Nov. 8, 2012
The junior class has been a key component of the Golden Gopher cross country team this season. Six of Minnesota’s nine runners at the Big Ten Championships were juniors, and juniors will again be crucial for the team at the NCAA Midwest Regional. Five of those six juniors—Laura Docherty, Katie Moraczewski, Maggie Bollig, Rachel Drake, and Kelli Budd—redshirted the 2009 season, and Ashlie Decker competed as a true freshman in 2010.
GopherSports.com caught up with the group heading into the regional meet to hear from the junior runners in their own words.
GopherSports: How do you think your success on the track this past spring has helped you in cross country?
Laura Docherty: Last spring brought a lot of confidence and opportunity for me. I had the confidence to put myself in the top group of a race and believe that I belong there. The spring presented opportunities to run with people I never had before, and has led me to similar opportunities this cross country season. I just hope that each season can keep building on each other as it has in the past.
GopherSports: Last year's top runner, Steph Price, graduated. Do you think that challenge of replacing a No. 1 runner has made this group of juniors even stronger?
Laura Docherty: Not having a set top runner meant that we all had to push each other over the summer to ensure a top pack. This season has been very special because we all are training together every day. Every person has a different strength that they bring to the workout and it makes it so enjoyable to have your best friends be your training partners.
GopherSports: The junior class is well represented on this year's Big Ten and NCAA Regional roster. What is it that makes you such a strong group of runners?Katie Moraczewski
: I think our class is so strong because we're so competitive. We push each other in practice and on the course, and fight to win. We've pushed each other to get faster and have big goals for our team.GopherSports: You also went to the NCAA Regional for steeplechase in the spring. How does that event cross over/help you in cross country?Katie Moraczewski
: The steeplechase translates well to cross country because both are strength based. You have to be strong and mentally tough in both because hills and hurdles can really bite you in the end.
GopherSports: You are the only "true" junior in this group--what has it been like for you being around the redshirt juniors, and how did they welcome you as a freshman two years ago?
Ashlie Decker: Being around the redshirt juniors has been such a great experience for me. Coming in freshman year can be a little crazy just trying to figure out how to practice and race as well as college life, but these girls made that a lot easier for me! They have always been so supportive, especially outside of running. Their competitiveness is motivating and they really work to make the whole group better. They are great role models and people I will always look up to!
GopherSports: You were a top-five team finisher at the regionals both of the last two years, including coming in at No. 2 after Steph Price last year. What do you feel you need to do to keep up that trend and keep improving at this year's regional meet?
Ashlie Decker: The goal for the regional meet is to help get the team to nationals and in order for that to happen I really need to focus on running my own race. For me, staying engaged and being smart during the middle of the race is really going to be crucial. My strength is at the end of the race, so just setting myself up to be in position at the end is where my focus will be for this meet.
GopherSports: Last year you had to miss regionals with an illness before running at the national meet. How nice is it going to be to be able to run at regionals this year, and how can your nationals experience help?
Maggie Bollig: I'm definitely really looking forward to competing at Regionals this year since I was pretty much on my death bed during this time last year! I think that having the Nationals experience will be beneficial because I have an idea of what to expect.
GopherSports: Most of the juniors on the Big Ten/regional roster redshirted their true freshman year. How important was that year for your individual and group development?
Maggie Bollig: My redshirt year was very important because it was mostly a year of figuring out how the program works, experimenting with racing, and learning from the upperclassmen. It was basically a transitioning year for all of us and I'm glad that we were given that time to learn the ropes because it definitely made the following year a lot easier.
GopherSports: Can you talk a little about the chemistry of the junior group "growing up" together?
Rachel Drake: We've been through a lot together, we road-tripped to Big Tens at Penn State our freshman year and we've had great mojo ever since then. Over the past three years, we've learned a tremendous amount about each other and about ourselves. Our friendships and deeply rooted knowledge about each other’s tendencies have been instrumental in our growth with running. Practice has also been an absolute joy: Who wouldn't want to go run around town with nine of your closest friends?
GopherSports: For you individually, how can last year's experience at the regional meet help you going forward this weekend?
Rachel Drake: Last year I wasn't even supposed to run at the regional meet, so when I got the opportunity I took full advantage of it. This taught me to appreciate running and not take it for granted, and that's what I intend to do this weekend. I want to remember the fire I had last year and, as Wilson would say, "BE A WOMAN," on Friday.
GopherSports: This year was your first year competing at the Big Ten meet. Can you talk about your improvement over your career that allowed you to run at the conference meet this year?
Kelli Budd: I think all of the ups and downs I've faced in college running have really been the driving force of my performances this season. Following a couple of breakout races last fall, I was diagnosed with mono and a stress fracture, so staying healthy and hungry has been key.
GopherSports: How much does it help to be part of such a talented group of fellow juniors?
Kelli Budd: It has been really inspiring to see my class develop over the past few years. While we all very close friends, we are also competitive people so the success of one person fuels the entire group.