Q & A With Chelsea Orr
March 30, 2011
With the number one cross country recruiting class in the nation, comprised of All-Americans and national champions from all around the U.S., one would be forgiven for overlooking Sammamish native Chelsea Orr in the fall. One of just two local freshmen on the roster, Orr was a four-time Top-20 finisher at the Washington 4A state cross country meet, helping Eastlake to a pair of team titles, but individual accolades eluded her in cross country and track. She wanted to be a Husky, but admits even she wasn't sure that she belonged. But with a newfound commitment and steady training time, Orr began to improve by leaps and bounds at the end of the fall and into the indoor track season. Partway through the indoor season, Orr earned a spot on Team USA for the NACAC Cross Country Championships held in Trinidad, and ran to the individual victory in the junior women's race. She also posted Top-10 times in the 3,000-meters indoors and as part of the distance medley relay, while also placing fourth in the mile at the MPSF Championships. Despite a recent injury that has her expecting to redshirt the outdoor season, Orr has made a name for herself in her rookie season, and talks about hitting her stride.
GoHuskies.com: Did you surprise yourself this season with your performance? Chelsea Orr: It was a big surprise; the fall was kind of a struggle for me. I came off of my high school track season not finishing well and was a little burnt out and I came to UW and at the first practice I was extremely intimidated by the girls and didn't realize what I was getting myself into. So, I didn't do very well that season and redshirted and didn't see improvement. I also sprained my ankle a couple times and would cross train and run and alternate between the two, and Metcalf called me out on it one day and told me to stop being such a wuss. Initially I was really embarrassed and didn't know how to react but then I recognized that he was right and started heading in the right direction and decided that if I wanted to be a part of his team I needed to be completely committed and start getting my act together. I was really focused during winter break, and wanted to improve. I was definitely surprised by how much I've improved because it was much better than my cross country season; it was such a significant change.
GH: Was there any one work out or race that specifically surprised you? CO: Actually there were a couple but one that stands out in particular is a workout at Magnuson Park we were doing loops around a 900 meter course. I really surprised myself on that course because I was able to stay with some top runners that I could never have kept up with. That work out stands out as a turning point.
GH: Was there anything else you'd been doing differently to help or was it just a matter of making the bigger commitment? CO: I was running more miles than I did in high school (10 or 15 more). In high school I had some mild injuries that were obstacles for my training and I didn't run consistently throughout any season. Once I came here and got out of my injuries I trained consistently for about eight months. And also just training with such talented girls has pushed me so much and has made a big difference.
GH: Coming out of high school were you confident in your ability to improve? Did you think you had a lot more there under the right circumstances? CO: My sophomore year I definitely felt that way; I ran much faster than I expected and felt like there was a lot left. My junior year I had mono and didn't get to race in track and then my senior year was just not great. So after my senior I doubted myself and was kind of discouraged but I always felt I had a little more in there.
GH: It sounds like you had to work a bit to get noticed and get a spot on the team. What made you want to be a Husky so badly? CO: I think this program is outstanding. The coaches do an incredible job; they love what they do and they're passionate about it. The girls are also really passionate about it and being in this environment has made me realize that I want the same thing. In high school I didn't necessarily have that environment; it was just not as serious or as focused. Making the change from the two environments has made me recognize that I really want this. I've become very passionate about running and I just want to improve and help the team as best I can.
I knew I was interested in coming to UW and was also looking at Gonzaga; those were my final two colleges I was looking at. My dad actually helped me out a lot by emailing coach Metcalf a couple times but he's not always responsive to email (laughs). It took a couple emails to get them to respond, but then we set up an unofficial in April and it was kind of last minute and I decided after that that I wanted to come here. My dad helped me out a lot; I wasn't recruited at all which is understandable because I came in last place at my high school state mile race. I hadn't proven myself.
GH: So out of the big freshman class, you're pretty much the only local girl. Do you get to serve as sort of a tour guide for some of the other freshmen? CO: Actually yes, that was one thing I felt I could help the team with. Kind of leading them around and showing them places that they wouldn't have necessarily known.
GH: Was it intimidating to meet these girls? Megan Goethals and Katie Flood both came in with national championships. CO: I was extremely intimidated, I felt like I did not deserve to be here. I was really nervous and scared, and did not know what I was getting myself into.
GH: Guessing that has changed pretty quickly? CO: Yes they're really awesome girls and we've bonded very quickly which I did not expect and I still am so honored to run and train with them but we've become good friends.
GH: Looking back at the whole NACAC experience, starting with USA Juniors, you missed the Junior Worlds team by one spot, so were you bummed at all by that? CO: At USA Juniors I was actually sick and not feeling well. I raced as hard as I could and I was happy with my effort and the result. That experience was really fun too, there were five of us freshmen on the trip; it was just a great experience. Having the opportunity to race in Trinidad was awesome and I didn't expect it. It was such an honor, it was my first race representing the USA so I was very proud to wear that navy and red jersey and represent the US in an international race. It was also great to meet a lot of world class athletes and I felt like I learned a lot just by watching their actions just by the way they carried themselves and watching them race. They were very professional and carried themselves well, and were very poised. Overall it was an awesome experience, and was once in a lifetime.
GH: Did you go in to the race thinking you could win? CO: Well Coach Metcalf told me going into the race that he thought I had a chance of winning and I took that with a grain of salt. I heard what he said but wasn't sure if it was actually possible. Going out in the race I think I was in the front of the pack and the second lap I was pulling away and people are dropping back, so I thought I really did have a chance to win. Crossing the finish line for the US in that race was a huge honor and I can't express that enough.
GH: So you've got your own gold medal now? Where are you keeping it? CO: Yes, it's currently at my house in Sammamish.
GH: Have you given much thought yet to what you'd like to major in? CO: At this point I'm heading in the direction of business just because I feel like it's a reasonable and versatile major. I've been thinking about it recently and have been thinking about what I want to do after college and I'm completely unsure. I could change it at any time, but at this point that's what my decision would be.
GH: What are the most interesting classes you've taken so far? CO: I have taken some interesting classes, I took a western religions class which is really interesting. I took a geography and health class which is very interesting.
GH: So unfortunately you just found out you've got a stress fracture; how serious is it? CO: It's actually not too severe. It's in my right femur. It's only going to be about a 6 week process, maybe a little more but much less than some other girls on our team that have had stress fractures, so it's pretty moderate.
GH: Was it tough to hear about that because you were building such momentum before? CO: It was disappointing for sure, but by the end of indoor season I was exhausted so I think it happened at the perfect time. I'm just a freshman so I'll still have eligibility for 4 years. I think there's a lot that I can work on, so although I'm disappointed this injury couldn't have happened at a better time.
GH: This being your first time with a stress fracture, what have coaches and trainers told you about how to manage it and stay fit? CO: The first few weeks the coaches just want me to rest and recover. The workouts are going to be really easy, and I'll be cross training more just to get my heart rate up and do a little exercise at this point because they want me to heal properly but after a few weeks hopefully I'll be able to start doing harder work outs to try and stay in shape.
GH: So now are you already looking ahead to next fall? It sure looks like there's a ton of potential. CO: Yeah I've got my sights set on cross country, and I'm really excited to see what we can do. I think we have a huge amount of talent on our team and so it'll be exciting to see how everyone can do in the fall.
GH: Thanks and good luck on a speedy recovery! CO: Thank you!