Stephanie Garcia is an experienced runner who is leading a young cross country squad to the Pre-NCAA meet in Terre Haute, Ind., this weekend. The women’s squad is recovering from last year’s injury plagued season, but Garcia has finished in the top four of both of the Cavaliers’ races this year. The squad will face 23 ranked teams at this weekend’s annual competition, with races beginning at 11 a.m. at the LeVern Gibson Course.
Questions: The women have had a strong start to the season, winning the first two meets. With such a young squad, how does it feel to be so successful so early in the season?
Garcia: We are really going to surprise a lot of people who have written us off as a mediocre team. We may be young, but we have a lot of passion and are really excited to move forward as a group. Out of my three years at Virginia, this team may be the most cohesive group I’ve been a part of and there is no doubt that we are going to use the momentum we’ve built over the past few months to race our way to the top in the nation.Question: You have a big competition coming up, at Pre-NCAAs. You’ve run in the meet before, so you’re familiar with the environment and the course, how will you use your prior experience to your advantage?
Garcia: It may sound silly, but I don’t think I’ll be as scared this year as I was in the past. Confidence is key to a good cross country race and through my experience on the track at a national level, the coaching I’m receiving, and the team atmosphere, I think I’ll have the confidence to trust in my training and know when to be patient on the course and when to start rolling. Pre-nationals may be a tremendous race as far as numbers and talent, but it is nothing compared to the hills at Panorama.Question: How have you helped prepare some of the younger runners for this big meet?
Garcia: I’ve just really tried to get them excited and help them realize how much of an impact they have on the team. We have some amazing young runners who can race up there with the best in the nation and I’ve just tried my best to instill that kind of fearlessness in them and let them know that if they can race well at our home course, they’ll have no problem doing well on Indiana’s flat fields.Question: Following pre-nationals, what will be your focus? How will you train for the ACC Championships?
Garcia: Personally, I’ll just continue to have steady mileage and work hard, both in my workouts and my everyday runs. Some of the new training we’re doing is helping me to be more fit all around and by the time ACCs rolls around, I think I’ll be in even better shape. As a team, we’ll just continue to work together and inspire each other. It’s important that we are all able to race together as a unit at ACCs, rather than as individual runners, and we’ll continue to hone that mindset over the next few weeks. Question: A couple of weeks ago, you were able to be the sideline reporter for ESPNU at the Virginia-Maryland football game. Not many people are ever presented with that opportunity, what was it like? Is it something you’d like to do again? What was the hardest part of the whole experience?
Garcia: It was an amazing opportunity, both to be a part of ESPNU and to be on the sideline of an awesome game. The other passion in my life, besides running, is journalism, and I feel so fortunate to have had such an opportunity to experience this aspect of it. It was tough to keep calm and not stumble when I was on air, because it was live and once you say something, you absolutely cannot take it back. I’ve never done anything like it before, but it was the most fun I’ve had at a game and I hope I do get to do it again, even though I did get hit by a football during Maryland’s warm-up.