Oct. 26, 2012
The saying goes that slow and steady wins the race. Slow generally won't win any collegiate cross country races, but steady will definitely help. Sophomore Aaron Beattie has proven to be one of the steadiest Huskies on race day, and it's an approach he embraces. Beattie led the Huskies at the Regional Championships a year ago and has run in the top-five at the first three races this season. He and the Huskies run at the Pac-12 Championships tomorrow at 10:40 a.m. in Santa Clarita, California. Beattie talked to GoHuskies this week about how he came to the sport, how he came to UW, and his goal of running negative splits, which means closing the race faster than one started.
GoHuskies.com: Last year's Pac-12 meet was your first big cross country race. How much more confident do you feel a year later?
Aaron Beattie: I'm definitely a lot more confident. I'm a lot more confident in how I race. I trust myself, knowing I'll do a good job and I can bring myself to the finish line in a good spot. Just believing in the team, I think we can do some pretty cool things.
GH: How would you say the season has gone so far?
AB: I always think we're just a couple steps short of putting our name on the map, but it is what it is. All we can do is just go out and compete and do the best we can.
GH: How do you think your race went personally at Wisconsin?
AB: I felt satisfied. That's kind of how I've felt all year, just satisfied with my races. If I had run three seconds faster I would have placed 15 places higher, so there's always the thought of you could have done a little better for the team, but I'm satisfied, I haven't had any bad races and I try to help out the team the best I can every race. So as long as I'm doing that and my teammates are doing the same we'll be fine. I think we won't have anything to worry about at Pac-12s if we all do that.
GH: How has training been going leading up to Pac-12s this weekend?
AB: Pretty well. We've stepped up the intensity a bit. Just trying to crank down a little bit, get the legs going. But other than that it's going really well. Everyone seems to be pretty under control, no one seems to be really killing it, in a bad way. We're running solid workouts, but everyone's holding back. People realize the races are the time to show what you're made of instead of the workouts. That will help us gain more confidence for the races, holding back at practice and knowing we've been really patient all year, and now we're getting ready to let the horses out a little bit.
In cross country, a lot of guys go out really hard, so some people die and I use that as motivation to pass people and keep moving up.
GH: Do you view Pac-12s more as a stepping stone towards Regionals, or do guys get just as fired up for this one?
AB: I definitely think it's its own separate entity. At Pac-12s you always want to run well and beat people in your conference since they're your rivals. But it's not the end all, be all; Regionals is where you punch your ticket to Nationals so it's always going to be the big focus, but it's always fun to compete in a pretty small but really competitive meet and just battle it out with other Pac-12 guys.
GH: Wisconsin was a huge field, this week will be much smaller. Do you have a preference between the two?
AB: I like the bigger fields because I love passing people. I start out really slow and then pick people off, so the more bodies there are, the easier it is for me to move up. But in a smaller race you can do the same thing, you just have to be very aware of where you are in relation to the rest of the field. Both are pretty fun, they have the advantages and disadvantages, but you just have to adjust and it's fun regardless to just go race and compete.
GH: Coach Metcalf has described you as a patient and consistent runner. It might seem strange to people to think about different styles of racing, but do you think there are a lot of styles and do you think you've found yours?
AB: Yeah, definitely. I mean in high school I used to be the guy that would just take it out pretty hard and try to hold on, but that doesn't work in college when there are guys better than you, you can't just outrun someone way better than you. So I start out really conservative and try to negative-split the last half of the race. It's working so far. I didn't do that until the end of last cross country season. In track it's kind of hard since you're trying to run even splits. But in cross country, a lot of guys go out really hard, so some people die and I use that as motivation to pass people and keep moving up.
GH: That must be a good feeling to be passing guys late?
AB: Yeah, it's just awesome. And the other cool part about that is I can kind of see how well we're doing as a team depending on where I pass certain people. If I start passing people after 5k, that means we're doing pretty good, but if I pass (our own guys) a lot earlier then people are struggling and that means I have to crank it down a little more. It just lets me know how things are for the entire race.
GH: So obviously Seattle was a long trip out west for you from Illinois. How did you come to decide on Washington?
AB: I actually did a project in high school, where I had to pick schools from different parts of the country, and they all had to be in different regions. So I think U-Dub and UCLA were my West Coast schools. I just looked into U-Dub and really liked the thought of getting out here. I got in touch with the coaches and they brought me out for a visit and it was awesome, so yeah, high school history project is where it all started.
GH: When did you start running? Were there any runners in your family?
AB: No, my family is like the least athletic family ever. Before I lived in Illinois I lived in Louisiana for a while. I was big into soccer there. Tried out for my school soccer team but I just rode the pine. I was like third-string. But we had to do the mile as part of tryouts and I won that, so I just thought I'll just do track because at least I'll be able to participate. I did pretty well and held my own. Then I moved up to Illinois and soccer season was during cross country season, and I already knew what soccer was like, so I figured give cross country a shot. Then I did really well in that and so that solidified me with running and I gave up soccer.
GH: Was there a year when you made a breakthrough and knew you were pretty good at this?
AB: There was a big jump between freshman and sophomore year. My high school program was excellent. My coach, Paul Vandersteen, was an awesome coach and an even better person. I think that helped me out a lot. I had a really good team and a really good group of guys so that helped with all the successes that I had.
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GH: On the track last season you took on the 10,000-meters. Talk about the challenge of that distance.
AB: I didn't think it would be too bad. My first 10k I just kind of ran out of gas the last three kilometers. I think that was just more of a training thing than anything. I was psyched up before the race, mentally I was really into it, but the legs just weren't there. My outdoor season was kind of collapsing around me at that point. I had very spotty mileage. It's just one bad season and I think I'm going to learn from it so I'll be better prepared. We have a good culture now of higher mileage, so I think with more people doing that, I think we're going to have more people trying out 10k and that will be really fun.
GH: Do you think the 10k fits your style best?
AB: Yeah, I'm definitely more of a patient guy, grinding it out. 5k, 10k, I like those races, I don't have a ton of foot speed or anything, so I need to rely on the middle of the race which is where I like to surge and make moves. I'm really comfortable there.
GH: Have you declared your major yet?
AB: Yeah, I'm an environmental science major, and I think I'm going to try and minor in landscape architecture, and maybe quantitative science. Not entirely sure. I really want to do something with like urban parks and green areas. I think there's going to be a big demand for new green areas in cities. Anything with designing stuff like that would be really fun and be a good service to everybody.