they're 100 percent ready to go.