St. Olaf women’s cross country took home first place on Nov. 12 at the NCAA Division III Central Regionals, led by Mary Naas ’19, who finished seventh overall with a time of 22:21.5, the Oles’ top individual placing. After being honored as an All-Region runner on Nov. 14, Naas will look to replicate her success on the national stage, hoping to lead St. Olaf to another victory at the Division III National Championships in Louisville, Ky. this Saturday, Nov. 19.
Q: What’s something you improved significantly this fall, and what’s something you still hope to work on during the offseason?
A: During the first part of the season, I had to figure out the best way to race because I had not raced since last cross country season. At the beginning of the season, I started out more timid and would not venture to the front of the pack right away, but in my conference and regionals race, I figured out my racing strategy to go out to the front right away and hold on to the pack. In the offseason I hope to focus on turn-over and combining speed and endurance so that I am ready to move quickly next season.
Q: What has been the biggest difference-maker for the team this season that led to your first place finish in regionals?
A: Learning to race as a pack and focus on the act of racing other people instead of absent-mindedly running. Another difference-maker was applying our training to our races, and mentally remembering that we have accomplished much more difficult workouts, so we are ready to race fast and hard.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge facing both you and the team at nationals this weekend, and what will you try to do to overcome it?
A: I think a challenge that the team faces is being confident in our training and ourselves, and not being afraid to go out in front in the beginning of the race. We have all worked so hard this entire season, and it comes down to believing in your ability to start out strong and end strong. Sometimes knowing that everyone around you is so talented can make you question your own training, but I will work to be confident in myself because the training that I and the whole team have accomplished this season has prepared us for this race.