Mandi Zemba - Former GVSU Standout

Mandi Zemba - Former GVSU Standout

Mandi Zemba - Former GVSU Standout


Mandi Zemba dominated the NCAA Division II national xc and track scene her senior year. After winning the 5,000 and 3,000 meter runs (a meet record no less in the 3000), Mandi packed up her bags and headed out Team USA Minnesota. After an up and down year, she has made the decision to train back where she is more comfortable and to try and find that balance she had a year ago.
RM: You are now back in Allendale training under your college coach, Jerry Baltes. What were some of the reasons why you came back to your old stomping grounds?

I don't have any regrets moving to Minnesota to train with Team USA Minnesota because now I have no doubts that this is where I want to train and I am a lot happier now that I figured that out. I loved training with the girls in Minnesota, but I found that I like training by myself most of the time and I think mentally it was hard for me to not want to do the same pace in workouts as the other girls such as Katie McGregor. I think my mentality now is more focused on myself and how my running is progressing instead of everybody else. Also, I realized no one knows me and no one will know me better as a runner than Jerry and that makes things a lot easier as well as providing a comfort level. My husband, Brian, and I decided we all liked living in the Grand Rapids area so it was an easy choice; and there's is now a 300M indoor track at Grand Valley that will be really nice this winter.

RM: Having such a great year, your senior year of college was fun to follow. What were some of the main factors that kept you from having a similar type year this past 12 months?

MZ: As I look back on the past year, I have noticed a lot of training mistakes that I have made, but the good news is I am only 25 and I have learned a lot from this past year that will hopefully allow me to keep getting better. There was a lot of mental and physical burnout that certainly made it tough to have good races. Looking back at my log I can pretty much pin point the exact week where things started going downhill, but instead of taking a short break, I kept going and things went downhill from there so you live and learn. Changing coaches, twice, is not easy, but I also think back and realize I was a lot less focused than I was the last couple of years of college. There were a lot of little things I kind of ignored throughout the year as well. I am excited to be back to training I trust and I am enjoying training again.

RM: What is your race distance focus going to be the next year or two and why?

MZ: I am not completely sure, but most likely the 10k. I tried my first 10k on the track this past year and it was a disaster, but most think it will be my best event once I get some good 10k training in. I have done a couple of longer races and they both went pretty well without really focusing on them at all so moving up in distance is definitely in my future. I still want to work on my 5k and get my p.r. lower, but I am realizing I don't have the wheels I once thought I had. Over the next year or two I might try some longer races to see how they go and most likely keep moving up throughout my running career.

RM: What are some of your long term running goals that you are aiming to reach?

MZ: The biggest goal is to make an Olympic team. After going to the trials this year and seeing what it takes, Jerry and I are looking at the four year plan to put me in the best position to be competitive at the next trials. Of course there are other goals in between, but I realized the trials year is huge and needs to be the #1 focus. You never know what can happen if you keep trying and doing everything you can so I think it has to be a goal. Ultimately when I am done with my professional career, I want to look back and know I gave it all I had, which is something I know I didn't do this past year.

RM: Looking back on your time at GVSU, what would you say was your most memorable running moment and why?

MZ: I would have to say winning the cross country national championship was probably the best championship I won because I beat ALL the distance runners and our team took our best finish of 2nd place which was exciting. It was the first national championship I won since my first one my freshman year a few years prior so it felt good to know I could do it again. Also, that race was the best mental toughness race I ran. It was a tough race and I was about to settle for third, but I kept my mind in it and ended up having more than the other girls at the end.