Kevin Maeda, a senior who has spent four years with the cross country and track teams, reflects on his time running for Pepperdine and explains his excitement for the program's future. He also talks about what his postgraduate plans are:
Q: It is your final semester of college running. What are your feelings right now?
A: It's definitely bittersweet. I have recognized that running and all that have to come to an end. This is the first season of track where I am coming in completely healthy so I am excited to see how well I can do and show how much I have grown and improved here as a runner. Being able to see that come to fruition will be very exciting.
Q: How did you feel about your final cross country season in the fall?
A: I think it ended on a really good note. There was a mid-season lull where I felt I was struggling with many different things in my life. But once I found peace with those things I noticed my running started to improve along with it. Coach Rad and Coach Emma did a great job helping me come back to a place where I could enjoy running, which ended with me having a really great race at Regionals. I am grateful for the season I had and am happy with how it ended.
Q: What are you most looking forward to for spring track season?
A: I am definitely a distance runner. I feel I prosper in longer races. I am looking forward to running the 5K. The meets I am looking forward to are UCI and UCLA. UCI is a very competitive meet and we normally run the 5K there. Then at UCLA I will hopefully place into the seeded race and get to run against some of the fastest runners in the state. During our cross country meet with them we felt very competitive against them. Getting exposure to guys who are running 14 flat I think is very good for our program.
Q: Do you think the track and cross country programs are headed in a good direction?
A: The future for this program is bright. The freshmen we have right now are fantastic. It has been great being able to spend more time with the freshmen compared to previous seasons. We feel more like a collective unit this season. I feel that I have shown them how I operate, which I hope has helped them mature from a high school runner to a college runner. I've been trying to share wisdom with them whenever I can. I have been able to share my knowledge of how our coach operates with the younger guys on the team in hopes they will be able to master it faster than I did.
Q: What are you goals for the upcoming track season?
A: When setting my goals I made sure that they were just high enough where I have to work very hard. In the past I have run a 14:54 but that was sophomore year. Right now my goal for the 5K is to run a sub-14:30. I feel that I can attain this after coming off probably my best cross country season. But I think I will have a better understanding of a time goal after the first couple of meets since I will be able to see what I am capable of. If I had to give a time for the 3K I would say around 8:35, which would be a great start to the season.
Q: How have injuries affected your running career and mindset at Pepperdine?
A: I have had a number of injuries. They got bad enough that I didn't even run track sophomore year. But my mindset I feel is better than ever. I think this is my season to come back and show others and myself what I am fully capable of.
Q: As a senior what are you trying to do to lead the underclassmen? Is there anything you want to leave for the program?
A: Ultimately I just want to share what I have done with them so they are able to reflect on that and shape what they want their experience here to be. I want our men's team to flourish these next few years especially with the high potential of the freshmen. I know how great they can be and I want them to be able to see that too. I know they can be top four in conference against some very respectable teams. I have also been trying to educate them with what their academic journey can lead them to.
Q: You are the co-president of the Waves Leadership Council. Are there any interesting initiatives or plans for this spring?
A: Yes, we are always pretty busy. Throughout my years here I think that participation has increased in a huge way. In the spring we are planning to partner with Relay for Life. Our major plan for the end of April is a huge beach cleanup in Santa Monica before the WCC Beach Volleyball Championships.
Q: What are your post-grad plans?
A: During the summer I was applying to dental school and taking tests. A large part of my fall semester was participating in interviews for a few different colleges. I have chosen to go to UCLA. Starting in the fall of 2018 I will be going to UCLA dental school, starting my next four years of schooling. After that, I can hopefully go into a specialty program, potentially orthodontia.
Q: What are you going to miss most about Pepperdine?
A: Pepperdine has made me into the man I am today. I felt like I came here with a good foundation set by my family but thanks to Pepperdine and everyone here I have been able to flourish and grow more than I ever thought was possible. I am going to miss the competition of running for sure, along with mentoring the younger runners. Running for a university is something I will never be able to replicate. I will miss Coach Rad; he has been huge in my development as a person. He was always super encouraging and gave me the confidence I need to pursue life without fear. Finally, I will miss the community I have garnered here at Pepperdine and all the friends I have made. Luckily UCLA isn't too far away so I will make trips back here and help out in whatever ways I can.