bleedCrimson.net Weekly Coach Harkins Interview :: 10/05/11

bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on your teams' finish at the Cowboy Jamboree last weekend with the women's finishing seventh and the men 10th and a couple of strong performances out of the Schultz sisters individually with Courtney finishing sixth and Camille twelfth.
Meaghan Harkins: Yeah definitely. I'd like to highlight the women's performance first, obviously they went out that day prepared to run and prepared to show that they can compete with some of these better teams. Courtney Schultz finishing sixth overall, while it wasn't a surprise, I was really happy to see who she was able to compete with. There were some multi-time All-American athletes that she was mixing it up with. I was really excited to see that and it bodes well for her hopes of qualifying individually to Nationals. Her sister running twelfth, again, very exciting. Mixing it up with some very talented women. I know one of the women she beat was an NCAA Regional record-holder so even though she wasn't as far up there with her sister she was still in very good company.

The team as a whole competed extremely well. I was very happy not just with our one through five but with our entire one through ten, particularly one through seven. They're closing that gap a little bit and Sammie Hamilton and Tamara Lementino both individually continue to improve on a weekly basis so that's exciting to see.

bc.net: On the women's side you had about a two minute spread from Courtney in first to Madelyn Stoltze and in terms of the competitiveness of the meet you have to be pretty happy with that.
MH: I was. We obviously need to continue to keep working to close that gap but I think each week we get a little bit closer to doing that.

bc.net: The men finished in tenth, I know they were a little disappointed with that finish. What are some things you were pleased with and what are somethings that you can use as building blocks going forward?
MH: The men were undoubtedly disappointed with their performance and tenth is not at all what we expected. I think there were a few things that went into that, namely and most importantly, the race went out insanely fast. I was expecting our top three men to go out around 4:55 at the mile pace and they were probably through at 4:45 so ten seconds faster within that first mile. I think overall Jonah, our number one guy, averaged about a 5:02 pace overall per mile, that was his average. When you go out that fast in the first mile it's going to catch up with you eventually and I think that's what happened. I fully expected Jonah and Kevin Taft to be under 25 minutes and likewise I expected all 11 men who were racing to be under 26 minutes and obviously we didn't come close to doing that and I think a lot of that had to do with the pace of the race and it just caught up with them as the race went on.

bc.net: Most people don't realize how much strategy is involved in cross country. How does your strategy change when you're running a big meet like this versus when you're running a meet with just three teams?
MH: There's always the conundrum in a big meet with sending your athletes out at the right pace. I think that's the biggest thing. In sending our top men out at 4:55 and sending everyone else out faster than their race pace, you hope that that's going to be enough to put them in the mix so that they're not out of the race before it even starts but at the same time you also run the risk of going out too fast and not being able to maintain. You actually end up going lactic far too early in the race you pay the consequences big time. Ultimately we did end up going out a little bit fast and I think that's why we didn't end up doing as well as we'd hoped we would.

bc.net: This weekend you head out to the Grand Canyon Invitational what are your expectations for this race?
MH: Our top seven are sitting out of this meet, they're resting up in preparation for Pre-Nationals so it's everyone outside of our top seven who will be competing. Ultimately they're competing for three spots to go to the Pre-Nationals meet. We're taking ten people [on each team] total to that meet and it's kind of the last chance to prove that you should be on that travel squad.

bc.net: Who are some of the kids outside of the top seven on the men's and women's side and who are you expecting some big things out of from this race?
MH: It's hard to say. It's always tough when it comes down to one day and one race. On the men's side, Kevin Palmer had a big improvement this past weekend and he's going to be racing again at Grand Canyon. I can conceivably see him throwing down and doing some big things this weekend. Ryan Fenton, Anthony Ellis and Michael Hart are all guys who competed at Cowboy, they are going to be competing against each other for one of those top ten spots. I can see any one of them making it. Marcus Porter too, he's been working out well. He did not travel with us to Cowboy Jamboree but I know he's looking to make that jump to our travel roster. Honestly, when it comes down to one day it can be anybody's race that day.

On the women's side I think we have even more people who can potentially vie for one of those last three positions. Carly Porter, Christy Barela and Caroline Lewiecky, all three of them raced at Cowboy and they're going to be racing again at Grand Canyon. Christy and Caroline have pretty much been in our top seven all the races they've ran so I don't know if it was just an off day for them at Cowboy but obviously they're going to looking to jump into that top ten and make sure they have a spot on to Pre-Nats and I think they will. Carly Porter same thing, she's been in our top ten every race she's run. Then the people that didn't run at Cowboy, Sam Thompson, she was on our travel roster last year and I know she's looking to get back in there. Gael Sanchez has been running very very well. She was injured last year and didn't compete in the cross country season but has been making huge strides every time she races. Adrienne Larson is another person who's had her eye on a spot on the travel roster from day one of this cross country season. There's a lot of people who are really excited about their possibilities to make it onto that travel roster. I'm excited too. Ultimately it's going to lead to a lot of great performances overall.

bc.net: Particularly on the women's side, a lot of the names you mentioned are underclassmen, freshmen and sophomores. Obviously from the time you've been one of the head coaches for the team you've been teaching the kids and molding them into the type of athlete that you want them to be. What are some things you look for from them in terms of their preparation for a meet?
MH: With the younger kids and the older kids, my expectations are the same for each and every one of them. When the kids first come in, one of the first things they learn is that lifestyle is a huge component to their success as a distance athlete. When I say lifestyle I mean what time they're going to bed every night. Are they getting eight to ten hours a night of sleep? Their diet, are they eating well? Are they consuming enough calories during the day? Are they consuming enough of the right calories during the day? Are they getting enough nutrients and minerals? In addition to that, just kind of thinking about running on a daily basis. Having an athletic mindset in everything they do. I try to get them to understand that every decision they make on a daily basis is either going to help or harm them ultimately in terms of their training.

The thing is that I temper that with the notion that I don't expect these kids to come in and immediately start behaving like professional athletes. Each year I ask them to look at some things that they need to improve upon and work specifically on those things. Every year hopefully we can get a little bit closer to leading that ultimate dedicated lifestyle. In terms of things that I'm looking for, I'm obviously looking for people that are excelling in practice, excelling in the workouts, not getting too tired. If they are getting too tired then I'm going to be talking to them about their lifestyle, making sure they are getting sleep. Midterms are right now so all our kids are suffering a little bit from that. But there are so many things. I'm also looking for people who have the confidence right now and honestly people who want to make the traveling squad. People who are willing to put it on the line, this Saturday in particular, to show me that they want to be at Pre-Nationals, that they deserve to be at Pre-Nationals.