Mandi Zemba /GVSU

Mandi Zemba  /GVSU

Mandi Zemba /GVSU

mandi zembaAllendale, MI

Mandi Zemba is no longer just another solid division II NCAA distance runner: she is a certified elite-level stud. After several strong performances at NCAA national meets, Mandi made the jump this past season to competing at the US National Track and Field championships. Read on to find out about the transformation that Mandi has made this year.

RM: Mandi, you have just completed one of the best ever all-around years for a Division II female runner. You completely dominated the cross country season and capped it off by winning the national championship by over 10 seconds. In the indoor season you ran the solid times of 2:11/4:45/9:32/16:31. The outdoor season is where you really took off when you ran 4:20/9:27/15:48. In addition to those great times you were 3rd indoors in the mile and 5k at Div II nationals and in outdoors you were the national champ in the 3k/5k, winning both by over 10 seconds. What are your thoughts on the past 8 months of racing that you just completed? Did you accomplish all you set out to accomplish or were you left wanting more?

MZ:
I have already accomplished a lot more than I thought I ever would. Winning the national cross country title was a dream come true and after having my son Zac I never thought it would happen. I've just been enjoying running and competing and seeing all the hard work pay off by winning some national championships. I have been fortunate this year to put in the best training year of my career and I have had great support from everyone around me that made it easier for me to train and compete the best I can. Even though I am thrilled with my results this past year, I still think that I can keep on improving and will always push myself to get better and better. I am just using the talent God gave me and will continue to use it to the best of my ability and see where it takes me.

RM: You have an indoor and outdoor season left eligibility wise. What are some of the goals you want to accomplish in your final seasons at GVSU?

MZ:
Since I had so much success this past season, anything less than a national championship will be disappointing so my goal is to finish off my college career with a few more national championships. I usually don't like setting time goals; I believe if I work hard and train smart I'll be in a good position to run fast and just take it week by week. Of course there are some time goals I think I could reach this upcoming year, but If I PR than there really isn't much I can complain about and then I just got to keep working hard and never be satisfied with my results. I would be pretty happy if I got into the low 15:30's for 5K and under 4:20 for the 1500.

RM: Have you given any thought to continuing your running after you graduate from GVSU, and if so, please elaborate.

MZ:
My plan is to continue running after I am done at GVSU. I don't really know any details right now, but my goal is to qualify for the Olympic Trials in 2008 and see what happens from there. Since I have a family, I plan on staying in the area for a while and training at Grand Valley.

RM: To get an idea of where you came from, when did you start running and why? In addition, what were your high school personal best times and what were the reasons you went to GVSU after your high school career?

MZ:
I grew up in Menominee, MI (in the U.P.) and I actually did every other sport before I really started to run competitively. I was a competitive swimmer for 11 years and I noticed that I had pretty good endurance so I started to run distance in track and was successful at it (for the U.P.) and had PR's of 5:18 in the 1600, 2:20 800 and 11:41 2 mile. Each year in high school, I became more dedicated to the sport and decided I wanted to keep competing after high school. The biggest reason I chose Grand Valley was for the running program (and it was one of the few schools that offered me a scholarship) and it was a up and coming school that had a good health science/bio med program. Jerry Baltes (the coach) was a coach who seemed to have a passion for running and wanted to win and work toward being the best. He was starting to build a good program at Grand Valley and I figured it was the best choice for my running career.

RM: For those who are looking at Grand Valley State as a potential college choice, what would you tell them are some of the strong points that they might not get from looking at the college web site when looking for info?

MZ:
Grand Valley is always rebuilding and improving and the campus doesn't feel outdated. The people, other students, staff, and administration here are great people who do an amazing job and it really feels like everyone cares about each others seasons and successes. Also, the professors are very personable and want you to do good in their class and are always willing to give extra help. Thanks for the great interview Mandi! (Interview conducted by Nick Cordes)

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