MSU Track Quotes: Week 3

MSU Track Quotes: Week 3

Provided by MSU

Feb. 2, 2012

EAST LANSING, MICH. - caught up with the coaches and the notable performers from last weekend's meet at Indiana.

Walt Drenth - Director of Track & Field

On what surprised him the most from last week’s meet at Indiana:

“We are not a surprise sport. You see things in practice and the more you see things in practice - the more you expect certain results. I think for us, as track and field coaches, we see what kids are capable of before they realize it and I think in almost every performance this past weekend we saw signs of it practice. We have spent the last three or four weeks trying to convince some of the kids to come out of their comfort zone in competition like they are in training – and that’s the only way they are going to see results.”

On preparing his team for the highly-energetic atmosphere of the Meyo Invitational:

“There should be no need to be motivate. Trying to amp someone up any further would be a mistake. What we try to do is get them calm and get them to manage their environment like they manage it in practice. We are pretty detailed-oriented in terms of pre-practice warm-ups and routines and we are teaching those routines so that when we get to competition they are able to benefit from them. They have a comfort level from when they walk into the building, how they interact with trainers, how they stretch, to how they warm up. I think that’s really critical - so that’s what we are going to focus on more than anything else. I think it’s also critical that they manage themselves when they get into competition. The biggest mistake athletes make is worrying about things they can’t control.”

On whether or not the team has responded to his request of “compete for the team – not the individual”:

“When you start looking at how we are performing in competition, both groups are starting to get a sense of their capacity when it comes to a championship meet. I think they start coming outside of themselves a little bit and realizing “if we perform THIS way right now, we have the chance to do THIS as a group at the championships”. It’s been really evident with the women right now because they are excited and getting very good at every event. From a team standpoint – they feel they can be competitive if they continue to move forward between now and the conference meet."

Randy Gillon – Assistant Coach (sprints)

On the school-record Indoor 4x400:

“It was a great achievement by those four young women. They did a tremendous job in their preparation and in the manner in which they competed. What I saw out there was a group of inspired young women who were very determined to win and it was just fortunate that it resulted in the school record – a record that hasn’t been broken for nearly 30 years. To do something that hasn’t been done in a very long time is special.”

On refining the innate ability of his sprinters:

“It really boils down to work ethic. People like to say speed is in the DNA. With the exception of a couple of our athletes, some of the girls didn’t come in here with state-leading or regional-leading times. They just worked really, really hard. If you possess a great deal of work ethic, dedication, and commitment - you can definitely improve in speed. Jaelynn Pryor came in as a walk on. Alicia Evans is a walk-on. Those two young women came in and embraced the plan, embraced the work, and now are reaping the benefits. Brittany Lewis and Amelia Bannister are two very talented athletes, but they also have that same work ethic.”

On what he expects from his sprinters each week:

“What I’ve asked them to do this season is just get better. “Better” is a really general definition because we’ve gotten better even though the clock doesn’t say so. I’ve seen some of my athletes improve in just a portion of the race and I’ve seen improvement in race preparation. We just try find ways to improve week in, week out. At the same time, it keeps us humble and gives us something to shoot for. We expect to get better next weekend and the weekend after that.”

On last week’s performances of freshmen Brittany Lewis and Alicia Evans:

“We were able to recruit some quality young women and they’ve bought in to what we are trying to do here at Michigan State. They have great talent and a natural gift. With Jellisa Westney and TeJuanna Williams, we have a stellar team of young women that have been determined and have put in the effort since the season began. They’ve made the freshmen mistakes and have gone through those freshmen challenges but they’ve come in and have worked hard and have took to the coaching and the result has shown. They have just been all in. We’ve seen Brittany break records. We’ve seen Alicia make tremendous strides and make great contributions to the program. They’ve been great kids to work with.”

On DeVantré Whitelow:

“He’s a young man who’s been very humble and he came to Michigan State being very new to track and field. His heart was in basketball but he has done things in short order on the track. I’ve been smarter as a coach and tried not to push too hard – and as a result – he’s been seeing tremendous improvements. His high school PR might have been 6.98 in the 60-meter dash and now it’s 6.80. He’s just a quality person poised to do great things and be a major player in the Big Ten. He’s a tremendous asset to this program. Like the other freshmen, we’re very fortunate to have him and he makes my job very easy.”

On the leadership of Leslie Aririguzo:

“Leslie has been solid year in, year out. She’s been a major player in the Big Ten and in the 60 and 100-meter hurdles. She’s been a solid performer, someone you can lean on and rely on. Leslie has garnered the attention of the younger athletes and has been able to lead and motivate them - but the success we’ve had to date isn’t attributed to one person - it’s really been a team effort. Everyone from Taylor Wichtner, to Allie Fox, to Brittany Lewis – they’ve had a role to play in making this team what it is.”

Lisa Senakiewich – Assistant Coach (Distance)

On the recent performances of Katie Haines (5000m), Melanie Brender (3000m), and Sara Kroll (1 mile):

“With Sara Kroll at Notre Dame, it was our first meet with most of our distance runners. She did a great job and ran a PR. She’s been really excited about running the mile and she’s going to have a couple more opportunities to run it. I could tell she wanted to win the race. She went up to the front and really didn’t let up at all. This past weekend we competed at the Indiana Relays and Katie Haines was put into a competitive environment and did well. In meets prior to the Big Ten Conference meet, it’s all about just getting used to competing again. Coming off a very successful cross country season with down time, rebuilding in the winter, some workouts during winter break, even these earlier meets, it just takes time for everything to come together. Melanie Brender obviously had a fantastic race this past weekend and it was a huge PR for her. A couple weeks ago she had a PR, and then she PR’d again with her first collegiate win. Last year during the spring she had some issues with low iron but she’s come back and she’s running really well.”

On her personal success in cross country and track (ed. note, Senakiewich was an All-American at Michigan State in both sports.) and the insight she gives to her distance runners:

“I bring the perspective of what it’s like to compete at that level but we have women on the team who have done great things and they can mentor the younger women through it. Sometimes they need help managing the emotions of being a fifth-year senior and competing in your final indoor and outdoor seasons. From a recruiting standpoint, I think it helps with the perspective of what to look for in a high school athlete and how they will transition into college running."

On the success of the cross country team and whether or not there have been any challenges leading into the track season:

“After winning the Big Ten in cross country, they were still able to perform well at regionals and nationals. In the previous year, it just felt like they had something to live up to after winning. This year, it was a lot more fun - so my hope right now is that we don’t see ourselves as champions in Cross Country and having to be champions on the track. We are starting a new season. We know when we want them to run well and that is at the conference meet. In terms of the women, this is the most competitive team we’ve had. Our 4x400 relay team is an example of this. I remember being at conference meets when the team was splitting 60-second quarters (400 meters). Now, we have people like Alysson Bodenbach splitting 53 seconds and that’s just amazing. Coach Drenth always says “you know you have a solid track & field team when you have a competitive 4x400 relay team” and I absolutely believe that. I think we have people who can score in every event on the women’s side and it’s pretty exciting.”

On how to separate the team mentality in cross country from the individual mentality of track and field:

“I think for some people it’s hard to get that team concept - but once you buy into it in cross country you also buy into it on the track. With people who focus on track, you also need buy into it in the fall when you are doing a majority of your training. To me, it has to be for your team and that should be your motivation. It’s just as easy to be thinking about points for your team in track as it is in cross country because that’s what is going to have you place in meets and have you strive to win conference titles. I think the men and women understand that but for some reason it’s harder to conceptualize that on the track than it is in cross country. I think that once people start to move towards that – things will continue to get better.”

Melanie Brender - 1st in 3000m (RS Fr., Sterling Heights, Mich./Utica Stevenson)

On her 3000m victory:

“I was expecting to be running with my teammates, so when they split us into different heats I had to warm up by myself. I got to the race and just did my warm up and I got to the line. I just kept telling myself that I had to represent my school. I really tried to get out with even splits. I would look at the clock and that would keep me comfortable. I didn’t think I could lead. Basically, I have this mental block about leading. Coach got me past that after a couple laps and then told me I had to go. Once I was in front at the bell lap – it was just time.”

On when she knew she had the race won:

“There were these two girls - one from Missouri State and one from South Florida – and they were one and two the entire time. I started out in the back because the field went out a little quick. I just kept gradually moving up until I was with the leaders. This was my first travel race and I was running by myself in the heat. I don’t like leading but Coach Drenth made it pretty clear to take that chance and to try and lead near the end – I had to trust him.”

On her strength in distance races:

“I’ve never been a notable kicker so I try to hit my splits and try to just pace it out because I can’t make up for it in the end. I have to make up for in the laps before the final lap.”

On the differences of being coached in high school by Kevin Hanson (of the elite Hanson-Brooks Project) and Walt Drenth:

“One of the things that coach Drenth stresses a lot is the idea of team. Coming to Michigan State, I got a better sense of this because there are so many of us. With Kevin Hanson, I got exposed to two very different levels of running – high school and elite running. I’ve met his elites and ran portions of workouts with them. Coach Drenth fills in the blanks. This is the collegiate level – a giant transition point. Kevin prepared me with some perspective, but Coach Drenth has given me the insight and knowledge that goes into training at my highest level.”

Leslie Aririguzo - 1st in 60m hurdles at GVSU and the Notre Dame Invite (Sr., West Bloomfield, Mich./West Bloomfield)

On this season’s races at Notre Dame and Grand Valley:

“For the start of the season, I thought they went pretty well. My coach (Randy Gillon) and I are still trying to work on my technique and improve my times. So far, I’ve seen improvement and I hope to see more improvement as we go into the Big Ten meet.”

On her preferred event (hurdles or sprints):

“I started off as a sprinter, but my heart is with the hurdles. My coach is a little biased because he was a hurdler in his collegiate years at Illinois. We prefer hurdling and I really like it because it’s kind of like an obstacle course and you never know what is going to happen. It’s really a sprint – the task is making it over the obstacles the quickest.

On her racing style:

“I know I always like to have a strong start but my technique tends to improve itself as the race unfolds. The second half is definitely the better part of my race.”

On rising to the competition, her experience (Aririguzo attended Virginia Tech at the beginning of her career), and what she brings to the underclassmen:

“Being at two different schools and having few years under my belt, I’ve pretty much seen it all. With freshmen, sometimes they’ll be nervous and or they’ll be upset about the race afterwards but I’ve learned that in track and field you really need to have a short memory. If you have one bad race you might have three more rounds of bad racing. You just need to erase with happened, reboot, recharge and keep going. Track is really a marathon – you’re just trying to get to the end, perform at your potential, and reach your goal. I tell the underclassmen to stay calm and have confidence. Confidence is what sets you apart from the rest. It’s kind of like a self-fulfilling prophecy: If you don’t have confidence in yourself, you’re going to be lackadaisical and then already have that strike against you. You need to have the full advantage mentally – and I believe that track is 80% mental. If you have the mental part down, the rest will take care of itself.”

On staying sharp throughout her career:

“My motto has been “Reject Complacency”. I know a lot of people tend to get a certain point where they feel they can continue to do the same thing over and over again and be fine. It is almost the definition of insanity: “Keep doing the same thing while expecting different results”. You really have to keep changing and re-tweaking things in your training if you want to get better."