June 20, 2008
By Alison Wade of EliteRunning.com
Heading into the 2008 track season, Christine Babcock was already an incredibly successful runner with two Division II California state cross country titles and two California state 1,600 meter titles under her belt. Because she had opted not to participate in post-season events such as the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships and Nike Outdoor Nationals, she was mostly known inside of California, and nationally among those who followed high school running relatively closely. Her performances in the 2008 season, however, have been virtually impossible to miss. On May 31st, Babcock made national headlines when she set a new national high school federation record of 4:33.82 in the 1,600 while winning her third-straight California state title. Among high school runners, only Polly Plummer's high school mile record of 4:35.24 from 1982 is considered to be superior, and only by a couple tenths of a second.
On June 15th, Babcock added the national high school federation record in the 1,500 to her resume, running 4:16.42 and breaking Kim Gallagher's 26-year-old record. The record was mostly an afterthought; Babcock was focusing on qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Trials, which she successfully did. She will line up against the U.S.'s best professional and collegiate runners in the quarterfinals of the 1,500 at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon on July 3rd.
Babcock, who turned 18 on May 19th, graduated from Woodbridge High School in Irvine, California on June 16th. She is coached by George Varvas, but will soon take her talents to the University of Washington.
Babcock is not the only fast runner in her family. Her mother, the former Kelly Spatz, finished 24th at the 1984 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in 2:38:45, and she still holds Michigan State's outdoor mile record of 4:49.56. Babcock's sister, Jessie, ran 5:02 and 10:41 for Woodbridge High School and now runs for Penn State. Babcock's father, Dan, is also a runner.
We caught up with Babcock by phone two days after her high school graduation.
You raced on Sunday (setting the high school 1,500m record) and graduated from high school on Monday, correct?
Yes, and then my grad night was Monday night--that was until 5:00 in the morning.
So you've had a lot going on recently.
Yeah, and I'm glad that it's kind of slowing down a little bit.
Do you have much planned for the next couple weeks?
I have a lot of graduation parties to go to, but other than that, not really.
What was more exciting, getting the Trials qualifying time or graduating?
Probably graduation [laughs]. It took longer to graduate, I feel like, than it did to get the Trials qualifying time, and if I didn't get it, it wasn't going to be the end of my life.
Can you tell us about your race on Sunday? It sounds like it was pretty challenging to run fast in that kind of environment (with very few spectators and little competition).
There were like five other girls in the race, and then I had the rabbit [Ysanne Williams] for the first 800 meters. I didn't really want to run, to be quite honest with you. I knew it was going to be pretty hard because there weren't many people in the race, and mentally I'm pretty tired from all the races that I've done. Since I took such a long break, it was hard to get back into the mental part of racing.
I guess the race was okay. It really helped to have the rabbit for the first 800 meters, because I've never really had anyone with me except for in the two-mile at Arcadia against Jordan Hasay, so that was helpful. It was a different race, since I'd never run 1,500 meters before.
To continue on with the interview, which includes Babcock's thoughts on choosing to attend Washington, please click on the following link: