June 6, 2010
EAST LANSING, Mich. - For the second consecutive season, the Michigan State track & field team will send six individuals to the annual NCAA Track & Field Championships held in Eugene, Ore., at the prestigious Heyward Track Wednesday-Saturday, June 9-12.
In preparation for the upcoming competition, MSUSpartans.com sat down with each individual to talk about the upcoming championships and the season to date.
In the second of three Q&A's with the track & field qualifiers, MSUSpartans.com talked with junior 5,000-meter runner Emily MacLeod and freshman 1,500-meter runner Josh McAlary before they both head to Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon.
It terms of confidence and decision making, it has definitely helped. But, I feel that most of the success this year is actually from the learning last year. I learned a lot from the senior class last year.
Entering the NCAA Championships as the top-seeded 5,000-meter runner, with so many All-Americans in the field, how do you feel knowing there may be a bit of a target as the top seed?
I am not worried about the seeding, because I know all of the girls have run much faster before. We are probably going to be running a lot faster at the NCAA Championships. I am just going to listen to the coaches. They tell me what to do and I trust them.
The coaching staff's motivation on the track is very important, even if it is just a hand motion. Sometimes you can't hear them. We will have a plan going into the race and I will be able to see them and have an idea as to what they are saying.
With little technical improvements to be made at this point in time, what are some of the little tweaks you may be making with the coaching staff?
We are working on feeling in sync with everything. My workouts have been to just help me feel fast. Mentally, I am getting prepared but that is a part of the typical pre-race plan.
This is the second consecutive season Coach Drenth has sent six individuals to the NCAA Championships. In just his fourth year, what does this say about the program under his helm?
Last year was primarily distance runners, so with an individual in each event group going this year, it's great to see that we are all developing now, not just a certain group of individuals. We are all improving a bit, and next year we will hopefully have more competitors.
With this being your first outdoor championships experience, what are some things you are hearing about the whole atmosphere?
The atmosphere is not like the rest of the meets, but it isn't because it will have the same approach. Watching Lisa Senakiewich race in the 5,000m last year, I have been able to get a feel as to what to expect from the whole race.
Entering the year, what were some of the goals and did you imagine you would be a two-time regional champion, and a part of a group of prestigious individuals?
I have always measured myself up there in terms of potential. Once the race gets going, it's all about racing and having the right mindset and focused at the task at hand.
What have been some of the most difficult obstacles you have had to face on the track?
Team wise, it's been hard watching the girls make the same mistakes that I have had to make since we are all still growing.
Personally, it would have to be mental and making sure that I can push through any mental blocks that I may have going into the race or workout.
How does it feel going against the field in the 5,000m with several All-Americans in the race?
It's a challenge, that's for sure. It's going to be a lot of fun with a lot of opportunities to run fast. I hope that it is going to be a fairly honest race as well.
You ran both the 1,500m and the 5,000m races this season, which race do you feel the most comfortable running, and why?
I really enjoy running the 5,000m because I like the decisions and tactics that are associated with the race. It isn't as technical as the 1,500m. Also, in terms of the distance, it is fairly similar to cross country races.
You are the current school record holder in the 1,500m, what were you feelings like when you first heard you had broken the record?
Honestly, I had no idea until Nicole Bush texted me and let me know that I had broken the record. Hopefully next year it can be broken again with an even faster record.
This helps a lot. Obviously we are young, so theoretically we should be a lot better as the years progress. Hopefully, this gives us a lot of confidence and the incoming recruits confidence that MSU is a going to be a good team for years to come. If we had a bunch of fifth-years traveling to NCAAs it would look like it would be a rebuilding year next season, but instead we are moving forward.
As the top-seeded freshman in the 1,500-meter run, how excited are you to get out there on the track to compete for a National Championship?
It will definitely be a little nerve-racking, but I am trying to look at it as a normal race and with a level head. As coach says, slow everything around you and keep a level head on everything.
I was really nervous going into the finals at regionals. When I drove over to the track with Coach McGreevy she calmed me down and helped to clear everything. I went into warm-up thinking that it was just another race.
How excited are you to get out in Eugene and competing on Hayward Field?
It's pretty big. You will have a lot of big names that compete well there every year. Oregon has one of the best distance crews ever in the sport, so it's an honor to be able to go out there and compete.
What are some things that you have been hearing as to what to expect from the whole NCAA Championships experience?
I haven't really heard a whole lot, but I do plan on talking to Shane Knoll a bit about what he experienced at nationals. With Shane being a high-level miler last year, he will definitely be able to give me some insight as to what to expect.
You are one of three freshman representing Michigan State at the NCAA Championships, what does it say about the youth representing the Spartans at the highest level?
I think a lot of it has to do with us just trusting our coaches. We all understand that they know more than we do now, and we need to put our training in their hands and leave it to them.
This is the second consecutive season Coach Drenth has sent six individuals to the NCAA Championships, with this his fourth year at the helm of the program, how important has it been for the student-athletes to buy into his program?
It has been very important. Coach Drenth has been here before, with over 25 years of coaching experience, and multiple All-Americans, he knows what it takes to get to the highest level.
What do you hope to achieve out of your first NCAA Championships appearance?
I'd love to be an All-American, and it's not out of the realm of possibilities. Right now it's getting through the first qualifying heat and making the finals. Then, it's putting myself into a position in finals to be one of the top-eight American finishers.
There aren't many things one can do with their technique at this point of the season, what are some of the minor tweaks you have been working on with the coaching staff?
We have been working on pretty much everything all year long. Everything has just been falling into place. Right now we really haven't been changing much of anything as to how I race.
Do you take a different mindset from the slower heats you may have been in the beginning of the season compared to the heats that you are in now?
At regionals I was in a pretty stacked heat. In fact, I raced against one of my former high school teammates (Daniel Clark) who now runs at Notre Dame. Going from looking up to him as a freshman in high school, to running with him in college was pretty cool.