June 4, 2013
UC Davis will have three Aggies competing at the NCAA Division I Track and Field Championships at the University of Oregon this week; its largest contingent since moving to Div. I for the 2008 season. Lauren Wallace (800 meters), Ashley Marshall (100 meters) and Katie Fry (steeplechase) are each making their first appearances at the national finals after each winning individual titles at the Big West Championships and then qualifying for this week's meet at Oregon.
While preparing in Eugene for their debuts, the three Aggie standouts took a break to answer questions from www.ucdavisaggies.com. They talk about winning UC Davis winning its second straight Big West Championship, training for the biggest races of their careers, and racing at Hayward Field - regarded as the centerpiece of track and field competition.
Q: How thrilling was it to win the Big West title for the second straight season?
KF: "It was AMAZING! This year it felt much more relaxed, we knew what we had to do and every woman just went out there and did the job that they knew they had to do."
LW: "Winning the Big West title for the second year in a row was exhilarating. Our team has grown so much in the last couple of years and we hope to make winning the norm for future championships."
Q: How exciting will it be to race at Oregon and Hayward Field, considered by many to be the center of track and field's universe?
AM: "It is a dream come true. Being able to race at Hayward Field is an honor and I feel blessed because I will be racing with the best in the country."
LW: " I am absolutely thrilled to be racing at Hayward Field. I have heard so many great stories from those who have experienced it's 'magic' and hope to have a story of my own when I come home."
KF: "I am so incredibly honored to be privileged to compete at such a historic epicenter of track and field. I have watched races that have taken place at Hayward since high school and it's quite surreal to be here standing on the same oval where incredible, elite athletes have competed."
Q: Ashley, how excited are you to be the first female Aggie sprinter to advance to nationals? What did it feel like to know you qualified when you crossed the finish line in Texas?
"It is overwhelming. I was surprised to find out that I was the first female Aggie sprinter to advance to nationals. It still hasn't sunk in yet. When I crossed the finish line in Texas, I was extremely excited because I knew I was on my way to achieving one of my goals which is to compete at nationals."
Q: Lauren, what does it feel like to make it to nationals in your final season?
"I honestly can't think of a better way of having my final season play out. Qualifying for both NCAA's and the USA Championships has always been a dream of mine and this year I knew that I could make that dream a reality."
Q: Katie, how did steeplechase become your focus? What was it like the first time you jumped the water pit?
"Coach (Drew) Wartenburg had me begin steeplechase this spring and it was a first for me. I think that the coaching staff saw some potential in me for the steeple and I was willing to try it. Jumping the water pit for the first time was so much fun. I don't remember being scared of the pit at all, and I think I may have landed with a smile on my face."
Q: UC Davis has continued to make a bigger presence at the NCAA Championships each year. What does it feel like to be part of that evolution for the program?
KF: "It is an honor and I am so glad that I am able to wear a UC Davis jersey to represent my school."
LW: "It feels great to be able to contribute to this wonderful program and represent UC Davis on the national stage. It has been exciting to witness the growth and development of this team first-hand and I am confident that in the years to come, UC Davis will be having a bigger and bigger presence at NCAA's."
Q: What will the keys be to help you reach your goals this week?
KF: "To stay focused and calm (and) pretend like I have been exposed to a scene like this before. But ultimately it comes down to racing smart and making it to finals where it really matters."
LW: "My goal this week is to advance into the final heat of the 800, and to do so I have to race confidently and smart. The 800 can be very tactical, but that is part of what makes it so much fun!"
Q: Ashley, was reaching nationals so early in your career a realistic goal of yours before you started as an Aggie?
"Yes it was. Before I started my Aggie career, one of my goals had always been to compete at nationals. My first year as an Aggie I was unable to do so because I was hurt. This year I knew coming in that if I stayed healthy and worked hard at bringing my times down, which I credit my coach for, it would be attainable."
Q: Lauren, how tactical do you expect your races to be this week compared to the rest of the season?
"Running prelims are always more tactical than running in a final for the 800. Everyone in the field (24 of us) are competing for eight spots, so that can be a little bit daunting. However, for me personally, running confidently and trusting my training has always been key for prelims."
Q: How does preparation for the national meet compare to the regional meet or even conference? Or does your preparation pretty much stay the same.
LW: "The preparation going into NCAA's is more or less the same as going into regionals or even conference with the exception of doing less miles and doing more speed-based work. The biggest factor is preparing yourself mentally and knowing that all the work has been done. Now it's time to lace up the spikes and see where all your hard work leads you."
KF: "Personally I feel like my preparation stays pretty much the same, I enjoy having a routine that works for me; it keeps me focused."
Q: Katie, what is the biggest key to being a good steeplechaser?
"I haven't been doing it for that long so it is hard to say but I think you have to have a good endurance base and you have to go at the pit and barriers with absolutely no hesitation. Do not be afraid!"
Q: Did you envision this much success in the steeplechase in just your first year running the event, Katie?
"I definitely did not, but I surprised myself a lot this year and I am really enjoying this as my new event, I have a lot of fun doing it."
Q: What was your reaction, Ashley, when you found out you were named the Big West Track Athlete of the Year?
"I was happy and felt honored, and the title has motivated me to work even harder on the track and in the classroom."
Q: What is the biggest key, Lauren, to being a good middle-distance runner?
"In my opinion the biggest key to being a good middle distance runner is having a strong mentality. The 800 is considered to be one of the hardest races mentally. It is very easy to give up in the last 200 meters and the winner is usually the one who makes it hurt the most and/or longest."
GOOD LUCK, AGGIES!!