bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the two teams' performance this past weekend at the Mountain Regionals?
Meaghan Harkins: I think we were pleased overall with the results. The men's 12th place finish, we would have liked to have improved on that, 12th is the highest we've ever finished, tied with last year. Ultimately it wasn't in the cards, we had a few people banged up after the WAC meet. On the women's side obviously the highlight of the day being Courtney's performance. Her sister also had her best performance at the regional meet. We had a few outstanding individual performances but we definitely didn't come together the way we would have hoped as far as the teams are concerned.
bc.net: Courtney's 8th place finish was the highest finish ever for an Aggie at the Mountain Regional and her NCAA Championship appearance will be only the second ever by an Aggie.
MH: Courtney has been working to get to the NCAA Championships since her first year at New Mexico State and she went out with a mission, she put herself with that lead pack right off the bat from the gun and she did what she needed to do. There was never a doubt in her mind that she was going to make it this year and she did everything she needed to do to ensure that happened. She was tough as anything and ran a very very smart race and we're looking forward to being there in Terre Haute.
bc.net: What are Courtney's goals for the meet and what are your goals for her for the meet?
MH: If all things are equal and all regions are equal and if her 8th place finish at the Mountain meet is comparable to an 8th place finish everywhere within all the regions then you've got to think that she can be Top 72 at least at nationals. I think the Mountain region is a little bit tougher than that and I think a realistic goal is probably top 60. Top 40 is All-American and I know she'll have that in the back of her mind as she goes out.
bc.net: You were out there at the course at Pre-Nationals earlier this year, what kind of advantage is that for Courtney?
MH: This is going to be the third time that she's run at Terre Haute so she's going to know the course very well. That's always a confidence booster going in, knowing where you can make those big moves. She's run in big races on this field before so she's familiar with it. It's helpful, it's not the be-all end-all by any means but she's going to know what to expect going into a big pressure situation going like the national championship is, that's going to help a little bit keeping her relaxed and focused.
bc.net: What kind of strategy will she have going out in this meet and will it differ from the strategy she had earlier in the year at this course?
MH: Obviously this meet is going to be the most competitive meet she's run in all year. However, she's run in some very competitive meets this year and in the past and so the goal is to go out and be competitive. She's been running great all year so there's not really any reason to make drastic changes as we move into the national championships so we're just going to keep doing what we've been doing. Keep running at or about the same paces and keep being successful hopefully.
bc.net: Overall for the season for both the men and the women, what are some things that you were pleased with this year as far as progress and individual performances?
MH: On the men's side I think it was a really solid year. I was happy overall with the way the men progressed. I was extremely happy with their performance at the WAC Championships. There's so many guys who had an outstanding season and who just worked their butts off for us this year. Going back from the Regional meet, Kevin Palmer finished in 36th place and that's the highest we've ever had anyone finish from the men's team at least in the time that I've been here. That was outstanding for him. Jonah in 45th had his highest finish ever and Jonah leading the team pretty much the entire year. Jonah had a breakthrough year which I was really excited to see, really happy to see all his hard work paying off. Rob Selph is another one who ran strong for us all year. He didn't have a great day for us at Regionals unfortunately but take nothing away from everything he put in this season, he was in our top five pretty much every race we ran, especially at the WAC Championships. He was one of those that literally gave everything he had. Victor Sanchez as well as Kevin Taft are two seniors, they just totally took their dedication to a new level this year and it showed going out and really helping us out this year in terms of their consistency. I always knew I could count on Victor. I always knew I could count on Kevin. Unfortunately Kevin got really sick after the WAC Championships and so he didn't have his best day at Regionals which is pretty unfortunate because he was really ready to run a really strong 10K before he got sick. He missed a week of practice before he went into Regionals so there's not too much we could do about that. Terry Williams is another one, another consistent one. We could count on him every time we went out there. He did a fantastic job for us all year, progressed every time he stepped on the line and really came through when it counted for us. Ian Ruybalid, I know I can always count on Ian. He's one of the most competitive guys I've ever met and I always know every time he toes the line he's going to give me everything he's got, regardless of whether it's some podunk dual meet or if it's the national championships. Literally wherever we're running he's giving it everything. I was just very, very happy this year with the men's team and their dedication and their focus and I hope that going into next year they continue to build on that and we'll be looking for that WAC Championship again next year.
Obviously Courtney and Camille are our team leaders. Every year they've progressed, they've gotten better and better and it's because every year they've upped the ante in terms of their dedication, in terms of their mileage, in terms of their work ethic. Obviously a fantastic job for us. Courtney, her season is not over yet and we have a lot to look forward to a week from today at the national championship. Chelsa McDonnell and Tamara Lementino were either third or fourth for us pretty much all year, definitely through the latter part of our season. They did a great job of training together, working hard together. Maddie Stoltze who finally had one of her better races for us at the regional meet this year, she's a senior, she's going out with a bang. I was happy to see her bust out a little bit and run a good race at regionals and end her career on a high note. Sammy Hamilton, the last two races didn't go as well as we might have hoped but she made some huge strides this past year in terms of the pre-championship season and so I know she'll continue to progress as we move forward. Rylie Hightower, unbelievable. If anyone had told me Rylie Hightower was going to be a part of our regional traveling team at this time last year, I never would have believed them. Her improvement is nothing short of shocking. I'd say that if I didn't know how much work she's put into getting where she is. She's worked her butt off. To an outsider it looks unbelievable but she's put the work into get where she is and I know there's even better things to come from Rylie down the road. She's just a sophomore and I know she's got a lot more.
bc.net: In terms of heading into the cross country season, you've had some strong performances out of your younger group of girls, Tamara Lementino and Rylie Hightower. Those are a couple of the kids who are going to be keys for the team going forward with the Schultz sisters being seniors next year. What does the future look like for both of the teams?
MH: I think the future is bright. Every year in terms of performances on the men's and the women's side we are improving. We haven't yet been able to repeat that 2009 WAC championship but it isn't for lack of talent, it isn't for lack of hard work. We're right there, we're knocking on the door of another championship. I think it's within our reach and it's obviously what our men's and women's teams are going to continue striving for. That's the pinnacle of our season. I certainly wouldn't discount them next year. We're going to come back stronger than ever on both sides which we always do.
bc.net: For the Tamara Lementino and Rylie Hightower, how beneficial has it been to have a couple of runners like the Schultz sisters who can set a great example for the younger girls in terms of continual improvement and hard work?
MH: The Schultz twins, they work exceedingly hard but so do all of the girls on the team. I think the entire does a good job of holding each other accountable. Not so much calling each other out saying, "You're not doing this, you're not doing that," but just that ensuring that everybody is doing what they need to be doing to be the most successful they can be. I think the thing that the Schultz sisters probably bring and the thing that the younger kids can learn most from the Schultz twins is toughness. The twins don't have an off day, they don't have a mental breakdown and that is probably the most important component of racing at the Division I level. If you're going to continue progressing, if you're going to be successful throughout your college career, mental toughness is probably the most important component in addition to consistent training. I think just having some girls on the team who are a rock in terms of being able to put out their best performance every time they toe the line, I think that speaks volumes to our younger kids if they want to be up there with the Schultz sisters at any point in their college careers.