By: Nicole Grazioli '12
When arriving at Santa Clara as a freshman, you don't listen to others when they say that "time flies" and to you senior year seems so far away. As the years quickly pass, student-athletes are eventually faced with their last and final season. For seniors Erin McCarthy (EM) and Austin Jones (AJ), they both will be finishing their cross country career after this fall season.
Both runners have been big contributors to the men and women's teams throughout the years. Jones had a college personal best when he finished the 10k with a time of 32:03 at the NCAA West Regional Championship in 2010, while McCarthy also earned a season record in the 6k with a time of 21:51 at the NCAA West Regional Championship the same year.
SantaClaraBroncos.com (SCU) spoke with the two athletes recently where they talked about how they trained for the season, the incoming freshmen and their goals for their final year.
SCU: What have you been up to this summer?
EM: My summer has been really relaxing. I stayed in Colorado for a while and went to Montana for a bit. I even recently went whitewater rafting for the first time - so scary, but fantastic!
EM: Personally my mileage is a little lower than it has been in past years because I am incorporating a lot more cross training into my weekly routine to prevent injury. Our team is approaching this season a lot differently with a new coaching style with Felipe Montoro and I am really excited to see the results by the time WCC rolls around. Most days we work on our aerobic base by logging mileage - workouts will start out as aerobic workouts and will slowly switch to anaerobic intervals as the season goes on.
AJ: We've all been doing our normal summer training, which consists of a lot of running - Felipe tells us about what volume we should be running and we go out and do it. Now that we're back at school and practicing as a team, we've started doing more focused workouts a couple times a week that will prepare us to run fast when it counts.
SCU: How have the coaches prepared you and gotten you excited for the fall?
EM: The coaches always have a goal-setting meeting within the first few weeks of preseason to get the team jazzed for the season. Besides that, we're just excited for the competition that the new freshmen are bringing to the team because we are all going to benefit from that.
AJ: In terms of training, they stay on top of our training and make sure that we're not overdoing anything, and try to keep us healthy. We don't usually need much help getting excited. Everyone is aware that we have the pieces to have the best team by far we've ever had this fall, and the knowledge that we can do some special things keeps us rolling.
SCU: What are you looking forward to most this season?
EM: I am excited to see how we do as a team. We have a lot of potential and with the addition of BYU to the conference, the WCC is becoming more of a presence in the running circuit every year. We are definitely going to become conference contenders in the future so it is exciting to be a part of that building process.
AJ: I'm really excited to see how our team lives up to the very high expectations that we have of ourselves. We know that we have the potential to be really good, but it will be awesome to watch it all come together over the next few months.
SCU: How is your team adjusting to the seniors leaving?
EM: Our seniors last year did a fantastic job of helping to transition the team while they were still here and they taught us a lot about leadership. Stephanie Wilson has come back as an assistant coach this year – it's great to have such an inspirational person around our team.
AJ: We actually only lost one senior on the men's side last year, so while we will certainly miss Chris Mosier's character, we expect to see him around a lot and should still be able to be very successful this fall – Chris is attending Santa Clara Law School.
SCU: How are the incoming freshmen? What advice would you give them for their first year?
EM: The freshmen are awesome! There are 10 girls this year, which means we have a very new and young team. They all mesh together really well and have been a huge asset to the team so far. My biggest piece of advice to them would be to keep their chins up. Freshman year is usually the hardest for runners because there are so many different running programs in high school that the transition can usually be very testing on your body and focus.
AJ: We're very excited about our freshmen this year. We have four new guys that all have the potential to make a big impact in their time at Santa Clara. I would tell them to make the most of every year. It's hard for me to believe that I only have a year left here at SCU - it seems like just last week I showed up for preseason freshman year.
SCU: Who so far looks like they will have a big impact on the team?
EM: With such a big freshmen class everyone has a responsibility of leading and it has been great to watch the sophomores step into that role and guide the rookies along.
AJ: We have a really strong group of returners from last year - everyone looks stronger than they were last year. We also have Robert Reid back, who redshirted last year, and he has been a great team leader on and off the course since I arrived on campus. Beyond that, it's hard to say who will be up front for us, simply because so many guys are in great shape. It's going to be fun to see over the next few months who really steps up.
SCU: Is there anything your team is working on to improve from last year?
EM: It is always a goal to improve our pack time and spread. We will definitely work on that this season through practices and races, trying to make sure that we have a solid few groups of girls who can work with each other to move up together and get points during races.
AJ: Our goal is for everyone to get faster every year. We think that we're faster now than we were at this point last year, so we have a good starting point. We just need to continue training hard and race hard when the time comes, and above all stay healthy. If we take care of those things we're going to do great!
SCU: Since this is your Senior year, what are your goals for your final season?
EM: A P.R. (personal record) is my ultimate goal that I am training for and would be great for my senior year. But I also am looking forward to helping the freshmen transition and really getting the most out of my last season with a great coaching staff and wonderful team.
AJ: I'm really excited for my senior year. I have done my best to get myself in as good of shape as possible at this point and think that if things go right for me, I can run much faster than I ever have before. I have some personal goals about where I'd like to finish in a few races, but when it comes down to it, all I'm really concerned about is how our team does.
SCU: What meet are you most excited about competing in?
EM: Conference is always a challenge. The course is my favorite because it's a hard, hilly cross country course and it's a truly competitive race against other teams rather than a race for a fast time.
AJ: I'm very excited for both WCC Championships and the West Coast Regional. That's our championship season, and our plan is to run our two best races of the season at those meets. In the past, the WCC has really been the focus, but we are in a good position to make some noise at regionals, so we are trying to make sure that we are on top of our game there.
SCU: What kinds of emotions did you have for your first meet of the season September 3 at the USF Invitational?
EM: I was really excited! It has been about a year since I last competed and it is always great to get that first race and the nerves that come with it out of the way.
AJ: I was really excited for the season to get underway – it allows you to see all your hard work be put to test in the races.
SCU: How do you stay motivated during the season and during your races – what is the best advice that you have gotten from someone?
EM: I've learned to really stay focused on what's going on at the moment. It's easy to get caught up in things that could happen in the future or that have happened in the past that can affect your training, but focusing on each practice and each race individually helps contribute to overall achievement.
AJ: It's easy to see how the work that you do in the offseason and throughout the year is going to benefit you when it counts, so it motivates me to continue to work hard. During races, it's a careful balance of staying connected and relaxing for the first few miles - as Felipe would say, "running by feel." The last two miles is just an all out effort to make up as much ground as possible. I can't wait to start that again!
The men and women's next meet will take place September 24 at the Stanford Invitation in Palo Alto, Calif.