Oct. 5, 2011
Last year, Simi Valley, California native Liberty Miller was the only freshman to run in Washington's top-seven at every cross country meet. A high school All-American, Miller scored for UW at three meets last year and placed 36th at her first Pac-10 Championships. She fought through illness at her first NCAA Championships, as the Huskies finished 16th overall. Expectations are high once again for the women's team, and Miller is ready to help the Huskies return to Nationals. She also is looking forward to a first track season, after redshirting last year. Miller talked to GoHuskies.com in the Dempsey on Tuesday about the early season results, her marathon dreams, and the team's stylish mustaches from last year's national meet.
GoHuskies.com: What are some of the biggest differences between year one and year two?
Liberty Miller: Now I feel much more comfortable on the team and I'm not afraid to ask the big questions and take risks. I know what I'm doing and can go into the training room and be more specific where before I went in and felt so lost as though I didn't belong there. With training and racing it's so much easier to train well when I actually know what I'm doing and I know what to expect. I actually know what I'm running for and know the team and coaches so much better which allows me to train for a purpose with a known outcome.
GH: How was your summer? Did you feel like you had a good summer of training?
LM: I did a bit of travelling but was home for the most part. I got to go to my high school team's practice and I would run on my own, but it was also nice to have a group to meet with and I went and saw everyone that I used to run with and greet them and my old coach as well. It was really fun but I had to be more serious and do my work outs rather than the high school work outs which was different than the year before where I felt like I was still just doing whatever they were doing and it didn't really feel like college yet.
GH: Did the girls have many questions for you?
LM: Yeah, they had some questions for me, just wondering how to get on a college team and that it seemed so great. I just told them to keep doing what they're doing because they're going in the right direction.
GH: What was your recruiting process like and how did you know UW was where you wanted to be?
LM: I felt really clueless going through it and didn't really know what to look for in a school but I would ask other people that were in college and those who went farther from home. They told me that I'd know when I visit a campus and that I'd be able to picture myself there. I'd love the college for what it is not for what it would be like as an athlete. This was my first visit and even before I came here I loved it .I had already gotten the program and I would look at it every day and I knew who Christine Babcock was on the team and the older girls. Then when I got here it was just so amazing because it was so different from home with all the green and the water--it was amazing. I knew this is where I wanted to be, I belonged here. I remember when I was here we did a long run and the whole run everyone talked about food and movies and I knew I'd fit in (laughs).
GH: Last year's freshman class seems like a pretty tight-knit group.
LM: Yeah, we're close. We have a big house where six of us live together and Megan Goethals is right on our street as well. Having all of us together is really fun because we'll all just go home and over dinner talk about the workout and how it went for everyone and then the next meet coming up and how excited we all are. After we'll sit and watch TV and stretch or do abs and we all are just so motivated and feed off of each other. It's like if one person in our house is positive our whole house is positive. It could work the other way but I feel like we don't let it happen--we all want to be positive and working hard.
GH: You redshirted your first track season. How tough was that?
LM: It was hard watching everyone run track; indoors, I'd never done it before so it wasn't too weird but it just made me crave it more. Watching everyone out on the track I realized I really do love this sport. Sitting on the sideline and having to watch other people was like torture and I wanted to be out there going through it and I wanted to be back in it again. Being taken out of it I was able to see what it's like on the sideline. It was a reminder of how much I do love to run.
GH: What do you think you'll run on the track this season?
LM: I think I'll be doing the 5k/10k longer stuff. In high school once I did a half marathon just for fun and our coach told us to do it just as a long run and I ran it with the boys on our team and ended up getting third overall for women. After that I realized I liked the long stuff rather than the mile. After that I had a track season where I focused on the two mile and ended up doing really well--better than I'd ever done before--I dropped about 40 seconds. It was because I just had a different mindset and I decided I wasn't a miler anymore and I was going to go after the long distance and I think it paid off.
GH: Have you run any more half marathons since that first one?
LM: Well now my long run is a half marathon so if I could do it competitively after college I think that would be really fun--it's my dream. Hopefully one day I'll go after the full marathon.
GH: You've got two races in so far this season. The Roy Griak race looked like it had lots of ups and downs. What did you guys take away from that race?
LM: Roy Griak was our first time as a travelling team and I think after the 3k mark we were all where we belonged and in great positions, which was really exciting because I saw all my teammates right there next to each other and I felt like everyone was working together. Past the 3k mark we lost it but now I think we'll be able to hold it longer and we all just needed that little test to see. Mentally I think we're all ready to be there and work but at that race we just didn't finish. It was a test to push us and make us stronger and next time we'll be stronger.
GH: I'm sure the team has pretty high goals for itself, but do you have anything personally you've set as a goal?
LM: For cross I'm hoping to make an influence on the team. I feel like that's the biggest personal goal I can have. Specifically I want to do well in the Pac-12 but I think our team is so good that if I can run well our whole team can do well. I want to run fast but ultimately it's for the whole team.
GH: This is still a pretty young team overall, with just one senior in Christine Babcock. How does the leadership aspect work on this group?
LM: I feel like Christine has a very big leadership role and she'll send us nice emails and stuff and we all look at her as a leader. We also have Justine Johnson and Lindsay Flanagan, and I feel like just anyone who is a veteran on the team is considered a leader because we're all young still and it's pretty new to us. Basically the more experience you have on a team the more you are a leader. We all chip in here and there and provide for each other.
GH: How would you say your fitness level is compared to last year? Do you see yourself doing better in workouts?
LM: Yeah, I've been working and training a lot harder and feel way better than last year. I feel like I'll be strong the whole year this year whereas last year I was good in the beginning and then just started dying. I think I'm a lot more fit and ready this year which has added to the rest of the package. Seeing the rest of the girls so fit helps me get excited but then also knowing that the work I put in is going to pay off.
GH: You got to compete at the NCAA Championships last year, and though it probably wasn't your best day, what did you learn from that whole experience?
LM: Well I learned not to get sick; it was a huge setback. I also learned more about consistency and training. I had to take time off when I got sick and then tried to jump right back which led to another setback and I had pain in my hip. The more consistent I am in training the better I can race and the better I'll feel.
GH: Last year the team gained some Flotrack fame by wearing fake pink mustaches [for Flotrack.org's mustache competition]. I think that was partly your idea?
LM: (laughs) Yeah me and Katie (Flood). We just felt like we needed to relax a little. At big meets it gets really stressful so we decided to throw on some pink mustaches and compete against the guys because we thought no one else would think of it so we'd be the only girls out there with them.
GH: Classes have started up now; do you know yet what you'd like to major in?
LM: I'm still undecided, I think I want to stay with running after college which makes it hard to decide a major. I want to coach one day so I think I'm going to take more science classes and learn more about the body so that can help me later. I know with running it can be so confusing with injuries and pain that you don't always know where it's coming from. I'm not sure yet though.
GH: What kinds of things do you guys like to do together at your house?
LM: We watch a lot of movies, or at least try to. Every night we just hang out in one person's room--whoever has a clean room. We all just hang out and talk for hours and hours and then try to watch a movie or have people over to just hang out. We also bake but have tried to cut down on that to get more serious on nutrition. Just relaxing. During preseason when we had more time we would just play and take pictures.
GH: And where are some of your favorite runs in the area?
LM: My favorite is the (Redmond) watershed because I feel like you just get lost in the forest and it doesn't feel like you're in the city. After then we all just go to Victor's and we're all muddy and they all know us there. It's just my favorite by far.
GH: Do you go to watch any other Husky sports?
LM: Yeah, volleyball is my favorite right now, and then I also love basketball. I like playing volleyball for fun but I'm not good at it all.
GH: Well keep focusing on running then, and good luck next week in Wisconsin.
LM: Thank you!