Off the Track with the Steeplechase Corps

Go Gophers! From left to right: Kayfes, Moraczewski, Orcutt.
Go Gophers!
From left to right: Kayfes, Moraczewski, Orcutt.
Go Gophers!

May 22, 2012

Minnesota has sent steeplechasers to NCAA competition before—in fact, sophomore Katie Moraczewski is making her second straight appearance at the NCAA West Preliminary Round. But this year is a little different—not just one, but three Golden Gophers qualified for the meet, with another barely missing the cut.

Moraczewski, freshman Molly Kayfes, and junior Paige Orcutt will travel to Austin, Texas, for the NCAA prelims. All three along with sophomore Ashlie Decker turned in top-10 times in school history this season. GopherSports.com caught up with the NCAA-bound trio to talk about their unique event, their group’s chemistry, and their upcoming race.

GopherSports.com: Steeplechase is not an event that most people do in high school. What was it like adjusting to a new event in college?
Molly Kayfes: I just started this year. These two (Moraczewski and Orcutt) have done it, so they’ve helped me a lot, teaching me a lot. I’m still trying to figure out how to hurdle it—I tap it instead, but it works for me. It’s fun.

GopherSports.com: How do you feel about the water jumps?
Katie Moraczewski: Those are my favorite part.
Paige Orcutt: I think it’s fun, especially when we’re in Texas when it’s supposed to be like 90 degrees. The water pit will actually be an advantage in our race, which it’s normally not. So that’ll be really fun. You just have to speed up into it. That’s how you stay out of trouble.
Katie Moraczewski: It just gives you something to focus on each lap, something to work towards. You can count the water pits instead of the laps. Then you know how far you are.

GopherSports.com: Katie scored at the Big Ten Championships, and Molly and Paige set new PRs. Talk a little about your group’s success at that meet.
Molly Kayfes: It was really fun. I thought we all did really well. I thought we were all capable of scoring, too. We were right up there. I think next year we’ll for sure all be scoring.
Paige Orcutt: It’s fun because this group of girls that we have as steeplers is the biggest group I’ve ever trained with, and I’m a fourth-year now. So it’s fun when we have a solid group that we can work out with all year. And then at the Big Ten meet, you can go in knowing that you have teammates to race with.
Katie Moraczewski: The field is definitely a lot more competitive this year than past years, and I think we’re kind of rising to the challenge. All of us are improving a lot.

GopherSports.com: Katie, you went to the NCAA prelims last season. What was that experience like?
Katie Moraczewski: Last year, I was kind of a deer in the headlights. I didn’t know what was going on. I just was like, ‘I just want to keep running. I can make it this far.’ But it’s a lot of fun. It’s a whole different meet. There’s so much better competition than we’ve ever had, and it’s so much fun to get in there and see what you can do.

GopherSports.com: How can you use that experience to help yourself and your teammates going into this year’s regional?
Katie Moraczewski: I can definitely tell them a lot about how it’s going to go, because it went out so fast last year, and I wasn’t even ready for it. But I’ll be a lot more prepared this year for it, hopefully up in there. Last year I was just kind of watching the race go by.

GopherSports.com: What is the bond like among your group?
Molly Kayfes: I love our little steeple group.
Paige Orcutt: We’re always like the last ones off the track, because when we’re done with our workouts we still have to do hurdle drills and then we have to put it all away. We’ve been hanging out together for like five months now because we train for steeple starting in indoor. We kind of start to get ready for it then.

GopherSports.com: What are some funny quirks your group has?
Paige Orcutt: I think the weird quirk is that one person has to fall every weekend. That seems to be the trend.
Molly Kayfes: Hopefully not this weekend, but if it happens, we’re all prepared. Just get up and keep going.
Paige Orcutt:  I guess the weirdest quirk that we all have is that when we are on a run and when we’re with the other girls on the team doing a warm-up run, we’ll jump giant puddles for fun or we’ll jump over a construction sign or stupid stuff like that.
Katie Moraczewski: Yeah, we just like to make obstacle courses and keep it exciting.
Paige Orcutt: Most of the 10K girls will just go around it.

GopherSports.com: What about the NCAA prelims are your most looking forward to?
Molly Kayfes: Just to be there, because it’s my first time going there. So just to be there is super exciting, and to see the competition, too. It’s always pretty competitive, but especially this year. The competition’s pretty deep, so just to be there and see where we can put ourselves in and see how well we do with the other girls, too. It should be exciting.
Katie Moraczewski: I’m really excited to get back at it. Big Tens wasn’t necessarily what I wanted it to be, so I want to get back and get some revenge on the track.
Paige Orcutt: I would say I’m most excited to see how everyone does on the team, wholesale, because this year Minnesota’s totally been like underdogs in everything. Especially with our steeple group, I think we’ve surprised a lot of people. I know right now my time and Molly’s time going in aren’t necessarily in the top, but I think that with PRing basically every single race we’ve run this year, it’s going to be really exciting. And K-Mo’s definitely got a good chip on her shoulder, so I think she’s going to surprise a lot of people, too.

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