By Student Assistant Kaitlin Fuelling, '13
The Santa Clara men's cross country team has had a successful season starting in early September. Recently, www.santaclarbroncos.com (SCB) sat down with sophomores Kevin Oliver and Marcos Hinojosa to talk about their current cross country season and some of their running and race strategies.
SCB: Now that you have had a year to adjust to the life of a college runner and a student-athlete, what are some of your goals coming into and competing in your sophomore season? In addition, how was it adjusting last year into the more competitive collegiate competition, versus racing against high-school runners in a three mile course?
KO: I loved my first year running here, and I
try to look at all four years as a process. The most basic and most
important goal is to progress and get faster every year. This
season, we have a couple of key guys redshirting, so the rest of us
know we have to step up our game in order to be competitive. For
me, that means running under 25 minutes for the 8k and getting
better every race. The transition to collegiate running was a
pretty smooth one for me. I've always been more of a long-distance
specialist, and collegiate runners seem just as likely to start out
too fast during races, so the extra two miles just means more time
to pass people.
MH: Well every runner on the team has individual goals and team goals, and for me I'm less of an individual goals person. Individually, I would have to say I'd like to go through the season and not be disappointed on how I raced because time is all relative based on the course your running on. You could be running the fastest day of your life, but if the course is filled with hills then you're not going to be setting a personal record, so I don't really like going into a season thinking of times. The adjustment period last year was really difficult. I was having to run longer and faster not only in races, but just during everyday practices, but it has definitely gone very well. Running collegiately is very different in that many teams already go into a race with a game plan in mind and you can really see that being executed throughout a race. Some teams might take it out hard to burn out the competition, while other might take it out slow and force other teams to play their hand during the race. Many people do not understand that cross country is a very mental sport and it's definitely seen more collegiately than in high school. So not only did I have to adjust in that sense, but I also had to adjust my speed during races and not go out so fast in the opening miles just because of the distance. Instead I learned after a few failed attempts early on that it is better to sit and wait the opening miles and get into rhythm and let your body slowly get faster than to just lay it all on the line early on.
SCB: What is your pre-race regime? Do you have any odd superstitions you follow?
KO: I usually try to tell myself that as long
as I get to the starting line feeling okay, then the race will be
fine, but I still have the same routine before every meet. The main
part of that is eating a peanut butter sandwich and a banana three
hours before race time. I also shave every race day. I want to be
looking the freshest when everyone is sweat-drenched and
MH: My pre-race regime is to definitely get a nice slow warm-up, Kenyan shuffle, and do about 15-20 minutes of stretching along with some strides. I'm not superstitious, but I wear the same racing socks until I rip holes in them and need new ones, and I kind of play with my ears before the race, which is something I learned from hanging around race tracks as a little kid. Many race car drivers say it's supposed to stimulate your brain and allow you to focus better, whether it works or not I'm not sure but it surely doesn't hurt to do.
SCB: What would be your "rave-run" or
your ideal run? Anywhere in the world, country, etc.
KO: Anywhere with my roommate Marcos Hinojosa.
MH: Anywhere with my roommate Oli (Kevin Oliver).
SCB: While cross country is a team sport, how competitive does it get among all the runners within your team? Do you have a strategy as to who paces the first mile or even parts of the race?
KO: The team is very deep, and there are a lot of guys around the same level, so Coach Montoro will usually give us groups to start the race with, but nothing's set in stone. We all want each other to succeed, so there is very little animosity despite the stiff competition for seven spots in the postseason. That said, I enjoy beating Marcos.
MH: I try to keep it in perspective during practice. Some days you just have to realize other guys on the team are just having a good day and you should just let them go during the runs because some days you might be having a good day. However, that being said I hate losing to Oli. We basically came on the team with the same times last year, but I got the better of him during cross country and he got the better of me during track, and this year he's just rolling me up but the season isn't over and I got a few tricks up my sleeves come race time.
SCB: How did you get into running? When did you begin competing? Has it always been a passion of yours?
KO: I probably knew in elementary school that I could be a decent distance runner. I was never the fastest kid, but I could go forever. I ran middle school track, but didn't really take it seriously until high school. Competition has always been a passion of mine, and running just ended up being the path I chose because I thought I could be successful. The passion I have for cross country is mostly a result of the amazing people on this team. It's a close-knit group, and I wouldn't change anything about it. Except I wish we all had mustaches.
MH: I went out for cross country during my
sophomore year in high school because a kid on my recreational
basketball team was really fast, I asked him how he got fast and he
said cross country. So I went out, lost about 40 pounds while
running my first cross country season, then I just stuck with it
during the winter and went out for track and had some success that
made sure I was on varsity for the following fall. My coaches in
high school were also fantastic. They were very supportive and I'll
never be able to thank them for the opportunity they gave me and
how they really did change my life because I'd probably just be
another video game junkie sitting on the couch and watching TV
everyday without them. So I'd like to give a huge thank you
to Coach Patrick McCrystle, Coach Nevle, Coach McCullough, Coach
Barone, Coach Ward and Coach Tyson. All these men gave me the
belief in myself to succeeded, and all of them were there waiting
for me early on as I was the last one to finish for a team of 130
runners and all of them were there to watch me later on when I'd
finish first some days. It also doesn't hurt that much of my
family has ran. My cousins, aunts, and uncles, mom, dad and
brother have all ran and a few of them competitively and all of
them have been very supportive of me. Running has definitely
turned into a passion; it's a sport that is very difficult to
describe. There is no greater feeling than to finish a race
and know you gave it everything you had, every last ounce of energy
and knowing you pushed your body to the limit, there is no other
sport that can truly describe that. My passion has definitely
gone up recently as I have gone to watch my brother Adrian and
cousin Esteban shatter some of my senior records as juniors for the
Bellarmine team that is currently ranked 48th in the nation.
So that has definitely fueled my fire to run faster because
you don't want to be known as the slow one of the family.