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Interviews: Kaitlin O'Sullivan of SUNY Oneonta

October 19, 2006 at 9:42 PM - 0 comments - link

        2006 NCAA Division III Women's Outdoor Track and Field Championships 800m Final (Photo courtesy of Mark Foos for


O’Sullivan (#184) is a senior at SUNY Oneonta.  During the 2006 outdoor track and field season she garnered All-American status in the 800m, placing 2nd overall in a time of 2:12.99, and 1500m, placing 3rd overall in a time of 4:32.85, at the NCAA Division III Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships.  The SUNY Oneonta women's track and field team finished 3rd overall at the championships.  Last year at the 2005 NCAA Division III Cross Country Atlantic Region Championships she finished 15th overall.  She recently placed 2nd overall at the Hamilton College Cross Country Invitational on October 7th with a 5,000m time of 17:37.2 helping her team to a 3rd place finish. 


By: Derick Lawrence (10/15/2006)


Could you tell us a little bit about yourself (where you’re from, what high school you went to, how you got started running)?

I was born and raised in Syracuse, NY. I started running when I was about 8 years old with my Dad, mostly just running up our street with him as he finished his run. I started running more competitively in 7th grade. I ran cross country and track at Westhill High School in Syracuse. I would say that my story as far as high school success is much different from others who are currently competing at the same level that I am. I was a decent runner when I was younger. I would say I ran my best in high school from the end of my freshman year through my sophomore year. My junior and senior years of high school were pretty unsuccessful for me as far as running is concerned. I even quit outdoor track during my senior year.

During my freshman year of college I really was not good at all; I only ran 2:32 for 800 meters and 25:52 for 6k in XC. But, being on the team here was very motivating to me. The summer between my freshman and sophomore years I trained more consistently and was really focusing more on “the little things.” I really improved a lot from my freshman year, but I still was nowhere near the level I’m at now. At the beginning of indoor track my sophomore year, I got a stress fracture in my tibia. This was pretty disappointing to me because I was in the best shape of my life at that point. But, I decided that I didn’t want to give up on my goals that I set, so I spent a month aqua-jogging religiously. During outdoor of my sophomore year I set PR’s in just about every race I ran. During the summer between my sophomore and junior years, I just kept building off of that fitness level. I saw a lot of improvement during cross country of my junior year and I was actually the first person from the Atlantic Region to not qualify for Nationals, which again was pretty disappointing. I kind of used that as motivation for indoor track. Indoor track was huge for me; I really started to see a lot of improvement here. I made it to Nationals for the 800 and Mile. Unfortunately, I got really sick a couple weeks before and I couldn’t run for a whole week and I don’t think my body was totally recovered by Nationals, so I missed the finals for both of my races. Again, this was a pretty big disappointment for me, but I just used that as motivation for outdoor. I guess outdoor track is considered by “breakout season.” I went into the season with a lot of confidence and determination. It was all about following a process; everything we do is a process and I was patient with it and I believed in myself and my training and it all paid off for me. So now I’m in cross country of my senior year and I think I have reached a new level for that as well in my last few races. I think I am just starting to learn how to race the longer ones. I’m really looking forward to this year!



What were your PR's in high school (cross country and track)?

As I said, I was nothing amazing in high school… all of my PR’s were run during either my freshman or sophomore years.

XC: 5k: 19:25

Track: 800: 2:25, 1000: 3:12, 1500: 5:05, 3000: 11:29



What are your current PR's (cross country and track)?

XC: 6k: 21:46 (which is about 18:08 pace for 5k)

Track: 800: 2:12.3, 1000: 2:54.4, 1500: 4:31.5, 3000: 10:14, 3k Steeple: 11:04, 5k: 18:06



What made you choose SUNY Oneonta?

My original reason for choosing SUNY Oneonta was mainly because I wanted to major in Fashion and still be able to run. Oneonta offered both and seeing as it is a state school it was also very affordable. I came for an overnight visit with the team and fell in love with the school and the team. I ended up applying early decision and it was the only school I applied to.



What was your training like this past summer?

This past summer I tried to up my mileage. I started off pretty low at about 30miles/week and then gradually increased about every 2 weeks until I got to about 60miles/week. I did most of my runs on the roads. In the last month of summer training we incorporated Interval, Repetition, and Tempo workouts.



What is your favorite workout(s) during the cross country season and what does it include?

I don’t really know if I have a favorite workout. I definitely like being able to do the shorter stuff on the track. I had a pretty good workout recently that I really liked. It was a mix workout of Tempo, Interval, and Repetition. I did 4x1mile at Tempo (6:04, 6:02, 6:02, 5:58) with 1:00 rest in between. Then went right into 2x1000 at Interval pace (3:27, 3:22) with 3:00 jog in between. Then it went right into 4x200 at Repetition pace which I ran all too fast (33, 30, 33, 34). I actually ran the whole workout faster than I was supposed to which really I shouldn’t do that, but the effort felt like what it was supposed to be. We do mix workouts on an off-weekend, in place of a race.



What are your goals for this cross country season (individual and team)?

My primary goal for this season is to be All-American in Cross Country. No one from Oneonta has ever been an All-American in Cross Country, so I really want to be the first.

As far as the team goes, I love it when everyone else sees improvement in their running too. So my goal for the team is that we improve on how we did last year.



Do you walk, bike, or drive to class and/or practice? If you bike or drive, what kind of bike or car do you have?

I walk to class. I live on campus and I don’t have a car. The school provides a free bus service that stops at 3 places on campus and all over downtown Oneonta. The campus is pretty small so it’s easy to walk anywhere you need to go on-campus.



This past outdoor track season you finished 2nd in the 800 with a time of 2:12.99 and 3rd in the 1500 with a time of 4:32.85 at the 2006 Division III Women’s Outdoor Track & Field Championships.  Could you tell us a little bit about this experience and your thoughts looking back at these races?

This was definitely one of the best experiences of my life. The trials for both races were pretty fast; you basically had to run an Automatic qualifying standard in the trials to make it to the finals. Luckily for me, I seem to do really well when it comes to running multiple races. I think I surprised a lot of people with how I finished. It really came down to the race strategy that Coach LoPiccolo and I had discovered worked best for me. Obviously, the race was going to go out hard so I knew that even if I was in the back of the pack I would still be fast on my opening splits. I just stayed in the race and when it came to 300 to go in the 1500 and 200 to go in the 800 I threw in the two-step and took off and got around people a lot easier than I thought I would. I know in the 800 I was the slowest girl. I had the slowest PR out of everyone there, but it really just came down to the race strategy. One of the best parts of it is that by placing as well as I did, I helped my team to tie for 3rd at the meet! It means so much more when you realize that you have accomplished something not only for yourself, but for your team as well. It’s definitely a weekend I will never forget.



What are the dining options like at SUNY Oneonta?  Does most of the team eat together?

At Oneonta you have a few dining options. Mainly just freshmen have what’s called “Carte Blanche” which means that they can eat at the 2 buffet style dining halls as much as they want. Basically everyone else has “Declining Balance.” You start off with a certain amount of money that you choose to spend during the semester and every time you eat it gets taken from your declining balance. Most everyone is friends on the team so I would say the majority of the team eats with someone on the team. Every Thursday a large group of the team goes to one of the dining halls together. It’s a highlight of everyone’s week!!



Who has been the biggest influence in your life and/or running?

My parents have definitely been the biggest influence in my life and even in my running. My family has always been extremely supportive of what I do. Every time I call home after a meet, my mom always cries even if I didn’t run well. I know my parents are there for me to get me through everything and anything. They have raised me to be the best person I can be and I am grateful everyday for that.


Another large influence in my running has been the great things done by Dave and Jen Patruno at Aim High Running Camp. I went there every summer in high school and now work there as a counselor. They have always been very supportive of me and all the kids that go through that camp. It’s amazing what they do there.


Also, all of my coaches that I have had even starting in modified with Mr. Brophy and then Mr. Reid in high school and my coaches now Coach Lopiccolo and Coach Schmidt. Without their guidance and support, there’s no way I would be where I am right now.



What’s your major?  Favorite professor?  Most memorable class?

I am currently a French and Communication Arts major. It’s hard to say who my favorite professor is because I really have loved so many of them! I guess I would say all of my French professors have been my favorites. I think my most memorable class would be Creating Persuasive Campaigns because it was the most work I have ever had to do for a class. I loved the group I worked with in that class and even though it was a lot of work, we had fun doing it!



What are your plans after college?

I seem to ask myself this question everyday lately! I know for sure that I want to continue running. I would love to be on a developmental team. That is a goal that I have in mind. I know I have to get my times down a lot more, but I think I still have a lot of room for improvement. At the same time, I think my coaching here has been amazing and to be honest I don’t know if I would want anyone else to coach me because I have really found what works for me. I would love to go out west or down south- somewhere warm! But, I have another season of indoor track, plus I changed my major so many times that I will be coming back to Oneonta next year. So I still have one more year to try and figure all that stuff out!



Is there a certain cheer or routine the women's team yells or carries out in the team huddle prior to a race?  If so, could you describe it for us.

            (Photo courtesy of the SUNY Oneonta athletics website)


I guess you could say there is a certain cheer that we do, and that’s that we don’t do one. We always huddle together on our last stride before the start of the race. Our coaches enlighten us or try and make us laugh. It’s always “On three walk away.” When it comes to meets, it’s time to do business. There’s no sense wasting energy on doing a cheer or going crazy right before the race. We like to treat every meet the same; do everything the same for every meet.



Does the women’s team have any team bonding activities on the day of a race (i.e., gift exchange, motivational quotes, etc.)?  

We’re not really big on the “psych” stuff because it just adds too much stress. Even good stress can be bad before a race. We just keep things low-key before hand. But, if we aren’t traveling the Friday night before the meet, then the team usually goes to the movie that’s playing at the theater on campus. That’s kind of our tradition this year. A lot of the team hangs out together the Saturday night after the meet. It provides a good support system for each other because we have a dry season.



What do you like the most about SUNY Oneonta Cross Country?

          (Photo courtesy of the SUNY Oneonta Cross Country Team)


I love the dynamic of the team. We know how to have fun but we also know when it’s time to get things done. Our coaches are always there for us to talk to and just about everyone on the team spends a good amount of time hanging out in their offices. I also like the fact that I know we are trained smarter than most other teams. Everything we do has a reason behind it and the coaches have no problem explaining why we do certain things and they encourage us to question what we do and to be a student of the sport. They advocate not only doing well in our sport, but also doing well in school. Our cross country and track teams have also received many academic awards. Also, the Athletic Department here is great, they’re very supportive of all its student-athletes and developing us into not only great athletes, but great students and people as well.



What's the running environment like at SUNY Oneonta?  Where does the team train?

                      (Photo courtesy of the SUNY Oneonta Cross Country Team)


Well, Oneonta isn’t called the “City of the Hills” for nothing! It’s really a beautiful area for running. Even in my senior year I am discovering new places to run that I never knew about. Most Sundays we go to a railroad trail in Stamford (a nearby town) to do long runs and to get off the hills and roads. We also do some runs on the trails at Gilbert Lake State Park. For workouts, we usually do them either on the track, “Up Top” which is way at the top of our campus on the intramural fields, or we run at some of the parks in town.



Any parting words for readers?

I think Vince Lombardi put it best “If you believe in yourself and have the courage, the determination, the dedication, the competitive drive and if you are willing to sacrifice the little things in life and pay the price for the things that are worthwhile, it can be done."


Thanks to Kaitlin for a great interview.
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