By Student Assistant Vince Menon '14
In his fourth and final season with the Bronco cross country and track team, Richard Zhu (RS) has continued his ascent as one the squad's most reliable contributors. The senior from Medford, Ore. rebounded from an off-season injury to regain his form in his senior year. With the track season in full swing, Zhu reflected on the positive carry-over from his strong cross country campaign, the bond between the men's and women's teams, his post-graduate plans and the Broncos' key upcoming meets with SantaClaraBroncos.com (SCB).
SCU: After cross country ended, did you take any time off before track? What was your between-season training regimen like?
RZ: After the cross country season, the team takes two weeks completely off with no running. After the two week break, we slowly get back into running at an appropriate rate and reach peak mileage by January. By the time we return to campus for the start of winter quarter, we have established a solid base. Unfortunately, I had to take an entire six weeks off with a nagging hip injury. Luckily, my fitness from the previous cross country season came back quickly!
SCU: In the second-to-last meet of the cross country season, you led the team in the Doc Adams Invitational with a 21st place finish and a personal best, and followed it up with another personal best in the West Regionals. Do you think your strong finish carried over to the spring track season or made it easier to get going again?
RZ: Yeah, my strong finishes at both meets were instrumental in my current fitness during the track season. The key lesson that Coach Montoro and Coach Wilder promote is that strength and mileage will allow you to run fast during the spring track season. With strength, you have speed and they go hand in hand. By being stronger, you are essentially faster because you are more trained to use your speed when you are the most tired.
SCU: The Fresno State meet was cancelled due to bad weather last Saturday. Did you do anything to replace the competition after a long bus ride?
RZ: Yes, unfortunately, the Fresno State Invitational was rained out and canceled once we reached Buchanan High School. Luckily, the University of San Francisco track team was willing to have a duel meet with us to replace the canceled invitational. So both of the teams jumped right back onto the bus and headed to Fresno State's track to run in some fun relays. The relays consisted of a medley relay (800-1200-1600 meters) and a 3x400 meter relay. The biggest thing was to get competitive and put out a hard effort, while going up against our WCC rival, the USF Dons. The duel meet was a fun and competitive and each of my teammates put out a hard effort in several odd distances. Personally, I was able to split 1:56 for the 800 meters and take down some Dons on the homestretch.
SCU: The team's next race is on April 6 in the Stanford Invitational and San Francisco State Invitational. How are you preparing yourself for the event? What will it take for the team to be successful?
RZ: The Stanford Invitational and San Francisco State Invitational weekend is one of the highlights of each track season. By this weekend, we are prepared to compete well and run fast. Personally, I am just taking it as another race and another opportunity to run fast. Everyone will be in a heat/race in which he or she can compete for the win or run a fast time. By competing in each heat, the team will be successful.
SCU: The men's and women's teams train as one unit. How is the chemistry between the two squads? How does the coaching staff facilitate interaction and help bonds form?
RZ: The men's and women's team act as one single team in which we train together all the time. Between both squads, we see the hard work that the women's team does and vice versa. When the men's team succeeds, the women's team also succeeds. Coach Montoro and Coach Wilder facilitate a comprehensive team effort and each team supports each other. If you are able to come by one of our track meets, it is obvious that the Santa Clara team, men and women together, is cheering the loudest!
SCU: As a senior, would you consider yourself one of the leaders on the team? In what ways do you lead and support your teammates, especially the underclassmen?
RZ: I believe each senior on the team is a leader for our underclassmen. Being a fourth year student-athlete, we know the ins and outs of succeeding in the classroom and on the track. Each senior leads by example and are great role models for the underclassmen to emulate.
SCU: What has been your most memorable moment or experience from your Bronco cross country and track career?
RZ: The most memorable athletic experiences I have had include setting a personal record at the West Coast Conference track championship my junior year in the 1500 meters and finishing 13th at the 2011 NCAA West Regional Cross Country Championships as a team (the best SCU finish for the men's cross country team). Both of these experiences resulted from the hard work we put in on the track and on the trails.
SCU: What are your plans post-graduation?
RZ: I am currently looking at potential graduate assistant opportunities at several Division 1 cross country and track and field programs. I would like to enter the collegiate coaching profession and give back to the sport that has given me so much. Also, I am looking into several marketing positions around the Bay Area as well.