Q&A with Standout Hurdler Kellie Grigg

Kellie Grigg

May 29, 2014

By Kristine Lozoya
Writing Intern          

Graduation is around the corner for women's track and field co-captain, Kellie Grigg. As she concludes her last season as an Aggie, Grigg took some time to reflect on her transformation as an incoming 100- and 200-meter freshman sprinter to a seasoned 400-meter senior hurdler who captured the 2014 Big West championship in that event for the conference champion Aggies. Kellie races on Thursday at the NCAA West Region Prelim Meet in Arkansas in the 400-meter hurdles in her quest to reach the NCAA Finals.

When did you try hurdling? Why?
I did a couple of hurdle workouts freshman year, but I really started doing it sophomore year. I tried to do both 100/400 meter hurdles but I couldn't get the 100 down, so I just focused on the 400. My junior year, I started doing both again because Kayla Carter was leaving and we needed to fill in both events.

How was your first collegiate hurdle race?
My sophomore year, I ran the 400 hurdles at Aggie Open and I was petrified. The furthest I've practiced was the 300 hurdles; that was so hard and I was so tired. I remember saying, "Coach Kim (Graham-Miller), how I go another 100 meters? How is that possible?" She said, "You'll figure it out." I was so nervous but the good thing about starting a new event is not having any expectations. I ran pretty well and I was happy because every single meet after that I kept improving. It's a new level of tired that I've never experienced before, coming from a 100/200 meter runner.

How have your leadership skills changed throughout the years as team captain?
I was placed in the position sophomore year. It was hard to lead as a sophomore captain because everyone else is older than you, but I took a seat back and learned from the older girls who were also captains. That was a good opportunity to see how they lead and it established the type of leader I wanted to be. Each year I got progressively more confident to speak in front of the team and organize. It's been one of the most proud moments for me on this team. I just wanted to make an impact and help my team be the best that they can be.

Are there any improvements you have noticed in the team throughout your four years?
Every year the team is so different. That's what makes it exciting. You lose so many people and you wonder how it's going to be the next year. You get new freshman, people step up, and the dynamics change. That's also what's been cool about three-peating; it's been different people helping out it's an entirely different situation each time.

How do you feel about three-peating at the Big West Conference?
It's amazing. My freshman year, we weren't even in the hunt at all; it was just another meet. The title wasn't on our minds. Once we won my sophomore year, everything changed because we knew what it felt like to be champions. I think it made people work harder and made conference a bigger deal; we had bull's eyes on our back to repeat. The newest challenge of repeating this year was it being at home; it added a whole new type of pressure. Every year it's been difficult, every year it's a new team with a new dynamic. We knew it was going to be a challenging year because we lost a lot of key people so the others had to step up. I think a lot of us found our stride later in the season.

What did you and the team do to bring in some momentum to your season?
Winning the Causeway Dual (against rival Sacramento State) was a big booster and it lit a fire. We're good at supporting each other across the field because we have people in every area. I love being part of a championship team. A lot of freshman and not a lot of seniors, so I felt like people weren't really focused on conference.

I held a team meeting the week before Causeway and did a slideshow. We were ecstatic in pictures and we had music playing along. I told them, "You guys! Winning is so fun. That's what I want to do. For all the seniors going out, they want to go out on top and all the freshmen must know what it feels like to win." I wanted to light a fire at the end of the season when it came down to the big battles. After we won, I said, "I told you guys! I told you guys this was really fun!"

You had a very successful season last year. How did that impact your goals and training going into this year's spring season?
Last year I ended on a good note. I got second place in the 400-meter hurdles (at Big West) with a PR. The ultimate goal was to get on the podium. That was the big goal for this year along with contributing to the three-peat win.

In terms of training, I trained my butt off this summer. I worked full time in the city, so that made it tough. Also, when I lost my coach [Kim Graham-Miller] in the beginning of the summer, that threw a wrench in my plans. I thought my senior season was shot. I still trained hard and tried to come in really good shape when school started.

I also interned over the summer in San Francisco in a finance department. I was working 9-5:30 and I worked out at 5 in the morning because I had to take the ferry in. I was also studying for the GMAT (Graduate Managment Admissions Test) at night, along with taking some classes for that. It was a busy summer.

Who do you train with on a daily basis?
Karl Moran and Jelani Legohn. I workout with the boys, which is fun. I really respect Karl as an athlete and I refer to him at the brut. He has so much strength and will and it's good for me to watch; he has a lot of good work ethic and he pushes me. Jelani is great; he's a freshman and works really hard. If I am running flat on the track, I run with Cekarri Nixon.

How has Coach Rahn (Sheffield) impacted your senior season?
His program is entirely different compared to Coach Kim's, so that was an adjustment. They have different philosophies and workouts. His biggest asset is motivation and he is constantly giving us speeches and talking about past athletes. He makes you believe you are capable of more than you think. That was big for me because I struggled a little with confidence. For him to believe in my talent was huge and for him to have the amount of hurdle expertise worked really well for me. He's been great.

You did outstanding at conference. Tell me about what was going through your head during your race?
My prelims didn't go as well as I liked. I had the fastest time but didn't execute it really well. Coach Rahn told me, 'If you run like that tomorrow, you're going to lose.' I kept coming up with reasons why things weren't going well and how I could fix them.

He then told me, 'You should win. If you don't, it's because you found a way to fail.' That stuck with me and it put pressure on me as well. I dug down when I went home and instead of stressing about it, it became clear that I knew how to execute the race.

Something he always says is, 'Why not me?' Then I thought, 'I really want to win. Why not me?' Yeah one of the girls had a faster time coming in, but I believed in myself and I wrote it [her thoughts] down on a piece of paper and kept reciting it to myself. I was not nervous going to the line. I knew that if I ran the race how I could, I could take it.

I got out well and fixed one of the areas that I normally have a problem but ran into another issue at the ninth hurdle and lost momentum. In my head I was like, 'Oh my gosh. I'm so close to winning. Don't let these people come catch me!' I was still ahead and was struggling to finish the kick of my race, but I got to the line first. It was really exciting.

How was it being interviewed by Fox after you won?
It was really fun. When I got second last year, I got so excited and I saw the first place girl getting interviewed. It then became a bucket list track goal to get interviewed the next season.

How do you feel about the NCAA West Prelim Meet?
I feel good. There's a weight off my shoulders because I have a conference title. That's what I wanted to get most out of the season. I have that behind me and now I can go out there and just run the fastest race of my life. That's what I plan to do.

You're so close to graduating school. How does that feel?
It's so bittersweet. Mostly bitter and a little sweet in the sense that track is so hard on your body. Taking a break will be good but after a month, I will probably go crazy because I revolved my life around track. I'm not sure how I will fulfill that with something else, but I know I will need a competitive and athletic outlet. You just can't re-create what you have here. It's been the best four years of my life. 

What do you plan on doing graduation?
I'm graduating as a managerial economics major. I want to go into finance and be a financial analyst. I'm returning to my internship in San Francisco and will hopefully have some job interviews lined up as a financial analyst. I plan to work for a few years and then get my MBA in the east coast.