June 21, 2012
As the U.S. Olympic Team Trials approach (June 21-25, June 28-July 1), a handful of former Minnesota track & field athletes are training for the chance to compete in London. GopherSports.com recently caught up with some of these former Golden Gophers.
Gabriele Anderson had to battle through some tough obstacles during her time at the University of Minnesota. She received a cancer diagnosis in 2009, went through treatment, and was back on the track for her senior season in 2010—not only that, but she finished second in the 1,500 meters at the NCAA Championships. Anderson has qualified for Olympic Trials in that same event, with a top time of 4:06.46.
GopherSports: You surprised some people by beating the No. 1 runner at the Occidental meet last month. What were your expectations going into that race, and how did it feel when you crossed the finish line with a win and a personal record?
Gabriele Anderson: The win at Oxy was a great way to start my season. I wasn't really sure what to expect because it was essentially my first race of the season and sometimes you start out a little rusty. It ended up turning into something of a "kicker's race" and I was able to move up throughout the field throughout the last 400 meters. It's always fun to win and get a PR, but it was just a small step on my way to the Olympic Trials—where the races matter a lot more!
GS: More recently, you ran at the Pre Classic and Harry Jerome Classic. What else do you feel you need to do to prepare before Olympic trials?
GA: Pre was another great opportunity to test myself against the USA's best milers. I was fairly happy with the race, but I was hoping to run a new PR and the Olympic "A" Standard of 4:06.00. I went to Harry Jerome for another chance to get the standard, but it ended up not really being my best day. I have been really consistent this season positioning myself at the front of races and running near my PR—so I'm hoping to continue that into the Olympic Trials.
Right now it's just about gaining confidence and sharpness in workouts, and doing your best to mentally prepare for the buzz and hype around the Trials. I'm just continuing to prepare the best I can, and also taking care of the little things. I think it's also really important to keep having fun and enjoying the experience, because it's pretty cool to be considered a contender at the Olympic Trials. I'm enjoying it.
GS: Trials are coming up now within the next few weeks. Has it been hard waiting for that date to finally arrive?
GA: Once the season gets rolling, things start to move pretty quickly. The weeks and days are still filled with training, and all of a sudden, the Trials are next week! I've been focusing on one race at a time leading up to the Trials, so I think the "wait" hasn't been that tough. I'm just excited.
GS: When did you first seriously think about competing for an Olympic spot? Did you think about it while you were still at the U of M?
GA: In some ways I've been thinking about the Olympics my whole life. But to contend for a spot—that probably didn't truly cross my mind until last summer. I had a big breakthrough in London last year at the end of my season when I went from 4:10 to 4:06 in the 1,500. That was an indication to me that I really could challenge for a spot in 2012 if I kept improving and training well.
GS: You went through a lot of challenges and triumphs during your time as a Gopher. Are there any particular things you learned during that time that have helped you in your push for the Olympics?
GA: Definitely. I really enjoyed being a Golden Gopher and running on the teams at the U. We had some great team performances that I was so proud to be a part of, and our team truly felt like a family while I was there. I felt so lucky to be supported by the team and the whole athletic department when I went through my cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery—it made a big difference. They gave me the confidence and encouragement I needed as I returned to running. I'll never forget that.
GS: How cool is it to see other former Gophers like Heather Kampf, Jamie Cheever, Liz Podominick, and Sam Sonnenberg also working toward making the Olympic team?
GA: It's awesome! I will say that it can be a tough road for post-collegiate athletes to really find their groove on the professional scene—so I think it's awesome that several former Gophers are still getting after it and finding success. It really shows how special the program is at the University of Minnesota. There have been many athletes who have impacted track & field on a world level—and that is pretty incredible!
GS: Getting ready for such a big race is hard work—what do you like to do to relax when you aren’t training?
GA: I do a lot of sleeping! Honestly, I love spending time up north with my family or my fiance's (former Gopher Justin Grunewald) family. We go up to Perham and the Brainerd lakes area pretty often. I love being outside. You can also find me doing other very "chill" activities like reading, hanging out with friends, and drinking lots of coffee.
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