Seniors Reflect on Their Time at Santa Clara

Seniors Reflect on Their Time at Santa Clara

With three weeks left in spring quarter, (SCB) sat down with four of the men's and women's distance runners to talk about their experience on the cross-country and track teams here at Santa Clara University. 

Nicole Giove (NG) ended the season May 12 at the West Coast Invite, in the 10,000m, with a time of 39:42.52.  Chris Sampson (CS) had a successful season as a red-shirt senior, earning a personal best time in the 800m in 1:59.77, as well as in the 1500m in 4:06.21.  Jenny Light (JL) ran a strong race at the West Coast Invite to earn a time in the 800m in 2:17.55.  Richard Zhu (RZ) finished his career on a high note, also at the West Coast Invite with 4:03.27 in the 1500m.  Zhu also graduates No. 2 all-time in the 1500m, which he earned in 2011.

By Kaitlin Fuelling, '13

SCB: After four years at Santa Clara, are you ready for the real-world? What are your plans for after graduation?

NG: I believe I am.  Still figuring out some things, but it's my turn, so I have to be ready. I'm applying to a few jobs and would like to stay in the Bay Area; otherwise I would go home for a couple of years.  I am also considering graduate school, but for now, I would like to gain more work experience and narrow down my interests into a fulfilling career.

CS: I'm actually a redshirt senior so I have been around for five years.  I'm ready for the real-world but I'm certainly going to miss being a student at SCU.  I'll graduate with a Masters in Structural Engineering in June. I already have a job lined up with Kiewit Construction and will be working in the Bay Area.

JL:  I'm excited for the real-world, but am definitely going to miss college a lot.  There is so much more free time and flexibility that I think I'll miss once I start working full time.  As of now, I plan on moving to Baltimore, Md. after graduation to start my civil engineering career.

RZ: Santa Clara has prepared me well for the "real-world".  As many of my teammates would agree, the lessons we have learned in the classroom, on the trails and on the track will prove to be instrumental in our life after SCU.  Santa Clara has provided the framework and inspiration for us to follow our dreams and that is the greatest thing that SCU has taught us.

Personally, I am looking at many opportunities in the field of Athletic Administration.  My experience as a student-athlete at SCU has made me realize that I would like to work in some capacity in collegiate athletics.  Being surrounded by student-athletes is infectious and to be able to inspire future student-athletes, like the way my coaches and athletic directors have done for me, would be incredible.


SCB: How do you plan to continue your passion for running? 

NG:  I am really looking forward to continuing to run.  As soon as track is over, my body needs a break, but then I will continue.  I was very pleased with my NCAA career here at Santa Clara, but there is still unfinished business.  I plan to join a running club, perhaps one that we have a couple alumni currently running on right now and continue my training.  

CS: I will probably continue running, but on a more casual basis.  Over the past five years, I have spent a great deal of time in the pool, cross-training, so I would like to get into triathlons.  I think I would be able to compete pretty well.

JL: I'm planning on taking a long break from running after the season ends so I can let my body rest.  After that, I'm sure I'll continue recreationally running, but no plans of doing anything too competitive.

RZ: I enjoy the daily grind and work that running requires and it's something I'm not ready to let go of.  As Coach Montoro said to me as a freshman four years ago, he would prepare me to run my best during my senior year.  Fortunately, he has been correct and I have been able to get faster and set personal records every year.  So I'm going to continue the trend until I can't set a personal record anymore.


Are there any races you would like to compete or participate in?

NG: I definitely have to try a marathon one day! I don't think I will do one for at least another year or so because I want to be ready. Who knows maybe years from now, I may even give an ultra a try.

CS: I would like to run the Rock 'N Roll Half-Marathon in October, but I will be looking forward to the Alumni Fun Run at the Bronco Invitational next year.

RZ: I plan to continue to compete post-collegiately after my last race, the West Coast Invite.


SCB: What has been the best part about being on the distance team? 

NG: It would have to be the fact that Santa Clara has been such a great fit for me.  I am around people who love running but carry several other passions and maintain that balance among themselves. That is what I love about my teammates.

CS: The best part is definitely the people. We have a lot of good times together.

JL:   I would say the best is the team camaraderie.  My teammates are my best friends, and running together every day is very fun and entertaining.  We also get along very well with the men's team, so it is nice to have them at practice with us.  It allows for a much different dynamic than if it was just the women's team together all the time.

RZ: The best part of being on the distance team is the incredible relationships that I have established during my time here at SCU.  Not only are my teammates and friends incredible athletes, they are even more amazing people.


SCB: Is there anything that you may have had to miss out on due to practices, races, or being a full-time student-athlete?

NG: I am sure any student-athlete would say there are things they missed out on and would have liked to do, but when it comes down to it, I love to run.  I am grateful for the opportunity I had to continue past the high school level.  I learned a lot about a diverse range of training.

CS: Of course there are sacrifices to being a student-athlete, which is why not everyone is cut out for it.  I would have liked to spend more time in San Francisco or traveled a little more to see friends but practice can be restricting.  We don't get much of a spring break, but we do so many things that others will never get to do.  To compete at such a high level is a privilege.  The only way to stay competitive with our conference and region is to train.  In order to train hard, it sometimes means sacrificing certain aspects of a college experience.

JL: There are definitely a lot of events and trips that I've missed out on due to being a student-athlete, but nothing to the point where I ever regretted being an athlete. 

RZ: Being a student-athlete requires an incredible amount of dedication and our free time is limited compared to the normal student at SCU.  However, all the time on the trails, on the track, in the weight room, and in the training room has been all worth it.  Yes, I could have had more time involved in other clubs and activities.  But my experience as a student-athlete at SCU is something I will look fondly of when I reflect on it in a few years.  My experience as a student-athlete has made my SCU career that much more enriching.


SCB: If you could go back and time and give yourself advice when you were a freshman, what would it be?

NG:  Something I still remind myself about now is that it isn't always about the time.  If you let it be about the time, that could destroy a season.  College brings on a number of challenges, so it's about trying to learn about yourself.

CS: If I could give myself advice, I would say keep everything in perspective, in racing and in life. Don't get too confident with a good race, or get to down on myself for a bad one.  Things will go great for a while, but they will not always stay that way.  You have to understand that and just make adjustment as you go.  

JL: I would tell my freshman-self to be more relaxed. I think I stressed myself out too much. 

RZ: If I could give advice to myself when I was younger, I would say to be patient and let life ride its course. Too many times we try to rush things and we forget about the journey, instead thinking solely of the destination.  Also, in running, as in life, there will be many ups and down. But the way we react to those downs is the truest test of our character.


SCB: Do you have any advice for students looking to run or continue a sport in college?

NG: Start freshman year easy because school and running is hard enough to adjust to on your own.  Don't add too much for yourself.  You'll adjust as you go and learn your strengths and weaknesses.  Don't beat yourself up because it is a completely new environment to be in.

CS: Yes, if you choose to compete in college, be ready for what comes and make sure you understand what is going to take.  If you don't think you are willing to do what is required or expected of you, don't compete.

JL: I would tell them to give it a try!  As an incoming freshman, I wasn't sure I wanted to continue running in college, but after just one season I was hooked.  I have absolutely loved my experience.

RZ: I would say if you have the passion to play your respective sport at the collegiate level, then go for it!  The student-athlete experience is something I have cherished during my time at SCU and I haven't regretted it one bit.


SCB: Were you happy in how you ended your seasons (cross-country and/or track)?

NG: Not exactly.  But it happens.  I just can't think about it too much. It is hard when we put a lot of pressure on the last season and it doesn't go as planned.  Overall, it was a fun one and I feel a lot closer with my teammates.

CS: My past season of cross country was not a huge success, I had a lung infection that lasted through the season and I ran well but not as well as I had hoped. I was extremely proud of our team as we competed well at NCAA regionals and placed higher than we ever have, in a deep field.

JL: I've had some nagging injuries this past year, so I'm just glad that I was able to race my last season, and able to run some competitive times.

RZ: Like I said previously, Coach Montoro made me believe that I was going to run my fastest when I would become a senior.  Four years later, Coach Montoro was completely right!  One of the best things about Felipe is that he instills in us this incredible belief of what he thinks we are truly capable of.  Felipe wouldn't tell his athletes anything that he doesn't think they can do.  He has this incredible belief in his athletes, sometimes even more belief that the athlete has in him or herself.  In believing my coach, myself, and the program, I am very happy how my SCU career ended.


SCB: What has been your favorite experience here at Santa Clara?

NG: How could I just pick one? There are too many.

CS: There isn't really one experience that stands out for me at Santa Clara.  The best thing for me is to see how our program as evolved over the past 5 years. We have continued to improve every year and thanks to Coach Montoro and his amazing recruiting, he capitalizes on our success and is able to bring ever more talent to SCU.  To put it in perspective, my freshman year we were happy to have at least five guys run 26:00 for an 8k.  Next year, I see no reason why we shouldn't have five guys running 25:00 for an 8k. That speaks not only to the dedication of the athletes, but to the coaching ability of Coach Montoro, and it's been amazing to help guide the new underclassmen in the right direction.  

JL: One of my favorite experiences at SCU has been our team camping trip in Santa Cruz.  It is relaxing because we have practice in the morning, then get to spend the rest of the day on the beach making friendship bracelets, and then at night have some team-building exercises.  It's a lot of fun!

RZ: My favorite experiences at SCU have included the incredible people I have met during my time here and the relationships that I have established. I am inspired everyday by how driven, humble, and selfless members of the SCU community are.


SCB: What was one of your favorite classes or professors during your college career?

NG: Definitely Exploring Society Through Photography with Renee Billingslea.  The class gets involved volunteering at a homeless shelter and at the end of the quarter we shoot portraits and give them to those living at the shelter. Along with that, we talk about societal issues and how imagery could change it for the better or worse.

CS: I have a lot of favorite professors at SCU. Professor Chiesa, Professor Nilsson, Professor Aschheim, and Professor Serrette were all great teachers and people who have helped me a great deal at Santa Clara. Professor Nilsson helped a lot with my senior design project last year. Professor Aschheim especially has helped a great deal with graduate school.

JL: I really enjoyed the U.S. Environmental Policy class that I took with Professor Watts sophomore year, and also the Groundwater Hydrology class I took junior year.  Theology of Marriage with Professor Parrella was also quite entertaining.   

RZ: My favorite class at SCU has to be my Religion in Politics in the Contemporary World course with Professor Hansen. This was one of the most demanding classes I have ever taken. Professor Hansen demanded and expected so much out of his students. With such dedication in his students, how could a student not want to work hard?


SCB: How did you manage to get involved on campus beyond being a student-athlete?

NG: Just slowly slipping in. I talked with professors and helped out with projects, and got involved with community service.  But, when I get really excited about classes, I look further into the subject material and really apply myself into that.

CS: Being an engineer, student-athlete, research assistant, and teaching assistant does not leave a lot of other time for extra activities.

JL: I was able to get involved in the American Society of Civil Engineering Club on campus, as well as volunteering through the SCCAP program.

RZ: SCU provides the opportunity to not only involve yourself in athletics, but also various clubs and organizations. My experiences as a Student Ambassador, a member of the West Coast Conference Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and my various internships has made my SCU experience that much more enriching.


SCB: What will you miss most about being at Santa Clara or being on the distance team?

NG: Watching the improvement curve.  Of course I will still be watching, but this was a beautiful season to see a lot of people drop times and find their niche. It was one of the best seasons I have seen. The team is heading in the right direction; they are going to be great and a lot of records will continue to fall.

CS: I will miss the people at Santa Clara. I will miss professors, some of the work that I do, my team, my coaches, and just the college life.

JL: Honestly, one of the things I'll miss the most is just hanging out at track meets.  I like being able to watch my teammates compete.  In cross country you are typically in the same race as them, so track offers a different dynamic.  I also like watching some of the sprinting and field events.

RZ: I am going to miss being able to represent my university on the racecourse and track the most. Being able to put on the Santa Clara uniform is a privilege and a responsibility.  Not only are you representing yourself, your coach, and your team, you are representing your university and all those that have invested in your education. To be part of something larger than yourself is something I will truly miss.

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