bleedCrimson.net Weekly Coach Harkins Interview :: 11/22/11

bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on Courtney's performance at the NCAA Championship meet?
Meaghan Harkins: It was definitely an incredible experience for Courtney and I think a big step in terms of the progression of her career. I think athletes the first time at the NCAA Championship, it's very very difficult to go out and perform up to par sometimes just because it's such an intimidating environment if you allow it to be. With Courtney, I'm extremely happy with the way she handled it, I'm happy with the way she handled the crowd, the hoopla, the fireworks, there's literally fireworks. She was focused and not the least bit intimidated and really showed that she should be there competing with the best athletes in the nation. We had a plan of going out and putting ourselves in the mix early on, we thought that potential All-American status was our ideal goal going forward and so the goal was to simply go out early, put ourselves in the mix early and try to hang on and stay in the top 40 throughout the race. She did that, unfortunately in the last 1200 meters or so she hit the wall as we call it, ran out of gas. But I think doing it the way she did it sets herself up extremely well for next year when she's back and I have no doubt in my mind she'll be contending for one of those All-American spots in 2012.

bc.net: What were some things that Courtney talked about with you after the race when you were going over everything and just the whole experience? What were some things that she took away from it?
MH: She was telling me before the week, she was very very nervous before the race. This was probably more nervous than I've ever seen her before. I had confidence in her but again, the environment can definitely get to you. I wasn't sure how she would respond once that gun went off. But she told me after the race that she felt as though going into that race that no matter what, she was going to be a different athlete afterwards. She felt that something big was going to happen, whether that was being an All-American or whatever. I think ultimately what she learned is that she is capable of going out with that lead pack in any race in the country now and finishing respectably. She went out about 20 seconds faster in the first mile than she has all season and I think she obviously paid the price in the end but I think knowing that she's capable of doing that and with a little bit more strength she'll be able to hold on for that last half of the race. I think that's an invaluable experience and she's gained a lot of confidence and experience from it.

bc.net: Courtney was able to shave off 34 seconds off her Pre-National time. That's a pretty significant jump.
MH: The Pre-National meet, it's always hard even when the course is the exact same, it's hard to compare times a lot of times due to weather. The Pre-National race was extremely windy. I think the most important difference between the Pre-Nationals and the NCAA Championships was that at Pre-Nationals Courtney went out fast, however, within that first mile she settled too much. She got into position maybe in the first 400 meters but then in the first mile, she was probably in like 50th or 60th place. She got out well but then settled too much and relaxed a little bit too much and couldn't even really see the leaders at that point in the race. Whereas, in the NCAAs, she went out and was with that top group and stayed with that top group as long as she could. I think putting yourself in the mix early on like that, while it's always a risk obviously, it's a little bit more of a gutsy move and sets you up I think to just try to hang on.

bc.net: Obviously cross country is a team sport but her overall individual season was one of the best in school history. She made the NCAA Championship meet, she had a top 10 finish at the Mountain regionals. Finishes were the highest ever for Aggie at both the Regionals and Championship meet.
MH: As I said earlier, I think it's a huge step in the progression of her career. It's in now way the culmination and that's the way that we looked at it and in all the conversations I had with Courtney leading up to the meet. It was very much about this is just the beginning. This isn't the culmination point by any means, this is the first step towards your future goals which are ultimately being and All-American and being Top 20 in the nation in cross country and making it to nationals during the indoor and outdoor seasons. She has very very high goals for herself and when you look at it that way, when you see it as that first step, one it takes a little pressure off the athlete knowing that this is my first foray into this national scene but it is only my first step, there will be more to come.

In terms of her overall season, I think probably the most important aspect of her season was that she made, she didn't make a leap in terms of fitness so much as she made a leap in terms of her confidence and what she can do. I think that progressed as the season progressed. As she competed in more competitive meets and started to put herself in the mix with some of the better athletes in the nation, that confidence slowly evolved so that she was able to go out in the top 30 and believe that she belonged there.