Nov. 9, 2007
Coming into the 2007 season, the Washington women's cross country team appeared loaded with talent but outside of two-time NCAA participant Anita Campbell, there were few runners who had proven themselves. One woman with veteran experience was junior Amanda Miller, a two-time All-American, but those honors came on the track in the shorter distances of 800-meters and the mile. Miller had a solid cross country postseason for Washington one year ago, but this season has come on strong to truly impact the team the same way she has always done on the track. Two weeks ago at the Pac-10 Championships, Miller placed a career-best 15th, helping the Huskies tie fifth-ranked Arizona State for third-place and moving Washington up to No. 7 in the national coaches' poll, its highest ranking since 2000. Miller took some time before practice this week to chat with GoHuskies.com about her newfound cross country success and this Saturday's NCAA Regionals, where the women will look to earn a bid to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2004.
GoHuskies.com: The team came into this year with a pretty clear top-three runners (Anita Campbell, Katie Follett, Mel Lawrence); but you've really come on strong and turned it into more of a top-four.
Amanda Miller: "Yeah, I think this is the first year that I've actually had a full cross country season. This feels like the first year I can really impact the team like I want to."
GH: What is it like for you, not just the team aspect of it, but for you personally to step up and make an impact?
AM: "Well it's been a long time coming; I've wanted to really make an impact for awhile, so it's been really inspirational having a good season. Getting on a roll feels good, it's been exciting."
GH: You've been getting faster and faster all season, leading to a 15th-place finish at Pac-10's. Has the prospect of the team going to NCAA's helped you along?
AM: "Yeah, this would be my first year going to the NCAA's so every step along the way has given me a little extra drive to get there since we actually have a better chance of making it as a team."
GH: Speaking of the team, it's been a couple years since the last NCAA appearance, and that's something new because there was an eight-year stretch that preceded it where the team made it every year. What's the team's mindset with the NCAA bid on the line this weekend?
AM: "I think it's really exciting since as you said we haven't been there in awhile. In the last few years we've been so close and just barely missed it so to finally be there and know we're going to be making an impact, it just builds, you know? Each year we've wanted it more and more and now we finally have the chance to go and do it so it's more exciting."
GH: Talk about some of the runners that are in the program now, include yourself but also Anita and Mel and down the list with Trisha Rasmussen and everybody that's been able to contribute this year. Is it a better team than it has been in the past?
AM: "I don't know if it's necessarily better, I just think we have the right people working at the right time. Of course Anita has always been there as one of our front runners, which is always good to have and then for Katie Follett to step up this year and have a really good summer of training and really be a part of this team is crucial too. And then as far as me, I feel like I'm finally getting where I'm supposed to be on the team, running up with the top girls on the team. And of course Mel coming in as a freshman is just amazing this year, to come in and make such an impact, not many freshmen can come in and do that. We've had to deal with Amy Lia and Tori Tyler missing the season due to injury, and they have been two of our top runners the last few years, and it's frustrating because we know if we had them they would be another factor as well. But the fact that is we still have enough girls to go get it done. Trisha has been our crucial fifth person, she's been there every year, chugging away, and she's finally stepping up. I think we finally have it put together and I think each year we will just build and build, so I think it will be good having new people coming in and making an impacting."
GH: You're already a two-time All-American in track, how do you see this cross country success translating into track?
AM: "Well I consider myself mostly a track athlete so to be able to come in and have more success in cross country is really inspirational because it kind of gives me a feel for what the next season for track is going to be like. So it's really exciting to have a bit of success on the cross country side, it's mostly an indication to get me prepared for track, I think. But of course I love cross country too but it's pretty much the second way to get ready."
GH: How difficult is the transition from running middle distances to running a cross-country race?
AM: "To me they are pretty much two different sports actually because when you're on the track you run in circles you run a short race and the mentality is just totally different. Running cross-country is more long-term, you know, just getting the mileage in. They are totally different workouts, and an entirely different mentality. Well, maybe not a different mentality but definitely a different thought process. Distance makes you tougher, you have to have endurance and be able to stay out in races longer. They compliment each other, but are definitely different in my opinion."
GH: With that being said, how is the team aspect different between those two sports? Everyone in cross country is doing the same thing, is it easier to build around one team and one goal that way?
AM: "Yeah, I would consider cross country more a close-knit, team-oriented sport because we see each other every day, we aren't all spread out running and jumping and throwing across the whole track & field arena. So as far as achieving goals it's much more realistic in cross country because we're all trying to achieve the same thing, we're all trying to be within a certain distance from each other. Goals are very similar for cross-country, then in track it's a little bit more individualized but of course you want to score a lot of points for the team. When someone says, `Oh, I threw 45-feet,' you kind of ask yourself, `what does that mean?' I think it's a little more team-oriented in cross country because even in track the cross country people stick together because we already had that fall season together."
GH: Coming into the Regional, into one of the toughest regions, and the NCAA is following that, what do you expect from the group right now?
AM: "Well, the way we've been going, we've been building a lot of momentum as the coaches have been saying. I think if we went into this meet and placed fourth or fifth, we'd get the job done, but really we think we could contend for 2nd or 3rd if we get it together and everyone continues doing their thing. I think we have pretty high hopes. Then Nationals, we're right up there with the top teams, I wouldn't be surprised if we were in the top-five if everyone stays healthy and runs like they can. I'm very excited to go from not even making it in the past few years, to placing with the top teams nationally. It's just awesome to see those goals finally come to reality."
GH: Thanks a lot and good luck on Saturday.