MINNEAPOLIS – Get to know Gophers redshirt freshman Kelli Schmidt, a distance runner from Wilmette, Ill., as the Gopher women's cross country team prepares to host the 32nd annual Roy Griak Invitational this Saturday at Les Bolstad Course.
Schmidt competed unattached as a true freshman last season. She finished eighth on the team and 23rd overall in her first official collegiate competition this season, running 23:45.3 at the 2017 Oz Memorial 6K at Minnesota's Les Bolstad Course.
Schmidt shares how she chose the University of Minnesota and reflects on the lessons she learned as a freshman last year. An electrical engineering major, Schmidt is looking forward to running with her teammates and contributing to the team any way she can this season.
Gopher Sports: How did you first get into running?
Kelli Schmidt: I did cross country in seventh and eighth grade because one of my friends was doing it. I asked her about it, and then I started running, too. It was really fun, so I stuck with it.
GS: Did you play any other sports growing up?
KS: I played travel soccer up until high school but then I chose to stick with cross country and track in high school instead of soccer because I liked running a lot more at that point.
GS: When did you realize that you would be able to continue running at the Division I level?
KS: I don't really know. I guess I would say my junior or senior year of high school. I knew I really wanted to keep running in college, so I tried to do everything I could to walk on. I don't know if I ever really thought I would be able to run at the Division I level; I just really wanted to.
GS: How did you choose the University of Minnesota?
KS: I really liked the campus and the area. I connected well with the people on the team, and I felt really comfortable in Minnesota.
GS: How did you choose your major?
KS: I'm majoring in electrical engineering. I did some engineering classes in high school with PLTW classes, and I thought it was really fun. I did one that focused on digital electronics my senior year, and that's kind of like electrical engineering. I decided I wanted to stick with that and see where I can go with it.
GS: What are you most looking forward to about this season?
KS: I feel like our team energy is really great. It's so much fun to be running with everyone. Getting to wear the uniform this year, I'm excited to see what my role will be on the team. It's so encouraging to run with everyone on our team. We push each other and work in groups really well. It will be fun to see what we can do together.
GS: Do you consider yourself more of a track or a cross country runner?
KS: That's a hard question. I like them both a lot, but I feel like I do probably like track races better. I don't know if I have one favorite race. Last spring, I ran the 800m, the 1500m, and the steeple. I like running all three of those a lot.
GS: What's the most challenging thing about cross country for you?
KS: The courses are not flat like a track is flat. The races are shorter for track, and for cross country it's a 6K and that still feels kind of long when I race it. I think it's just the distance that's the hardest part for me.
GS: What's your pre-race routine like?
KS: I don't have anything too specific, but I started doing this in track at the end of the season, and I like to go over what I wrote in my training diary for my race plan right before I warm up so I can get a quick glance at it and remember what I was planning to do. I will write down the things I'm going to tell myself when I'm racing if I feel a certain way. I like to have it fresh in my mind and know what I want to focus on when I'm running.
GS: What's the biggest thing you learned last year racing unattached?
KS: I feel like you don't realize how much you learn until it's a year later. Coming into it this year as a sophomore, I feel like I have so much more knowledge of how everything works and everything that goes on. You feel so much more confident and comfortable going into workouts.
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