Three Huskies are making their fourth and final runs at the NCAA Cross Country Championships on Sunday. For Katie Flood and Liberty Miller, they still have two seasons of track eligibility, so they can continue to add to their already terrific Husky legacies. For Justine Johnson, the 6,000-meters of the LaVern Gibson Championships Course, starting at 10:15 a.m. Pacific time will be the last race for one of the most consistent Huskies in team history. The three have all run together time in and time out over the last four years, helping the Huskies to a 16th-place finish at NCAAs in 2010, then a memorable second-place run in 2011, and a ninth-place finish last year. The three talked about what they’ll miss most about the sport and each other on Friday in Terre Haute.
GoHuskies.com: Is it hard to believe this is the last run at Nationals?
Katie Flood: It feels like it flew by honestly. It doesn’t feel like this is my last cross race at all. When it’s all said and done I’ll probably be a little sad about it, but I’m excited to race tomorrow and I’m confident that we can do really well.
Liberty Miller: It really is. I’ve become so accustomed to the lifestyle surrounding cross country, and now it’s finally the end, which I just never really expected or thought about before.
GoHuskies.com: With Justine running her last race, what will you miss most about her?
Liberty Miller: I cannot even imagine not running with her. She was even my host on my recruiting visit, so I associate her and Washington together. It’ll just be surreal. Once she’s gone, she has a really big impact on the team and the dynamic of the girls, so it will be really sad to see her go. I don’t know if she’s aware of how big an impact she has, but it’s pretty big.
Katie Flood: I think she always has a way of lightening up the mood, if things are getting too serious or stressful, she’ll have some input that just relieves the stress and makes us laugh, and brings us back to ‘okay, we’ve just got to go run a race, it’s nothing more than that.’ So I think she adds that component to our team and it’s really important to have.
GoHuskies.com (to Justine): What are your thoughts this week? Have you reflected much on the experience?
Justine Johnson: It’s really surreal that it’s my last race. I’m trying not to think of it that way, it just makes me really sad and I think it just puts too much pressure on the last race. Even though tomorrow’s really important, I think it’s the culmination of everything I’ve done a U-Dub as a collegiate athlete. I’m just so blessed and grateful to be here, and being able to compete for a fifth year. Overall it’s just been such an amazing experience. I’ve had so many great memories, especially with Katie and Libby, we’ve been together since I was a redshirt freshman and they were freshmen, and we’ve just kind of had a whirlwind career, a lot of highs and lows together.
I’m not sure I have one favorite memory. Obviously when we came in second was a really special time, but just being able to see them every day, running is kind of therapeutic for me, so going to practice and being able to run with my friends. I think just throughout this whole experience I’ve learned a lot about who I am as a person, what my strengths are, how strong I am and how much more I can give than what I thought before.
GoHuskies.com (to Katie and Liberty): You will still have track together but does this feel like significant still?
Liberty Miller: We kind of just looked at each other like ‘how did we get here?’ We’re here together at the end. We had such a big class coming in, really talented, it’s just interesting how things unfolded.
Katie Flood: One thing we’re just thankful to be healthy for four years, and to be able to build such a strong friendship while doing something what we love. Forever grateful for that.
GoHuskies.com: Do you remember much of your first road trip back in 2010?
Justine Johnson: It feels like it just happened, I still can’t believe I’m the oldest girl on the team right now. It doesn’t really feel like that. My first travel trip was maybe the Notre Dame Invitational, and I just went out really hard, not knowing what was going on, it was one of those races. It was just awesome to be there and I just saw how much I needed to improve (laughs) to be a key factor on the team.
Katie Flood: It was here for Pre-Nats. I remember it. I was completely clueless with no idea what I’m doing. I think we’ve grown a lot since then. Still enjoying it and still having fun, but I feel like I’ve learned a lot in four years of racing, how to approach a race and how to handle it.
Katie Flood and Liberty Miller share a laugh before Pac-12s this year.
GoHuskies.com: What are the goals for Saturday’s race?
Liberty Miller: Since this is it, there’s nothing to hold back, so I’m excited. It wasn’t the season I’d imagined, but it’s not really about me, it’s about the team. As long as the team made it here to Nationals, and as long as we finish well, I’m happy. That’s all I could ask for.
Katie Flood: I feel really good right now. I feel fit and I’m excited to race. There’s no pressure on me to do anything big, which is great, so I just want to go out there tomorrow, and just walk away and be satisfied with what I did. I think that we definitely have a lot more in us than we’ve shown anyone. I think it’s just a matter of all of us coming together on race day and leaving it all out there. We’re capable of doing that.
Justine Johnson: I think I’m just trying to think of it as a blessing that I get to be here and I just need to remember how awesome that is. Take everything in, take in the whole experience, and make a lot of good memories that I can look back on when I’m older and think ‘I’m so lucky I got to do that.’
GoHuskies.com (to Justine): What were some of the keys that have helped you have such a consistently great career?
Justine Johnson: It just takes having a consistent, positive attitude I think. I’ve had some tough seasons or tough years, but just staying motivated and really remembering why you’re here, why you’re doing this sport, it’s obviously because you love it otherwise you shouldn’t be doing it. So just keeping it fun.
Johnson, Miller, and Flood were three of UW's top-seven on the 2011 NCAA runner-up squad.