Stanford's Derrick Looks For More Success

By Alyssa Green

Chris Derrick looks like a regular Stanford student. An economic major who has the quirky ability to name all the capitals in the world, he doesn't flaunt his success.

Derrick is a six-time All-American, one of the most accomplished distance runners in the nation. After placing third last year at the NCAA Championships, he is a contender for the first place title this season. Derrick is on the track for success after being named Pac-10 Athlete of the Year in 2009 and formerly holding the record for the 5,000 meter race.

The renowned Stanford cross-country and track athlete attributes his success to his initial failure. He played on an eighth grade travel basketball team that "I probably shouldn't have made," Derrick admits.

Derrick started running the summer before his freshman year of high school. At the end of his freshman year, he made the varsity team, and did well enough to make it to sectional competition.

"After that, I was pretty much hooked," said Derrick.

His coach assured him that Derrick had a lot of potential, and with hard work, he could be a successful runner.

Derrick graduated from Neuqua Valley high school in Illinois, where he led his team to a national championship in 2007. When it came time to make his college selection, he was confident in his choice.

"I think Stanford is a dream school for a lot of runners. It has a very strong tradition and the school has very high academic quality. The weather is really great, which is a big plus over the Midwest. It felt like the right place to be," Derrick said.

During his freshman year, Derrick made the 2009 Junior National Cross Country team that competed in Amman, Jordan. However, he didn't meet his expectations while competing in Jordan.

"I got my butt kicked." Derrick said. "I came out of it knowing I need to step my game up."

Cross country is undoubtedly an individual sport, but for Derrick and Stanford teamwork is key.

"There is definitely a team element, especially in NCAA's because there are so many people around and so much going on that you really need that team support and especially in training. It is such a big advantage to have training partners here on your level," Derrick said.

Derrick's goals for the 2010 season align with that of his team.

"First and foremost, on our mind is to win NCAA's as a team. Beyond that, I would like to be in contention to win as an individual, but I think that we need to get that team win."

Stanford placed 10th last year at NCAA's, but it is looking better this year with the team winning the Pre-National Invitational on October 16, where Derrick came in first place.

The junior athlete looks to continue this success this year and in the years ahead.

"I would like to win an NCAA title individually at some point before I graduate. After graduation I would like to run professionally and try to make the Olympic team or something like that," he said. "After that I would like to stay involved with sports somehow, coaching or owning a running store or being a high school coach and teacher."

Cross country is very much about controlling one's emotions and being tough, according to Derrick. He explained that there is a different mindset in training and racing.

"Training is all about 'I want to do this' and 'I'm gonna be the best' and thinking good thoughts about triumphant things." Derrick said. "Racing is very much like 'Just don't be a wuss, you will hate yourself if you give up now.' In racing, I find that I am motivated by negative thoughts, because you know that if you give in you will really regret it."

To continue improving as a runner, Derrick just keeps doing what he loves, listens to his coach, and never loses motivation or sight of his goals.

"There is always someone else who is getting good or who is transferring in. There is always someone else to beat. It isn't like once this guy graduates it will be easy from there, like I can just dominate," Derrick said. "There is always someone coming up that will challenge me."

He says his biggest challenge this year will be the NCAA Championships, but also recognizes that the Pac-10 is "one of the best distance conferences in the country."

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