Olympic Dreams: Jamie Cheever

Go Gophers! Cheever holds the second-best steeplechase time in school history.
Go Gophers!
Cheever holds the second-best steeplechase time in school history.
Go Gophers!

June 22, 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. The following interview is the last in the series of former Gophers. Two current Minnesota tracksters (Todea-Kay Willis for Jamaica and Alena Brooks for Trinidad) will also compete for spots on their nations’ Olympic teams. More on them and on the previously mentioned former Gophers will follow after the Trials.

Jamie Cheever earned All-America honors as a member of the Minnesota indoor distance medley relay team in 2006, and she is one of just seven Gopher cross country All-Americans, placing 33rd at the 2007 NCAA Championships.  She also competed in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2008 NCAA track meet. Cheever, a Minneapolis native, has been training with Team USA Minnesota and will compete in the steeplechase at Olympic Trials.

GopherSports: You clinched a spot at the Olympic trials and set a personal record at the Oxy meet. Talk a little bit about that race and how it felt to get that ‘A’ standard.
Jamie Cheever: The Oxy meet was exhilarating. I felt that I’ve been ready to run sub-10:00 for a couple years, so it felt great to turn that fitness into a PR. I was put into the slower of the two heats of the steeple. I thought there would be more people in my heat ready to go after the ‘A’ standard, but after the second lap of the race, I was doing the work on my own.  

GS: After you secured your place at trials, then the waiting began. Has it made you anxious at all, having to wait until late June?
JC: Thankfully, I have not been too anxious. I was happy to get my qualifying time earlier, rather than later in the season. I’ve been able to focus on getting some quality steeplechase workouts, and I haven’t had to travel too much.

GS: You’ve been running some 800s and 1,500s recently. How important are those shorter races in your training for the steeple?
JC: I did have some fun with some speedier races the past week. I think shorter races are important for working on my turn-over. Also, it is important for me to change up racing distance to keep things mentally fresh.  

GS: Are there any particular experiences or lessons from your time at the U of M that have helped you as you push toward the Olympics?
JC: Racing at the University of Minnesota taught me how to be mentally prepared for the big races. My freshman year, I would get so nervous before important competitions, which in college is just about every race. As a sophomore, I practiced keeping grounded and keeping the race in perspective. With Coach (Gary) Wilson and my teammates reminding me, I was able to do a better job remembering a race result does not define me as a person.

GS: When did you first start to think about trying to make the Olympic team?
JC: I think every athletic child dreams about making the Olympic team. As a youngster, my goal was to be a soccer and hockey Olympian. I did not seriously consider chasing an Olympic dream until I started training after college.  Without a full load of classes, I have enough time to do all the small things it takes to develop into an Olympian.

GS: How cool is it to see other former Gophers also working toward making the Olympic team?
JC: I love seeing my fellow gopher teammates doing so well post-collegiately. They are all extremely talented, so I am excited to see what happens at Trials. I am currently on Team USA Minnesota with Heather (Kampf) and Gabe (Anderson), so I have enjoyed watching them continue to work hard and improve after college.

GS: Did you check up on the current Gopher steeplechase group this season? They had three NCAA regional qualifiers.
JC: Yes, I was impressed with the steeplechase group this season. It is always impressive to have a group of three women qualifying for regionals in one event. Katie Moraczewski had an awesome season, and was so close to qualifying for nationals.  Paige Orcutt just keeps cutting down her time, and Mollie Kayfes showed a lot of promise as a freshman. I’m excited to see them compete next year. I’m thinking we could have three national qualifiers.  

GS: You have a blog to keep people updated on your adventures. How did you get started doing that, and what do you most enjoy about it?
JC: I was encouraged to start a blog by Team USA MN President, Pat Goodwin. I was skeptical people would want to read about my running, but it turns out there are people who enjoy it. I look forward to writing it now. The blog is a good way to reflect on my running and keep things in perspective. I also enjoy posting pictures I otherwise would not share. Check it out!  http://jamiecheeverrunnning.blogspot.com/

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