Sophomore Chidi Uche finished with a personal-best time of 8.58 in the 60m hurdles last Saturday at the Armory to claim the program's third-fastest time in the event. Uche now trails just teammate Ayla Smith (8.39 - 2009) and Kim Turko (8.55 - 2001) in the event. Uche recently checked in with VirginiaSports.com to talk about her transition with coach Adrian Wheatley, what it's like to train without Ayla Smith and Kristina Chapman and some of her expectations in the hurdle events.
The Cavaliers are off this weekend to complete preparations for next week's ACC Indoor Track and Field Championships. The conference meet will be held at Virginia Tech's Rector Field House in Blacksburg, Va., on Feb. 25-27.
Question: You've had a successful start to the season, already running a personal-best in the hurdles and one of the program's fastest times. Would you contribute your improved times to your off season training or your excitement to be back on the track competing?
Uche: I would definitely have to contribute my new personal records to hard work not as much to the postseason, but more to my preseason training. I've had a really positive and productive fall training regime and I knew this year could be really successful for me. My coach and I decided that everyday needed to be my best training session, to stay focused and go hard the entire practice. Of course excitement and nerves always has a little to do with it.
Question: Last season, you had to go through the transition of learning a new coach's philosophy and training style in Coach Wheatley. How did that transition go and how has it been to have him around again this year?
Uche: It's always interesting getting to know a new coach and try to update him with your expectations. But Coach Wheatley has always been supportive and open to all of our team. My first outdoor season was very good, especially in the long hurdles, and I attribute my success to his training.
Question: As a hurdler himself, have you been able to pick up any tips from him that has helped your performances?
Uche: Coach Wheatley I'm sure would love to live his glory days through us but he is really good about not living vicariously through us. Being a good coach, though, is always to give your athletes points and advice on how to be better on the track and his experience in the long hurdles helps.
Question: You were one of three UVa hurdlers last season and now you're the only one. What has it been like to train and compete without an accomplished athlete such as Ayla Smith - who's redshirting this season?
Uche: Oh my gosh, it has been torture! We balance each other perfectly in training and competition. She's a worrywart and I'm chill Chidi at track meets. Competition has been a little lonely without her, but you have to adjust. I have to admit I am motivated to get better while she's gone, but only so we can take the ACC down together next year.
I would also like to shout out to Kristina [Chapman], my best friend. She has been handicapped with a sprained ankle and I miss her too. I can't wait until they both get back.
Question: In a conference as strong in the hurdles as the ACC is, what are some of your personal goals in the event?
Uche: I am 100 percent committed to working to be the best hurdler I can be. I know that is all my coaches expect of me. My personal goals also involve sending a lot of ACC girls home sorry.
Question: Between all of the different hurdle events, do you have a favorite?
Uche: The 100 meter hurdles. Quick and painless!
Question: Are there different training styles that go into mastering each? If so, what are some of the differences?
Uche: The 400 meter hurdling is all about endurance, while short hurdling is all about technique.
Question: If you could master any other event on the track or in the field, what would you want it to be?
Uche: I would love to master a field event like the long jump, but I don't like sand so I don't know how that would go. I will say that high jump can rest in peace, we had a difficult encounter last season in the pentathlon.
Question: What is the best part of being a part of, competing for and/or traveling with a track and field team?
Uche: We are a family! Simple.