This weekend Santa Clara travels to Stanford, Calif. for the Stanford Invitational on Sat., Sept. 26. SantaClaraBroncos.com sat down junior cross country captain Stephanie Wilson to talk about the Stanford Invite, what her goals are this season and what head coach Tom Service has taught her about believing in herself. Earlier this season Wilson, an Archbishop Mitty graduate and San Jose native, won the Sac State Invitational with a time of 17:23.
SCU: The Bronco teams are headed to Stanford this weekend. Do you have any personal goals that you have set in your mind or you just go out and run the best race you can run?
SW: I want to try to be in the top 10. Last year my goal was to always to stay up with Veronica, or to hit a certain time. This year I am trying to race people and finish in the best place as I can. I also want to make sure I am always engaged in a race so that when I finish, I can ask my self "Did I run as hard as I could have?" and make sure that there was not a point that I gave up the race.
SCU: You won the Sac State Invite earlier this season by 14 seconds. Talk a little about that race.
SW: Mainly, I was racing with a woman from UC Davis. There were times in the race that I was definitely very tired and I was thinking "Oh... I should just let her finish this out" but I was said to myself "No, no, no. I cannot do that. And I have to stick with it."
I kept telling myself "I have to stay with her. If I do not give up then eventually she will get tired." There was definitely a point when I thought I could run a little bit slower and still get the third place. But thought "No, I need to stick with her." Because I knew that if I stick with her then I can finish this race out.
SCU: When you running your work-outs, do you run with a racing mentality or do you think about that only when you are competing in a race?
SW: Sometimes when I am getting to the end of the interval or the end of the work out, I try to think about how I am feeling in the practice because if I am feeling a little bit tired in the practice, I will be way more tired in the race. I have to think of this as the end of the race and stay focus. Just finish it off!
SCU: Your freshman year you tried out for the UC Davis soccer team and didn't make it. You came here the next year so this is your third year of running. When you were running in the first year, did you think that you wanted to be all-conference like you were last year?
SW: When I came to Santa Clara, I decided to run because I wanted to see if I could survive. I was thinking that in the first year everything is going to be new so it will be exciting and I can get through it. And second year I thought that first year that I just had to grind it out; and then finish it off my junior year.
In the sophomore year, when I came back at the end of the cross country and started running track, I felt like I had more experience and more mileage. I was much focused and something clicked and I just started running very well. My times improved a lot and I got more confident. That is the time when I started to feel like I can contribute to the team.
And then last year my goal became completely different. I was not thinking about the all-conference last year early on, but I was thinking it was possible. I thought I was going to be contributing factor on the team and I wanted to place high for the team.
My goal this year is to be in the top three in the West Coast Conference. I do not want to jinx myself but I want to run with my best of my abilities.
SCU: How much of running do you think is mental?
SW: I could say it is all mental. I have to be dedicated and focused in order to perform well. I do not know if it is a percentage. Some people say it is 90% mental. When you are at the level where you think you can be aiming for the top five, it is a lot more mental than physical because you know you have the mind for it.
For me personally it is very mental because I know I am not as talented as these other people. The reason why I have been able to do well is that I have been much focused and I know how to motivate myself.
SCU: Does your coach Tom Service help you with the mental part?
SW: He has been very encouraging. Even when I first joined the team and was running slow, he would say "Okay, you are doing fine. Don't get discouraged. Just keep working with our program."
Even when I was upset, he was very supportive and kept me from getting down on myself. And he told me that it is not always clear path so there are going to be times when you feel upset. He showed me the learning process. His support helped me a lot.
SCU: Does the fact he supported you so much early on help you now support the young runners you have this year?
SW: I have tried to talk them about being patient and relaxed. I do not want to beat them over the head with anything so I just tried to work out hard and lead them an example. That is how I approached it.
SCU: You are an English major and a very good student. This spring you received a community service award for your work with the campus food drive.
SW: I was an intern last year for Campus Ministry last year. It was mostly a social justice internship. One of my responsibilities was to organize all the food drives on campus. We had one every quarter. We started a new food drive in the winter to add to it.
Second Harvest has an annual awards ceremony for all the donors and the community leaders so they gave me a youth award for working on the food drives and bringing in extra food.
SCU: Were you surprised to get that award?
SW: I did not even know about it until I received it. I felt weird because I was just doing my job, organizing the food drives. They had an awards ceremony and it was fun. It was embarrassing because people were wearing suits and dresses but I had a jeans on. My mom was ticked I didn't dress nicer.
SCU: Last question. What would you tell people about Bronco Invitational that Santa Clara hosts on Oct. 17 at Baylands Park and why they should come out and watch it?
SW: Because there is barbeque afterwards. You can bring your kids and play on the swing sets and watch quality cross country. It is very friendly place. My grandmother, Theresa Vitteli, came last year and she is 85 years old. She cannot walk very well but my parents were able to drive up and let my grandmother watch the whole thing. My grandmother will be there again and I hope a lot more people will come too!