Cross Country Q&A: Nick Heath

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Nick Heath has accomplished a lot this past year -- breaking his own cross country school record in the 8K earlier this season in Sacramento, finishing 18th at the recent WCC Championships (best by a Pepperdine men's runner since 2007 and a 21-spot improvement over his freshman year), as well as setting three track records in the spring as a freshman. He reflects on these experiences and talks about what it means for him going forward, including this Friday's NCAA West Regional:
Nick  Heath

Q: You've accomplished a lot in your time so far at Pepperdine. Is that a lot for you to take in? Is there any specific achievement you've had in particular that really stood out to you?

A: Yes, it really has been a lot to take in. I feel very honored to run for Pepperdine and I don't take any of my accomplishments for granted. I'd say that my favorite achievement so far was my last 8K in Sacramento, which was the best race I've ever run. It also really came as a surprise to me because I was not expecting to improve so much over last year!

Q: How does it feel to be breaking all these records and improving so dramatically since your freshman year? Does it put any pressure on you going forward or motivate you?

A: I would not say that it has put much pressure on me at all. Instead, I think that my successes so far have encouraged me to set big goals for myself down the road and have helped me to rethink how I view myself as an athlete. My experience at Pepperdine has motivated me to keep training hard because I now realize how much potential I have to race well against some of the best teams, especially over the next two years, as long as I stay determined.

Q: What do you think has helped you do so well over this time?

A: I think the key to my improvement over my whole running career has simply been uninterrupted training. Since I began cross country in high school, I've been running year round, increasing my mileage from month to month and forcing my workout times down from season to season. Consistent training and post-workout recovery has helped me to avoid developing any major injuries over the last four years, which has been crucial.

Q: Did you think coming into Pepperdine that you'd do this well so early on? 

A: Before I came to Pepperdine, I never would have thought that I would be so competitive at a Division I level in cross country. I used to be amazed that it was even possible for some of these elite college athletes to run so fast for five miles. But once I got to Pepperdine, I was surprised to find that I had improved enough over the last several years to do very well in my races early on!

Q: What is your next goal or set of goals you're setting for yourself going forward?

A: My goal for next cross country season, like always, is to get faster and avoid getting hurt. I'd love to place in the top 10 in the West Coast Conference Championships and run around 23:30 in the 8K. Both these goals will be pretty challenging, but are definitely within reach.

Q: You're heading back to Sacramento on Friday for the NCAA West Regional meet. Are you hoping to make a run for the school record there too? What are you hoping for in that race?

A: I'm very excited for Regionals in Sacramento this year. Sacramento is one of my favorite courses and it should be a great experience to race against some of the best runners in the nation. It is a 10K this time around, so I'm hoping to beat my 10K record from last track season and place in the top 50.

Q: What has been your favorite memory so far during your time on the team?

A: My favorite experience on the team so far was actually our trip to West Regionals last year in Seattle. I had never been to Washington before and it was fun to fly there with my teammates and check it out. More memorably though, it was the biggest race I had ever been in and it had been raining for the last several days. Not only was it still pouring rain during our race, but the entire course was flooded with thick mud. Everyone in the race got so splattered with mud that by the time they reached the finish, you could hardly tell what school's jersey they were wearing. It was very challenging in the moment, but once I was done, I began to realize how fun that race was and how incredible the experience was overall. However, I'm still hoping for a little better weather at Regionals this time around.

Q: Is your experience running and being on the team any different at all now that you're a sophomore compared to freshman year?

A: I think that I've gained a lot more confidence over the last year. It was challenging coming to a new school, joining a new team and being expected to compete at a much higher level, but with the help of my coach and teammates and with a few solid races under my belt, I've become much more comfortable on the start line and I can honestly say that I love what I do.

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