Recently in Cross Country/Track Category

Morgan Bedford, a junior on Pepperdine's cross country and track teams, is very active here on campus. She explains the activities she is involved in and how those have impacted her:

Morgan  Bedford

Q: Where did you study abroad last year?

A: I studied abroad in Lausanne, Switzerland, for the full academic year.

Q: How has the transition back to Pepperdine from abroad been?

A: Initially the transition was very easy. It felt very normal to be back. I was driving along PCH the very first day I arrived back in Malibu and it felt like I had never left. As the days go by, it gets a little bit easier, but there are things that pop up, like thinking about what I was doing a year ago today. Those little things make it harder, but because there was a really strong house community in Lausanne, it has been an easy transition. I run into people I studied abroad with every day, so that has really helped.

Q: What was your favorite memory from abroad?

A: A lot of my favorite memories happened with the people in the house. They were moments that were unplanned and unexpected. There was one afternoon when a friend and I had just finished lunch and we decided to go to Evian, which is a little French town across the lake. There was another moment when my friend and I were walking down to the lake and we had to pass by the train station. We thought about how crazy it was that we could just hop on a train and go to Italy and we decided right then to go to Italy. Those moments of being truly present were the best.

Q: The last time you were interviewed for this blog, you talked about your experience with Model UN. Are you still participating in that, and if so, what are you doing with it?

A: This year I am the vice president for Model UN. There are a lot of different odd jobs that I get to do. The first is supporting the president and the director of education with running and preparing for the meetings. I help with the position papers the team will have to write before conference and help prep for the resolution papers that we will write during the conference. Recently I have started Model UN Mondays with Morgan, which is a time when any of the members of the team can come by to get help or ask questions.

Q: You were recently invited to attend the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations' Annual Arab-U.S. Policymakers Conference in Washington, D.C. Tell me a little about what that event was and your experience there.

A: The conference was for fellows of the Council, students, military members and for other government officials. One of my mom's colleagues invited me to attend because he knew it was something I was interested in. During the conference I learned a lot and it helped solidify future interests in working in the Middle East. It was interesting to hear all the former ambassadors, Saudi princes, diplomats and others come and speak on their experience and what students can do if the Middle East is of interest to them. It was challenging to understand all the different viewpoints because they are all very deeply rooted in tribal relations, and as things happen, the situation changes. It was also a great way to meet people and network.

Q: You also have done an internship with Senator Tim Kaine. Is working in politics something that you are interested in doing once you have graduated?

A: Very much so. From working and learning about politics I have become more interested in policy and writing the policies that are being implemented. If I could do anything, I would probably want to reestablish diplomatic ties with countries that we currently don't have ties with, such as Iran or North Korea. I think that would be really interesting because the relationships that we have with countries are really important despite our disagreements. I would love to be a part of the negotiation process and formally write the treaties to establish the diplomatic relations.

Q: What are your goals for this year's track and cross country seasons?

A: I think coming back from abroad, my goals are to be a resource to the younger members on the team. I think I have a unique position. I have never run cross country before, and a lot of them have, so they are teaching me about the sport. And, I can be a resource for them for academics, spiritual life or studying abroad. The other goal has been to continue to challenge myself and see what it is like to run cross country. So far it has been very challenging, so I have a greater respect for my teammates.

Q: How are you managing all that you do and run cross country and track?

A: I cannot do it on my own. I think that when I have tried to do all of these things on my own it is just a complete mess. Having a good support system and a strong faith and being able to be open about my struggles with balancing everything has been very helpful. Being vulnerable to the fact that I am human and I cannot do everything without my support system have helped me continue going. My team and my coaches are a huge part of my support system. My coaches have done everything they possibly can to support me on and off the track, which is really cool to see in a Division I school.

Cross Country Q&A: Nick Heath

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Nick Heath, the top runner on the men's cross country team, won the Highlander Invitational recently. He talks about his experience at the meet as well as his expectations for the WCC Championships coming up this Friday.

Nick  Heath

Q: How did you get into running?

A: I wasn't always into running. I actually just joined because some of my friends were joining the cross country team in our freshman year. I had never played a sport before and I'm not an extremely coordinated person so cross country seemed like something I could do. I wasn't very good at first but I liked it so I stuck with it. At first, I was really slow but with time I realized that I could be good at it if I just put in the work. So I did and by my sophomore year, I was the second-fastest guy on the team. Since then, it's been an amazing experience and I'm really glad I joined it.

Q: You have a really impressive record in cross country and track. What have been your proudest achievements?

A: I'd say one of my proudest moments in high school was when my cross country team qualified for the state meet for the first time in my school's history. The next year, we placed fifth and then in my senior year, we placed third. That progression was so satisfying and I was really proud of what my teammates and I did. As for college, at the end of last season, my race at the NCAA West Regional was probably the best race I've ever run.

Q: What has been different for you this year as compared to last year?

A: Personally, I had kind of a rough last track season. I got a serious hip injury and had to take about a month off. Coming back from that has definitely made me look at running differently and be a little more careful with myself. It has also made me value each day I'm here and able to do what I do. So much more than before my injury, and so coming into this season I won't take anything for granted.

As a team, it's been so great to have all the new freshmen who run alongside me every day and push me in our workouts and seeing them in races. I think they've been doing great things for the team.

Q: You won the Highlander Invitational last weekend. Can you talk about your experience at the invitational?

A: It was really fun. My coach showed me the results from last year before we raced and I was looking at some of the guys and I felt I could stick with the front pack because it seemed like a decent race. So I went out and I didn't take the lead immediately. I got off to a fairly normal start and worked my way up during the first mile. Once we got to the first-mile marker, I was up with the front runners and then from there, over the next mile, more and more people started dropping off the pack until eventually it was just me and one other guy, who I think was from Irvine. We ran side by side for the next mile and a half or so and we got to a point where there were about 600 meters left. That's when I broke away and I think he knew he couldn't keep on and so he just dropped off and I won.

Q: How did it feel to win at that meet?

A: It felt awesome. Honestly, it's just such a great feeling when you break away and take the lead. You get such a huge second wind and you just get this burst of inspiration and strength.

Q: Your next race is the WCC Championships. What are you hoping to achieve there and how are you feeling about it?

A: I've been looking forward to the WCCs for a while. We've got some really fast schools in our conference like Portland and BYU. I think last year I was kind of at the back of the pack of those two schools but I'm hoping this year I'll be able to beat some of their better runners and hopefully get into the top 10. And I'm also hoping to make a personal record. It's a new course and I haven't seen it before but it should be fun and I'm looking forward to it. Also, as a team, we've got a lot of new freshmen in and we're going to have a really good opportunity to do a lot better than we did last year. I don't know how it's going to turn out but I'm really hopeful about how we'll do.  

Q: What do you do before a meet to reduce pre-race anxiety?

A: For me, it's all about consistency. I like to treat every race as if it's a part of my normal routine. I get to bed early and wake up at my normal time and warm up with my team the way I normally would and finally when I'm at the starting line, I switch into race mode and get my game face on.

Q: What advice would you give to beginning athletes/runners?

A: My advice would be to stay patient and stick with it. Cross country is not something in which you'll see a huge transformation overnight. It's really just putting in the work every day to get better, step by step. As long as you keep focused and stay determined and take care of yourself, the difference between your first race and last race will be so incredibly huge and you will definitely go far.

Q: What have you learned in your years of training?

A: Mainly, I've learned the importance of being patient with myself. I've seen a lot of runners get stressed out and put too much pressure on themselves that they need to perform right here and right now at a race. I'm just grateful to be there and take the opportunity to do what I can and if it goes well then great, and if not, there's nothing I can do about it. I've also learned not to get carried away in training either. You've got to just run within your limits. Keep pushing yourself to expand those limits but remember that one day isn't going to make or break your career and so, just be patient.

Cross Country Q&A: Kyle Johnson

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Kyle Johnson, a freshman on Pepperdine's cross country team, shares his feelings about his first year on the team ahead of this week's WCC Championships. He also shows off his excitement toward the upcoming track season:

Kyle  Johnson

Q: How was your most recent meet?

A: UCR was a good tune-up meet right before WCCs. It was a change of pace from the normal 8K as we went down to 6K, which was nice to get the legs moving a bit faster.

Q: How have your first couple months been running at Pepperdine?

A: My first couple months have been great. I have been feeling very strong in and outside of the classroom. I really think I have found a nice home here. Also, running makes time fly by, plus getting eight hours of sleep really takes up a lot of my time.

Q: How is it running for Coach Radnoti?

A: Running for Coach Radnoti is interesting, he always keeps us honest with how we are feeling, as he is a very strong believer in the mind. That being said, he's always fun-loving and makes sure everyone is in a good mood.

Q: How has your progression been throughout this year?

A: My progression through this year has been odd as my fastest race has been my first one, which is not ideal, but at WCCs I know I will be faster. I believe in myself more than anyone else ever could so I am not too worried.

Q: What are your expectations for your four years?

A: Four years is a long time so I am not going to put any specific goals but I believe the sky is the limit, especially with Coach Radnoti's system and my work ethic. I know anything can happen.

Q: How is it adjusting from high school cross country to college?

A: In high school my workouts and mileage were not even close to this hard or long, so jumping up to college mileage was a big step for me. Not to say it was a bad thing, as I feel faster than I ever have been in my entire life.

Q: How is it being on a team with completely new people?

A: My teammates are incredible, each one bringing their own interesting personality traits and experiences to the table, making us a very well-rounded team. They really help me out because when you are as far away from home as some of the guys like me are, having that close family atmosphere definitely helps.

Q: What are your feelings toward track season? What events do you run?

A: I am excited for track! My events are going to be the 5K and 10K. This whole year my mileage has been lower than everyone. I have been beating people in races so by track I hope to catch up closer to 90 a week and make a big jump in my performances.

Q: Since you are from Michigan, why did you choose Pepperdine?

A: I chose Pepperdine because of the people here. It feels like the family and team atmosphere that I had back home, which I know will allow me to flourish out here and also because of Coach Radnoti.

Q: How does cross country work with your major (computer science/math)?

A: Cross country works well with my major. I would not say it is the hardest major on campus, but it definitely kicks my butt sometimes. Really, as long as I stay on top of everything and manage my time well, I know I can achieve anything.

Abbey Meck, a freshman on the cross country team, has started off the season extremely well. She shares with us how her experience has been so far and what she is looking forward to the rest of this season:
Abbey  Meck

Q: How have your first few weeks at Pepperdine been?

A: They have been really good. I am really happy here! I love the school, I love my classes and I love the team, so overall it has been awesome.

Q: Was the transition into college what you expected it to be?

A: Kind of. I don't know what I was expecting, but it has been really good. It has gone by so quickly. I definitely thought it was going to be a lot harder and I thought I would miss home more than I have been, but it has been good so far.

Q: What made you decide to come to Pepperdine?

A: I visited Pepperdine when I was a sophomore in high school and I just loved the campus. I did a running camp at Pepperdine with Coach Radnoti. I fell in love with the program he has and I thought he was an amazing coach. A lot of D-I schools are very pushy with training and eating and if you are not doing it properly, you can get dropped. I like that he supports his athletes when they are injured and throughout everything. Also, the location was definitely a big selling point. I do not think I could go away from the beach.

Q: What are you looking forward to most about this year?

A: For running, I am really looking forward to getting more confident. I think that a lot of the girls are really nervous to be running at these big races, but once we race in the big races, we will develop more confidence and that will benefit us.

Q: You've done really well in your first few races. How did you feel going into them?

A: The first race was somewhat relaxed, so I was not too nervous going into it. I thought I did well. The second meet we had was bigger than anything I had ever raced in and I was not really expecting it. Racing girls who are from Arkansas and Alabama, who are fifth-year seniors, was very shocking. When I looked back at the results, we saw how many freshmen were ahead of us, which was something we all needed to see. There are so many experienced and older runners that were ahead of us, so for our age, we all did really well.

Q: How long have you been running?

A: I started running in seventh grade to keep in shape for soccer. After that, I just fell in love with the sport.

Q: What are your goals for this season?

A: Time-wise, this is the first time I have raced a 6K and I am hoping to get down to the 21's. For the team, I really want us to gain confidence and for us to understand that we are capable, and are able to compete against these other schools.

Q: What is your favorite part about being on the cross country team?

A: I like the family that I have created. Right away, I had so many friends on the team and all the girls want everyone else to do well. They all want to help each other and be a resource for one another. We are all super competitive, but we support each other and want each other to do well.

Q: Is there anything you want to do while you are in Southern California?

A: I want to go skydiving, and I have heard that you can go skydiving nearby. I also really want to go to the Catalina Islands. That is something that I can only do from here.

Patrick and Tim Wells are freshmen on the cross country team as well as competitive duathletes (running and biking) who are among the best in the world in their age group. The twins tell us about why they chose Pepperdine and what it is like being a duathlete:

Patrick  Wells Tim  Wells

Q: How has your first couple of weeks been so far at Pepperdine?

Tim: It has been going well. It's been a little challenging trying to find all of the classes, but everything else has been good. The environment is great and the team has been very welcoming.

Patrick: It has been going great. All the teachers have been very kind, and I don't think it is tough trying to find the classes. Everyone is just really kind here.

Q: What made you decide to come to Pepperdine?

Patrick: I wanted to stay in Southern California, since we are from the Burbank area. Going to Pepperdine was a really good opportunity that opened up and I decided to take it.

Tim: I wanted to go to a school that was really good academically and athletically, so that was a big reason why I decided to come here.

Q: Did you both always want to go to school together or did it just work out that way?

Tim: A little bit of both. We kind of wanted to go to school together, and it worked out that we could both go here.

Q: I have heard you are both duathletes! Tell me a little about how you both got into that.

Tim: We began just using biking for cross training and injury prevention and as something else to do besides just running. We found that we loved competing in the sport. We've gotten to go to a couple of World Championships. It has been a really fun experience and something I would like to continue in the future.

Patrick: For me it is a similar reason. We are near San Diego and there are a lot of duathlons there. Our parents brought up the idea to us because it is good to do other things besides just running and we really like to bike.

Q: You both recently competed in this year's World Championships. What was it like?

Tim: The whole experience was pretty awesome since it was my first championship. It was in Canada. It was really cool to represent the United States and race against everyone.

Patrick: It is a whole new level. You see people from around the world competing. It is pretty serious. You see some of the professionals in the races after you and it is really cool to watch.

Q: What did you place in the championship?

Tim: I placed fourth in my age group and 11th overall.

Patrick: I placed eighth in my age group.

Q: Is being a duathlete something you want to continue doing into the future?

Patrick: Definitely. I would like to start getting into triathlons. I have not had a lot of time to swim, so that is why I have stuck with duathlons. I definitely want to step into the triathlon world.

Tim: It is definitely something I want to continue for quite a while. Hopefully for the rest of my life I can keep competing in duathlons.

Q: What is the difference between training for cross country and for a duathlon?

Tim: Training for cross country is a lot more mileage because the races are 8K, so about five miles. You have to have a lot of endurance and speed. Duathlons are an endurance event too, but it is a different type of training.

Patrick: You practice different things in a duathlon. You have to practice transitions and think more about nutrition throughout the race, and get water or a power gel during the race. In cross country, you just run straight and power through.

Q: What are your goals for this year?

Tim: Move up a little higher in the standings compared to the past couple of years. We have a good group of athletes. The seniors and juniors have been doing really well. We have a younger group, which will be good for the future. The main goal would be to do well at the WCC Championships. Specifically, place in the top half of the table.

Patrick: The goal is to build the team and keep improving upon each race and to stay positive throughout the season.

Track Q&A: Kendall Dunn

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Kendall Dunn, a graduating senior on the women's track team, came into Pepperdine as a transfer during her sophomore year. She looks back on her college career, which recently came to an end:


Kendall  Dunn


Q: You were the best 800 runner this year, and rank #3 all-time in the event at Pepperdine. How does that feel for you?


A: It is an amazing feeling! It's funny because I have been a 400-meter hurdler during my entire career at Pepperdine, but due to a recent back injury my coach and I decided it would be best to train for a less-strenuous event for the second half of the season. That being said, I am very happy to say I am ranked #3 all-time in an event I have only ran a total of three times in my life! I owe it all to (Venus Jewett) Coach V's training and the foundation she has built for our program.


Q: What made you decide to transfer here to Pepperdine?


A: I was originally recruited by a different university on a full-ride track and field scholarship. The school was beautiful and was great academically, but after a few short weeks I continued to find myself a victim to sexual harassment. After weeks of feeling violated and isolated, I decided to forgo the opportunity to run for that particular university. Once I left that school, I decided that safety was going to be a top priority as I searched for a new school to transfer to. Pepperdine was by far one of the best places to ensure I would be living in a safe environment. I also struggled with my faith when I was younger and I wanted to attend a school that would strengthen and rebuild my faith. I am happy to say that Pepperdine has given me that opportunity and I have grown and continue to grow closer to the Lord. The beautiful location and the amazing teammates I am able to train with every day are just added bonuses!


Q: How have you liked your three years here?


A: My three years here have been absolutely unforgettable. Being at Pepperdine has allowed me to strengthen all aspects of my life, whether it be my relationship with God, family, friends, academics, community involvement and so on. I'm so lucky to have been given the opportunity to attend an academically renowned college while also competing at the Division I level in the sport I love. I'm also happy to say that the relationships I have built with friends, teammates and staff members along the way will continue to prevail once I graduate. I would relive these three years over and over again if possible because of all the memories and accomplishments I have made over the course of my college career.


Q: What's it like to look back on your college track career?


A: Overwhelming. This sport has given me a lot of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. I believe every athlete can relate to this. But I don't think I would be where I am today without track because track literally saved my life. You see, when I was 14 years old, I was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma skin cancer. After being diagnosed, I became very sick and had to undergo multiple surgeries, which led to my absence from track during my sophomore year of high school. The one thing that I used as my escape - track -- had vanished and I felt very angry and depressed during that time. So after hearing the doctor say, "If you had waited a couple more months to get your skin checked you would have been dead in a year," it ignited a drive and motivation from within me that I had never felt before. Hearing that you were on the brink of death isn't something you take lightly, so from that moment on I made it my goal to treat every meet, every practice and every step like it was my last. That being said, after looking back on my college career, I am glad to say I did just that. Track has taught me to never take my life for granted and to glorify God by using the ability he has so graciously given me.


Q: What's your favorite memory from your Pepperdine career?


A: Other than Tori's mediocre limbo skills, I would have to say my favorite memory was the conclusion of our 2015-2016 season. We ended the season with so many broken school records and it was exciting to be a part of that experience. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing your hard work being paid off by breaking records!


Q: What about in general a favorite memory from your time at Pepperdine?


A: I really enjoyed participating in Songfest during my sophomore year. Songfest was the first time I truly got involved on campus and it allowed me to build new friendships and create memories that will last a lifetime. Once I graduate and look back on my Pepperdine career, Songfest will always be one of the first memories that come to mind.


Q: How has it been running for these coaches?


A: I have absolutely loved running for these coaches. Coach Radnoti has been there for us constantly at practice and keeps our team organized. But I spend most of my hours with Coach V, since she is the sprint/hurdle coach. Coach V has gone above and beyond my expectations as a coach. She genuinely cares about our success as athletes and every workout is carefully crafted to ensure that she is training us to the best of her ability, and there is nothing more loving than that. Besides being a coach, she has been a role model to me and sets an example of how I wish to lead my life once I graduate from Pepperdine. She is an example of a strong, courageous, fun and fabulous woman, and I am going to miss her more than words can describe.


Q: How about running with these teammates?


A: I don't even know where to begin in describing how amazing these teammates are. As a transfer student, I was so worried that I might feel left out upon joining the team. Fortunately, after a few practices and getting to know the girls on and off the track, I immediately felt welcomed. They enjoy sporadic dancing with me at practice, they understand my love for food, and I know I can always count on them when I need a shoulder to lean on. I really don't know what I would have done without these amazing women during my Pepperdine career.


Q: Are you excited for graduation?


A: Absolutely! Not only will my degree signify the completion of college, but it will also be a time to reflect on all of my academic accomplishments and hard work. Better yet, I will also be celebrating the day with close family and friends. It will be such an incredible memory and I am excited to hit this milestone in my life. I owe it all to God and also to those who contributed to paving my path along the way.


Q: Do you have any plans for after graduation?


A: I plan on winning the lottery and crossing the first thing off on my bucket list, which is to travel to the Nyungwe Forest in Africa to play with chimpanzees!

Emma Engelland is a freshman on the Pepperdine women's track team. Although she doesn't have a very long running history and it's her first year of running track at the college level, she's had an incredibly strong start and set the school record in the 100-meter hurdles. She reflects on her first season as well as her goals going forward.


Emma  Engelland

Q: So you set a school record in your first season here at Pepperdine! How does having that achievement so early on feel for you?


A: It is such an honor to be able to contribute to the team in a way such as this. It is very rewarding and validating to achieve big goals, but ultimately it is a reminder of how well I am coached and supported.  My coaches have put so much energy and thought into my training and my teammates have kept me accountable and supported me every step of the way. I am extremely proud to be a part of this team and this amazing group of women.


Q: You initially set the record, but it wasn't allowed due to a wind-aided time, before you came back and set it officially. Was it disappointing running fast but not being able to set the record because of the technicality?


A: I remember running across the finish line, and I could tell it was going to be a fast time. I immediately looked up at my coach and she yelled down to me from the stands that I had gotten it, but it was wind-aided. In that moment, I was frustrated, but I knew that I couldn't control the wind. I controlled what I could, and there was no use dwelling on the rest. That race validated the training that I had been doing and made me excited to run again the next week.


Q: How did it feel to set the record that next week after losing out on the technicality the first week? Did it make the achievement more special or better?


A: After running my wind-aided time, I started researching online how much the wind improves times. Of course this was silly and unnecessary, but I was worried I wouldn't be able to PR again the next week. At UCLA a week later, when I crossed the finish line and saw my time, it was a pretty cool feeling. It felt good to claim the record for real just seven days later. Also I have to give a huge shout out to my teammates and coach for being so incredibly supportive at that meet. They made me feel so special and were so proud of me. Nothing's better than being recognized by those you look up to most. They are pretty incredible people.


Q: What is your background with running?


A: My path is different than most in that I actually haven't been running for very long. In middle school I did track for a couple years, but only ran my senior year of high school. I was blessed with great coaching for that year and quickly picked up hurdling, along with a passion for the sport. I am extremely humbled to have the opportunity to run in college. It was never part of the plan, but it has certainly become one of the biggest blessings in my life.


Q: What led you to choose to come to Pepperdine and run for Pepperdine?


A: I was interested in Pepperdine for many of the same reasons as many other students: the study abroad programs, the class and school size, the quality of education and the incredible professors. But I didn't make my decision until I stepped on the campus. I felt so safe and comfortable, and was just struck by its incredible beauty. Because I only ran my senior year, track was almost an after-thought, to be honest. When I applied, I didn't even know I was going to be running track in high school. Coach Rad was great though, and helped me to feel like despite my lack of experience, I could run here.


Q: Has it been an adjustment at all coming here to Pepperdine and running track now in college?


A: I have certainly grown and changed a lot this year, and it would be untruthful to say it has been a walk in the park, but I have absolutely loved my time here so far. I have found the transition to be fairly smooth, no doubt in part because of my team, who acts as my family here on campus. I love my busy schedule and practices and classes so it makes the constant activity worth it.


Q: How have you liked your teammates?


A: I cannot speak highly enough about this group of girls. This team is without a doubt the best group I have ever had the privilege of belonging to. These girls are so passionate about our sport, but also about school and each other. They are the type of girls that ask how you are doing, and stick around for the answer. I can never repay them for all the listening ears and advice and even the snarky comments they so frequently send my way. Truly, I am blown away by the way they live their lives and I am inspired by each one of them.


Q: How have you liked running for these coaches?


A: Both Coach Rad and Coach V have been incredibly supportive, but Coach V is our sprint coach, so I spend much more time with her. She is an amazing leader, teacher, athlete and coach. She is so transparent with us and while her expectations are very high, she never jeopardizes our well-being for our performance. She treats us so well and really takes the time to understand each of her athletes learning styles to be able to best serve them. It is an honor to train under her.


Q: What are your goals going forward?


A: One thing Coach V always reminds me to do is to have fun. I often become so focused that I forget to enjoy the incredible sport I get to do every day. I am working towards being able to relax and enjoy my time here. I would love one last PR at the meet in Long Beach, but then my job is just to heal up and stay in shape over the summer.


Q: Is there anything else you want to say or reflect on as you go into your last meet this season?


A: I would just like to thank the seniors, Izzy, Gabby, Tori, and Kendall. From the bottom of my heart I want to thank you four for what you have done for this team and for instilling the pride you have in it in the underclassmen. You have been incredible leaders and role models, on and off the track. Thank you for showing me what it is to work so hard and have so much fun and love people so well. Each of you are going to make waves in the world and it has been such a privilege to get to walk with you this year. Thank you for entrusting your team to us. I promise we will take good care of it.

Treet Allison is a freshman on the men's track team but his youthful status hasn't stopped him from already setting a few school records (400, 800 and 1,500 meters) while determinedly looking toward the future and working hard to meet his goals. He shares how his time at Pepperdine has been so far and what has helped him to transition and do well:

Treet  Allison

Q: So you've come in and already set some records as a freshman! How does that feel?

A: It feels great to be able to come in freshman year and be able to compete with other guys that are working hard. The progress is showing and it makes me feel confident about what the future holds.

Q: Did you think you would come into your freshman year starting off so well or has it been kind of a surprise for you?

A: Honestly this season has been a complete surprise to me so far. You always want to put in your best work and trust the system, and this time the training has really paid off quickly in the season. Now it's just time to see where we can go from here.

Q: What have you focused on to help you to do so well?

A: I have really been focused on working hard during practice with my middle distance workout group. Even when our bodies and minds are feeling done, everyone helps each other focus on getting through. When it comes to racing I continue to try to convince myself that I can stick with the faster guys and try to see how far my body can hurt before it quits.

Q: Has the transition been different or difficult at all, running track in college?

A: The transition to college running was a big jump for me last semester in cross country, when I came into a completely different state, altitude/terrain and atmosphere of living on my own. When I came back from winter break I had a better idea of what I was in for and so track season's training started up much more smoothly.

Q: What are your goals or what are you focusing on as you move forward?

A: For this season I really want to start getting my 1,500 meter time further down to a more regionally competitive time so that in the future I will be able to represent Pepperdine at the higher end of competition. 

Q: So your older brother also was a good runner for Pepperdine. Is running something your family all enjoys?

A: Yeah, my brother Seth Allison was a runner for Pepperdine from 2007-2011 and was basically the trend-setter for running in my family. Once he started and excelled in it, it caught on to the next three brothers and we picked it up and "ran" with it.

Q: So what is your background with running?

A:  My background of running started off with being dragged to every track and cross country meet my brothers competed in when I was younger. I remember doing a 10-11 mile race with my dad when I was around five and from then on I've had a particular taste for distance racing. I was inspired by my older brothers' success and dedication to becoming better each mile through pushing themselves to the limit.

Q: What do you like about the coaches at Pepperdine and your team?

A: I absolutely love Coach Rad, he's always pushing and expecting more of us each day. It doesn't matter if you're having a good day or a bad day, he understands that performing, no matter what the world is throwing at you, is part of what makes people successful. He's understanding to a very personal level, but also a driving force to get things done. I also love my team. We are all really close and share a brotherhood together. We are each in each other's lives to help get through rough times and to help push each other when we can't do it ourselves.

Talya Holenstein is a freshman on the women's track team. Already in her career, she set the school's 400-meter record in just her second outdoor meet (since re-broken by Izzy Connell) and Holenstein was part of relay teams that set both the 4x100 and the 4x400 records. She reflects on what this was like for her and how her time with Pepperdine has been so far overall:

Talya  Holenstein

Q: You've set some records pretty early on in your career. How has that experience been for you?

A: I would definitely say that being a part of the relays and getting to break the school records in both of them has been the highlight of my season thus far. Breaking personal records is great, but there is something to be said for joining together with three other girls and getting to do it together. I was especially happy being able to contribute to this goal for two of our senior girls who have been wanting to break the relay records since they were freshmen. I'm glad I got to be a part of that with them.  

Q: What's it like as a freshman doing so well so early? Did you think you had a shot at school records when you came on?

A: Coming to Pepperdine, I knew that I would fit in well with the program and could have a shot at the school records during my time here. I've been really pleased with what I've been able to accomplish thus far, a lot of which stems from having strong upper-class runners who push me every day in practice and set the bar high.   

Q: What's your background with running?

A: Running and the sport of track and field have been a part of my entire life. Both of my parents ran in college. My mom was an 800 runner at UC Irvine and my dad a decathlete at Portland State University. So growing up, it was always a big part of our family, and I grew to love the sport as well. 

Q: What led you to come to Pepperdine?

A: I came to Pepperdine for several reasons, one of which was to live and train in warm weather for a change (I'm from Portland, Oregon). But besides the climate and location, I really appreciated the small community Pepperdine had to offer, which was something I was looking for in a college. 

Q: What do you like about the track team?

A: My favorite thing about our team is the crazy dynamic and atmosphere we have. We are definitely a team that jokes around a lot, meaning there is never a dull moment. When you spend so much time together it's important to keep things fun, and we do a really good job of that. 

Q: What are your goals and hopes for running, as you move forward?

A: Moving forward, my short-term goals are to just keep working my times down, especially in the 400. If I could get to a low 56 by the end of the season, that would be a really good start for me to work off of for the next three years. I also really hope to lower our school records in both of the relays before the season is up because I know we are capable, it's just a matter of all the working parts coming together. 

Q: What are your goals for school?

A: As of right now, I am an undecided major, so one of my goals is to figure out a career path during my time here. But in the meantime, I just hope to continue to get good grades and put in the effort at school as my main priority.

The Pepperdine women's track team competed in their first-ever indoor track meets last year. While all the indoor track meets up until now have been held at Northern Arizona, this Friday they'll be heading to Washington and the UW Invitational. Claudia Rodriguez, a captain of the women's track team, describes what the experience has been like, what she's looking forward to for the upcoming meet, and reflects on her senior year in general:

Claudia  Rodriguez

Q: Last year was the first time for indoor track. Now that it's the second time around, is it any different? 

A: It's definitely different this time around. Last year indoor was a new experience for pretty much all of us. We didn't know what to expect, but now coming back for the second time, we all had a better idea of how the meet was going to go. We all knew it was our first meet and we competed just three days after we came back from break, so we all just wanted to go into the meet, see where we were at, and have fun.

Q: At this point you've only run indoor at Northern Arizona, but since the next indoor meet is at Washington, are you excited about running indoor somewhere new?

A: I am so excited about running in Washington! Personally, I've never been to the Pacific Northwest, so this is going to be a fun experience. This is a very fast meet, so the competition will definitely push us to run some fast times.

Q: What are you looking forward to in general about the meet and what goals are you setting?

A: Like I said, this meet is fast. It's still early in the season, but I am hoping to run some good races in Seattle. This is a great opportunity to run against some amazing competition.

Q: What have you liked so far about running indoor?

A: Indoor is a great way to get the season started. It's a good indicator of where you are and helps you realize what needs to be done for outdoor in order to reach your goals. And traveling with the team is always a good time. We have a lot of fun together!

Q: What's it been like running for Pepperdine & running for coaches like Robert Radnoti and Venus Jewett?

A: I've learned a lot running for Pepperdine. Originally, I didn't plan on running in college, but now I can't imagine not running. My teammates are the best, and Coach Rad and Coach V work really hard to make us the best athletes and individuals we can be. I've had to sacrifice a lot for the team, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Running for Pepperdine has honestly been one of the greatest joys of my life.

Q: What has the whole Pepperdine experience been like for you? 

A: I'm not going to lie, it's been tough going to school so far away from home, but I've been afforded a lot of great opportunities here at Pepperdine. The chance to run here has been great, I'm getting a great education, and I feel confident that both my schooling and athletic training are going to serve me well in the future.

Q: So you also work in the athletics video production crew. What is that like and what do you enjoy about that? 

A: I love working in the athletics video production crew! I love all sports (even if I can't play them), so having a job where I get to be involved with the other sports is fun!

Q: What's your major and what are your plans for life post-Pepperdine? Is running involved in that future?

A: I'm an integrated marketing communications major and I am hoping to work in the music industry after graduation. I'll probably move back home to Nashville and try and find a job there. As of right now, running professionally isn't in the picture, but you never know. I'd love to help coach a team if at all possible. Regardless of it I'm running professionally or not, I hope to be able to stay active by running and lifting.

Cross country season is over and it's time to get ready for track. Cori Persinger and Katie O'Malley check in again with another blog entry about what the teams are up to around the Thanksgiving holiday:

Cori  Persinger

After racing at NCAA Regionals, the cross country team has taken a break this past week, which will continue into this Thanksgiving holiday. Well, a break from running that is. While it is important to give our bodies a break, stopping physical activity altogether can create problems. Some people (including me) need to take a few days, or maybe a week, off from anything remotely related to physical training in order to recoup mentally, which involves, among other things, not getting out of bed until class at 10 a.m.

Sam Maness says, "It's rejuvenating to my body and my inner being. It's given me a chance to understand what it's like to be a normal college student, studying late and not having to wake up before 6 a.m."

Going into the week of Thanksgiving, the second week since the end of the season, many of us will begin training again. Some will run every day. Possibly every other day. Others get creative, participating in physical activity that doesn't involve running, called "cross training." This includes swimming, biking, ellipticals, hiking, surfing (just Pepperdine things) and everything in between. It's a good time to mix up the workout routine, which has perhaps become too regular and complacent after months of being in-season.

Grateful for a time of rest, this amazing team and the coming track season. Happy Thanksgiving!

-- Cori Persinger

During the past couple of weeks, the track team has been doing our testing. From a timed mile, to short sprints and an all-out 45 second run, it has been a physically strenuous past couple of weeks. Not to mention the continually increasing weights and intensity in the weight room. However, we continue to bring energy and enthusiasm, remembering what we can control. We are now entering into our SPP training, and even in the upcoming vacations, it is essential that we continue to work hard and bring the same intensity even when we are by ourselves.

Coach V has been particularly impressed with seniors Izzy Connell and Gabrielle Ellis as their speed is exactly where she wants it to be.

This past Saturday, after our morning practice, the team got together for "Teamsgiving." We made pancakes, eggs and bacon and spent good quality time together as a team. We shared the many blessings and things we feel thankful for here at Pepperdine, the team being toward the top of everyone's list. We also got to bring Coach Rad's dog, Honey, with us while he worked in his office! It was an overall good, hard practice, with a rewarding and quality time after. Now we anxiously await time to go home for the holidays, agreeing that we are all very excited to see our families.

-- Katie O'Malley

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.

Cross Country Q&A: Lindsay Sheaffer

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Lindsay Sheaffer is a senior on the cross country and track teams, and has been one of the program's best runners for several years. Lindsay recently did an internship with HFF, a nationally recognized commercial real estate firm, and shares her experiences with us. She describes her responsibilities during the internship, as well as her aspirations for her team and herself during her last year at Pepperdine:
Lindsay  Sheaffer

Q: How does it feel to be a senior on the team?

A: It's kind of bittersweet. This is my eighth year doing cross country, so I am leaving a lot behind next year. It's also exciting. Running is an intense sport, so it will be nice to have a break in the coming year.

Q: You've always been one of our top runners. How does that play a factor in running for you?

A: It's interesting because in high school I was never the top runner. Coming into this role at Pepperdine is kind of a game to figure out how to be a team player and to be the top runner. It's exciting to lead the team in that way and to be a person that people can look up to. It also comes with a lot of responsibilities to stay on top of things.

Q: How did you prepare for your senior year?

A: I am still preparing just because it doesn't seem real that I am leaving yet. I've just prepared to put myself out there. In the summer, I tried to increase my mileage and it's been exciting to reach the new heights.

Q: As a senior, how has your role changed in the team?

A: This is my first year that I didn't have anyone directly older than I am to look up to. That's always been helpful. I've always had mentors and teammates that I looked up to, not just in running, but also in life general. It's been sad to see my mentors leave throughout the years. But also it's been helpful for me to have those mentors that helped me to be a better mentor to others.

Q: How do you help the youngsters on the team to reach the level you're at?

A: It's definitely a process. This year we have eight freshmen so it's been interesting to try to navigate. It's just all about the building blocks. Starting from the level that they are most comfortable with and where they came from in high school. Success might not pay off in this three-month season right now, but I am just hoping as I leave and as they progress in training that they will be able to exceed what I've done here.

Q: What is your strategy in persevering and motivating yourself to keep running?

A: I came into running with the perspective that it was a talent that I was given by God from the beginning. It's just a gift that I am using to glorify Him and to just be an example and a light to others. With that, it's not too hard to motivate myself to accomplish those goals. I like to set goals and exceed them.

Q: You had an interesting experience interning at a commercial real estate firm. Can you tell me more about what you did?

A: I interned at HFF, which is a commercial brokerage firm, in the summer. Throughout my time at Pepperdine, I've been trying to find out what I am into and finally got to a point last year that I decided I am really interested in being a commercial real estate agent. I come from a background familiar with commercial real estate, but never really wanted to go down that route just because I wanted to do my own thing. But I really found a love for it. This summer, HFF really heightened my interest and I had a great experience at a company that is nationally recognized. It's great to have it on my resume and to have those role models and resources that I can look up to.

Q: How did that internship influence your future aspirations?

A: I think it first started as just a trial run to see if it's something that I wanted to go into. It was really on and off when I first started. It was a challenging internship, so there were points where I thought that it wouldn't be a final result. When I came out of the internship, I was really pleased with how I grew and how my understanding of this industry grew so that I feel connected to the industry. I think it shaped my mindset moving forward.

Championship season begins Friday for the Pepperdine cross country teams with the WCC meet in San Diego, while the track teams continue to work out with an eye toward next semester. Freshmen Cori Persinger and Katie O'Malley provide their third entry in a series of updates:

Cori  Persinger

Cross Country:

Recovery runs. Less frequent morning weights. The penultimate (vocabulary courtesy of Coach Radnoti) speed workout. The end of the season is in sight.

This past week the cross country team has been tapering in eager anticipation of the WCC Championship meet. Tapering involves decreasing frequency and intensity of workouts in order to maximize a runner's energy and strength at a certain time. The heavy mileage and grueling workouts have been completed.

Preseason training started about 20 weeks ago, when the cross country team received their summer workout plan and began building weekly mileage. This summer mileage is the base training for the season.

Later on in the season, training evolves into more intense workouts, tearing down muscle so they build back stronger later on. Mile repeats. Lactate thresholds. Speed sessions. Long runs. Hills. All of these have been done in expectation of this coming meet. The hard work is over.

We will finish out this mild week of training and go into the Championship meet well-rested, prepared and strong. Not to build even more pressure, but all of the hard work has been done specifically to for this specific time; it is on Friday, October 28, that we will run as our strongest, fastest and toughest. It's an exciting time. It's a slightly nerve-wracking, stress-inducing time. Yet, it is a time when we will thrive.

Prayers for the cross country team for safe travels, good mentalities and healthy bodies going into the meet this Friday.

Track:

Last week was hot and we are right in the middle of the semester, which means midterms! Despite the hundred-degree weather and stress from school, we have been able to forget about it all and focus on what we are doing during the workouts. We are continually providing encouragement and support for each other. I personally was sick all week, but with the kind and reassuring words from my teammates, I powered through the workouts.

New members of the men's team joined us last week in the weight room and at Alumni Park. They enthusiastically learned the way that practice works and new motions in the weight room, even at 6 a.m. on Wednesday morning. In general, the weight room time has been very productive as we are continuing to learn hang cleans and the weight keeps going up.

As Coach DJ said on his post on Instagram, "Your attitude, effort, and according to this group, your smile, are the three things that you can control. These girls took full advantage of the moment and had a great session. I'm expecting big things from them!"

So while we cannot control the weather, midterms, illnesses -- or for sophomore Catie Barilla, your fan falling on your toe -- we do believe that we can control our attitude, effort and smile. That is what will lead us to success this season.

Freshmen Cori Persinger and Katie O'Malley provide their second installment of regular updates for the Pepperdine cross country and track teams:

Cori  Persinger

Cross Country:    

The cross country team raced at Santa Clara's Bronco Invitational on Saturday morning. It was a beautiful morning for a race. The high-stress, nervous atmosphere of race day was juxtaposed with the calm and crisp autumn air.  It was just cold enough for the team to break out our new Pepperdine cross country sweat pants, but not so cold that we desperately missed the sweat tops that have yet to arrive.

The colored leaves crunched beneath our feet, fallen from trees sitting on either side of the trail. Mountains rose in the background, and disappeared behind low-hanging clouds. There's something about the early morning before a race. The way the air hums with anticipation. The rhythmic movement of slow jogs and stretches, coaxing your muscles to life. The moments of eerie silence before the gun goes off. These parts of racing are some of my favorite -- they're definitely the least painful parts.

But what's most important is what happens from start to finish. Leading the men's team was sophomore Nick Heath, speedy as usual, who came in 12th place. He was followed by senior Ben Fox and freshman Treet Allison. The top finisher on the women's team was senior Lindsay Sheaffer. She was followed by sophomore Elise Froebe and freshmen Samantha Maness and Brianna Wilson, who each finished within five seconds of each other. Elise had an amazing race, in spite of the fact she is coming off of weeks of being sick with the Pepperdine plague, and ran a personal record in the 6k. Overall, it was a solid meet, aesthetically and competitively.

Track:

Two weeks ago, the other freshmen and myself started everyday practice with the team! Our first day was exciting and new as we learned the warm up, cool down and many other movements at Alumni Park, alongside a beautiful ocean view. During our Wednesday afternoon pool workout we exercised AND learned as Coach Rad made us guess some fun facts like, "Which state has only one school district?" (A: Hawaii). Thursday was our first day with Coach V who made us feel very welcomed and like important members of the team.

As for the weight room, we have been learning new movements like trap bar deadlift and power cleans. While the freshmen and I are a little bit timid (and awfully sore) we know that these movements take time to understand. The upperclassmen, on the other hand, are exuberant about these movements and also are great models for what we are supposed to be doing. Coach DJ even had senior Izzy Connell demonstrate a power clean to us.

This past Wednesday, we hit our 20-hour mark, also meaning that Coach Rad is now allowed to tweet us (@CoachRadnoti). We know that as the hours get longer, the training will get harder. But we look forward to what is to come with one common goal which is to get better.

Cross Country Q&A: Ben Fox

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Ben Fox is a senior on the Pepperdine cross country and track teams. He is one of the squad's top runners and has been a Scholar-Athlete all three years that he has completed at Pepperdine. Last summer, he interned at the Anschutz Medical School in Colorado. As a physics major who has great ambitions, he shares his secret to success in both academics and athletics with us:

Ben  Fox

Q: This is your senior year. Could you describe your experience with the team?

A: The start was rough, coming into a new team, new school. The transition was difficult, especially because our team didn't have many upperclassmen, so a lot of pressure was put on the freshman class. It was difficult for me, but as the season progressed we got better and better. The running was great. Now we are at this point where we are really excited about where we are headed.

Q: What do you love the most about running for Pepperdine?

A: We have great team chemistry. The team is formed by an amazing group of guys. We always do everything together, so it makes everything so much fun.

Q: As a student-athlete, how has the balance between academics and athletics been?

A: It has been pretty manageable. We have practice in the morning, and we just have to get up early. It also means that I get to start the day earlier than other people. Then I go to class after practice, and I have all afternoon to do homework and manage my time accordingly.

Q: You chose physics as a major. What do you like about the field of study?

A: I chose physics because it is a good stepping-stone for whatever you want to do after graduating from college. For me, some other science majors seemed to narrow the career paths, and I wanted the options to do either engineering or in the medical field.

Q: Last summer, you did an internship with a medical facility. Could you unpack for us what that internship entailed?

A: I worked for the Anschutz Medical School with the University of Colorado in Denver. I was working in the Nephrology Lab (kidneys), and we were looking at the effects of acute kidney injuries (AKI), which is decreased blood flow to kidney. We looked into the change in metabolites. We were analyzing hundreds of chemicals in blood, heart and lungs, and mapped them as they changed throughout this disease. We did the experiments with mice. We gave mice AKI by clamping their kidneys, we would then unclamp the kidneys, and we sew them back up. Then we gave some of those mice dialysis, some did not get dialysis, and others only received the surgery without having their kidneys clamped. After some allotted period of time, we looked at their organs, took their blood samples and took notes on changes in the metabolites. This experiment was to hopefully understand AKI with deeper knowledge. We are looking for earlier biomarkers for AKI, and what metabolites contribute to the disease. In the ICU, if you have AKI and got dialysis, then there is 50-60% mortality rate, which is pretty high.

Q: What was the biggest takeaway from the internship?

A: I haven't taken biochemistry yet, so it provided me a lot of knowledge about the subject. It was a great experience to learn biochemistry. My co-workers gave me a lot of insight to what I want to do after college. I got to work with MDs, PhDs, and many undergraduate students that I was inspired by.

Q: What are your goals after graduation? Are you still deciding between engineering and medical school?

A: I am still unsure of what I want to do. I think I want to take a year off, and work at a lab or engineering facility to see what I like better. From there, I will consider my options for graduate school or medical school. I really loved working in the lab, and I got to talk to a lot of different people. When I talked to my co-workers, they said some things about the challenge of being on the medical path. I am still back to where I was before, but at least now I know that I enjoy the lab setting as well as I do in the engineering field.

Cross Country Update: Sacramento Recap

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Cori Persinger and Katie O'Malley, freshmen on the cross country and/or track teams, check in after Saturday's Capital Cross Challenge in Sacramento with updates on both squads:

Cori  Persinger

This past weekend the Pepperdine men and women's cross country teams headed to Sacramento for the NCAA West Regional Preview meet. We travel by tour bus. Although the going is slow and the bathroom on board is something one would only use in the most dire of situations, we are thankful at least for the air conditioning -- a welcome change from the heat in most of our dorms this past week. On this long bus ride home, in between naps and movies, I had the opportunity to talk with some of Pepperdine's finest athletes about their mindset going into this meet.

It was an interesting race for the women's cross country team. The team is already young, with almost half the team being freshmen, and this weekend -- due to sickness and injury -- every single runner was a true freshman, excluding Megan Percy, our team captain and a redshirt freshman. The team was up against tough competition such as Arizona State and USC. Place-wise, our race was subpar. Last place. However, this sport is not all about place. All seven girls who ran raced their best times. Personal records (or PRs as we runners call them) all around the board. Many beat their 6k time from two weeks ago by over a minute. In light of that, I view this race as very successful.

Izabela Garcia-Arce said, "I feel optimistic about our potential. I feel like we did better packing up in this race, we're getting better and learning how to do it well."

The future focus for the women's team, specifically the freshman, is to push each other, and move up together in meets. 

Andrea Zumpano added some words of wisdom: "The most important factor for a team is a strong connection, because you don't race for yourself, you race for your teammates."

Coach Radnoti has advised the women's team to focus on running as a pack in the future. Packing is a strategy used by many cross country teams that involves running side by side with your teammates in one group. It enables teammates to feed off of each other's energy and keep up morale, as well as intimidate other teams.

Bri Wilson said: "I feel like it helps me, depending on the race. Sometimes I like to go out faster than everyone else and I have also felt that it slows me down. However, it helps me later on in the race to have confidence and to support my teammates and also to be supported by them."

Moving up the bus to the upperclassmen, I talked with junior Amanda Stark about what she sees in the team this season, and she said: "We have a good team dynamic and I'm excited to see what the future holds for us."

Senior Lindsay Sheaffer added, "I think it's been a really good progression for everyone, and it's been really cool to see everyone grow individually and as a team."

On the men's team, sophomore Nick Heath broke the school record for the 8K with a time of 24:06. Nick Blanchard and Ben Fox also broke the old school record with times of 24:35 and 24:47.

About the race, Heath said, "It's the best race I ever ran and I'm very happy with it. It may have gone out fast, but I think I handled myself well. I think our guys' team is heading in the right direction, we've seen a lot of improvement this year. I think it counts for everybody, this race was a breakthrough for most of us. If we keep up the hard work in training I think we can expect to do very well at WCCs."

Overall, it was a successful and speedy Saturday in Sacramento for the Pepperdine cross country team.

As for the track team, the women's sprinters are just getting started with our preseason training. We are intently focused on getting stronger for the season. The returning athletes have been in the weight room and running for three weeks now, while myself and the other freshmen have only been in the weight room. However, we are eagerly anticipating the start of running practices with the upperclassmen this coming Tuesday! With the whole year ahead of us, all the women are focused on the goal of improvement and getting stronger. Through dedication and teamwork, it is sure to be a great season. It will be interesting to see how the year plays out!

Track Update: Claudia Rodriguez

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Claudia Rodriguez, a junior sprinter on the Pepperdine women's track team, had a once-in-a-lifetime experience over the summer as she made a 500-plus mile walk across Spain. She wrote this essay about why she did it and what she got out of it:

Claudia  Rodriguez

This summer, I embarked on what would be the greatest journey of my life thus far. I travelled with 10 other Pepperdine students and two adults to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago, a 517-mile religious pilgrimage across Spain.

I was incredibly anxious for this trip for many reasons, the first and biggest reason being that I did not feel prepared to walk 500 miles. I am a sprinter; nothing in my athletic career thus far has prepared me to physically exert myself over any sort of long distance. So what provoked me to believe I could traverse Spain on foot and walk approximately 15 miles a day? I still don't really know the answer to that; I think I was just driven by the opportunity to be abroad for once in my life. Whatever the impetus, I am so thankful for it.

Some more anxiety came from the fact that I was about to travel abroad with 12 unfamiliar faces. Being an athlete, I have always tended to hang out with those involved in athletics. Nobody else on my trip was an athlete and I didn't know if I would fit in, or if anyone in the group would want to be my friend. Fortunately, I was wrong. The 10 students accompanying me on the trip are 10 of the greatest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with. I have always regarded my track team as my family at Pepperdine, but now I can say I have two families at school.

Upon arriving in Spain, we spent a week getting accustomed to the time and scenery change by staying in Madrid. What a way to be introduced to life abroad. Madrid is an incredible city with so much to offer. I found myself running through the city and discovering tons of beautiful parks. Each restaurant I ate at had incredible food - I didn't have a single bad meal while in Spain. The architecture and rich history of Madrid was just outstanding and truly gave life to the city. And the nightlife in Madrid was incredible, as well. I would highly encourage students (and adults) to spend time in Madrid.

After a wonderful week in Madrid, it was time to start walking. We took a bus to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France, where we would hike the Pyrenees Mountains and cross into Spain the next day. Over the next five weeks, I would have some of the best food I've ever had, meet some of the most interesting people I've ever known, be challenged like I never have been before, grow closer to and create an incredibly special bond with my group and discover way more about myself than I knew existed.

I guess I have two big takeaways from the trip. First, walking across a nation is incredibly hard. No amount of Division I athletics training can prepare you for what you're about to put your body through. Honestly, it truly hurts. But in this case, I had two options: I could stop and not get anywhere, or I could continue the walk and get physically and mentally stronger.

I apply this situation to athletics as well and how I want to go about achieving my goals as a student-athlete. Whenever practice gets hard, or I want to give up and quit, I must think of the repercussions: if I stop now, I'm not going to get anywhere; nothing will get accomplished and I won't get any better. I have to remind myself of the end goal. In Spain, it was reaching Santiago de Compostela. For athletics and track, it's getting faster, getting stronger, and being a better teammate.

The second thing I took away, and maybe the most important, would be that I can do anything. Literally anything. I walked across a nation! But I didn't need walking across Spain to teach me that. I thought I did, but I have known for a long time that if I want something badly enough, it can be achieved. As long as I continue to work hard and take the appropriate steps toward my goals, they will be accomplished.

This summer was by far the best of my life. I went to Spain not knowing what I would come out with. I was essentially purposeless, aside from the goal of completing the Camino. But I ended up with 10 of the best friends I could've ever asked for, a better perspective on how I want to live my life, and a strength I always knew existed but never really sought to utilize. The Camino challenged me in ways that I have never been challenged, and I am so thankful for that. It was the experience of a lifetime, and I will never forget it.

Nick Blanchard is one of Pepperdine's top runners, with his most recent accomplishments including setting the school record in the 1,500 meters during track season in the spring and being the second-best Wave at the recent home cross country meet. But he isn't only a disciplined leader in the athletic arena - he also recently established himself in the political arena as well. Nick recently interned for U.S. Representative Janice Hahn, where he quickly learned how much of what he's practiced and learned through his sport could transfer over to his job and aspirations in politics as well. He describes what he learned, how it crossed over to his sport and what he aspires toward for his future in both politics and running:

Nick  Blanchard

Q: You have done really well in your career with running for Pepperdine so far. What motivates you, and what goals are you setting for yourself this year?

A: What motivates me is my passion for running and competition. Since I was born, I have always been a competitor just striving and working hard to be the best athlete I could be. And I am very excited for this cross country season. More than anything, I want our team to have great performances at WCCs and NCAA Regionals. That means it is my job to mix it up with the best guys in our conference and region, and that is what I am preparing to do every day in practice and in these early season meets.

Q: What advice do you give to your teammates and what advice do you have in general for success in running?

A: The most important advice I would give to my teammates or any runner is not to lose focus on recovery, stretching and mobility work. When I was younger, I figured that as long as I could run fast, that "other stuff" was nice to do, but not very important. I ended up getting a really bad knee injury after my freshman track season at Pepperdine. I missed six months of training, which forced me to redshirt the next cross country season. This injury could have been prevented had I taken the time to do the mobility work that would have improved my biomechanics. Since then, I have put more effort into my stretching and mobility work, and this has not only made me more durable, but has also improved my speed and endurance.

Q: Aside from your success with running for Pepperdine, you interned this past summer with U.S. Representative Janice Hahn. How did this come about?

A: Last fall, I was thinking about trying an internship in DC for the summer, to help me get some ideas of what I want to do with my life after college. I have always had an interest in politics -- I'm a political science major -- so my parents, friends and I thought it would be a good idea. It was actually President Benton, though, that recommended I apply for an internship with Congresswoman Hahn. He said she is a fan of Pepperdine, and that she would be a great person to work for. From there I applied, and then they offered me an internship. My only hesitation in taking the internship was the concern I had about whether the job would negatively impact my summer training. Once I figured out I would be able to train just as hard, I accepted the internship. Not only was the internship great, but I had one of my best summers of running in DC!

Q: What did you do during this internship?

A: The best part of the internship was the wide variety of tasks I had as an intern. I assisted both our office's Legislative Director (LD) and Legislative Assistants (LA) with various legislative tasks. I researched amendments to bills and deliberated with them on whether or not we should support the amendments. I also helped the LD or LAs prepare for key hearings regarding transportation, or small business. I also gave tours of the U.S. Capitol building to constituents. I especially liked giving tours because I enjoyed getting to know the people I gave the tours to. I also drafted constituent letters, drafted a press release, worked on social media and fulfilled various administrative tasks in the office. Since I started work before the rest of the other summer interns, I was responsible for training and helping the new interns as they came in. The Chief of Staff of our office called me the "senior intern." Being able to be a leader, even as an intern, was a confidence booster and extremely fulfilling.

Q: What did you learn from having this internship? Was it rewarding?

A: One major thing I learned was that working in politics means you have to go out of your comfort zone. One day I was asked by the Communication Director to call a constituent, and ask them about how their nephew was shot and killed in Los Angeles, and to ask if they would be willing to do a television interview about it with the Congresswoman. I had no idea how this phone call about something so emotional would go. I made the call, and we had a very powerful conversation, and it went really well. Talking about it made the constituent actually feel better, because it showed someone cared about them. Afterwards, the Chief of Staff, who could hear me from her desk, was impressed and congratulated me on the phone call, and said I did really well. It is rewarding to know that I have the ability to have the tough conversations. I also was honored that the staff in our office was willing to give me these kind of tasks that typically are not assigned to interns.

Q: Are you interested in having a political future? If so, what kind/what are your goals?

A: I really enjoyed working in Congress, and I am certainly interested in a career where I can serve my community and help make it a better place. I am not really sure what that looks like at this point, but I trust in God's plan, wherever that may take me.

Q: What about politics interests and motivates you?

A: Politics are motivating because at the Capitol, we were working on, discussing, and debating policies that impact Americans and people across the globe. As each bill or hearing came up, I thought of my family, friends, teammates, classmates, and neighbors, and I thought about whether or not it was in their best interest. When the safety and prosperity of your country and community is the subject matter, it is pretty easy to stay motivated.

Q: Is there anything you learned from this internship and from being interested in politics at all that overlaps with your sport or athleticism in general?

A: This summer, I learned that my athletic career at Pepperdine impacted my ability to succeed in my job. As a captain, Coach Radnoti demands that I live a highly disciplined life. So when it came to working in D.C., I was the first person to arrive at the office, and I would work until my boss would literally kick me out. Every single task I had in the office, even the menial ones, I was sure to give my best effort, and that helped me gain respect from the staff in our office. I also learned that I love both politics and athletics. At one event, I was talking with Minor League Baseball regional commissioners and owners with our office's Legislative Assistant about upcoming legislation that will have an impact on Minor League Baseball. So that showed one of the many examples of how there are career avenues that can combine my love for politics and running or sports in general, which is exciting!

Q: Do you plan on continuing to intern/work in politics this year? Or are you currently involved in any political type of clubs or work?

A: I have been fortunate to serve my cross country and track team as a Waves Leadership Council/SAAC representative for the past two years. With this position, I was able to work with my teammates and the organization to expand the men's track roster, which took effect in 2016. As far as after graduation, I would love to take a full-time job in a congressional office or another similar political job. In addition, I am looking into applying to Graduate or Law School. I am also considering making a career out of running. I would love to coach at the collegiate or high school level, or be involved in another running-related business. I am still in the process of trying to decide.