Mel Lawrence Gets Set For USA's

June 25, 2009

A lot has happened for Mel Lawrence in one year's time. Last year a stress fracture postponed her first track season, but following an All-American showing in cross country this past fall, Lawrence more than made up for the lost time by emerging as one of the nation's top young distance stars. She ran great times across the board but her specialty proved to be the 3,000-meter steeplechase, an event in which she won the junior national title in 2006 as a high schooler in Reno, Nevada. Lawrence broke the UW school record in her first steeple in two years, then won the Pac-10 title in just her second steeple of the season. A West Regional title was followed by a third-place finish at the NCAA Championships in a Pac-10 record time of 9:40.98. Lawrence is now already one of the top steeplechasers in the country, and will line up against the very best this weekend at the U.S. Track & Field Championships at Oregon's Hayward Field. A top-three finish would mean a trip to the World Championships in Berlin in August. Lawrence, who was named Pac-10 Women's Track Newcomer of the Year, talks with GoHuskies about the upcoming meet, her plans for a Seattle summer and preparing already to defend UW's cross country national title. So I'm told you're in summer school so I guess you'll be sticking around the area this year?
Mel Lawrence:
'Yeah, I originally was going to take A and B term, but there ended up being so many complications with it I ended up just taking A term. So I'll here at least until the middle of July. I'll probably be here all summer. I might go home for whatever my home is right now because my parents are all over the place. So I'll probably go wherever they are for a week or so.'

GH: Are your parents just traveling around?
'My parents are retired, so we have our house in Reno and that's what I consider home, but they spend summers and springs in Oregon and then winters in Arizona. Kind of a permanent vacation.'

GH: So what kind of courses are you taking this summer?
'French. I need to start my major. I took French in high school, but it's been four years since I've taken it because I stopped after my sophomore year so I'm just starting fresh in 101. I'm going to try and double major in European Studies too, but I don't know if I'll have time since I only have three years now, but we'll see. Maybe a minor in it.'

GH: Are you looking forward to spending summer in Seattle?
'I am. At first I was kind of bummed that I wasn't going to be able to go home, but then I thought, 'Man, there's Seafair and all these street festivals. I went to the one in Fremont and it was so cool. I'm excited; the weather is obviously nice here all the time. It's never too hot.'

GH: Do you think that will be a benefit given that I imagine Reno is a lot hotter?
'It's definitely a lot nicer. I'm going to miss the altitude. Obviously I don't get to train in that all summer, but I don't think it's that big of a deal really.'

GH: When it gets especially hot do you have to get your running in before or after a certain time of day?
'I usually start my run at eight (a.m.). Unless, two summers ago I think, it was going to be 108, so I started at six. Funny story actually, I didn't tell my parents I was leaving and I didn't wake them up when I got home from my friend's house. My car was gone and my mom flipped out. She thought I was missing and thought I had got kidnapped or something. She should have guessed I was running, I mean where else would I be? But she was not very happy about that.'

GH: So now rewinding a bit back to this time a year ago, you've just redshirted the track season. How hard was that to go through with your injury and how did you approach your summer of training?
'The redshirt year was definitely really hard on me. It wasn't that I was just redshirting, it was that I had a stress fracture and couldn't run. This time last year I wasn't even running more than five miles a day, so this is a big step from where I was last year. Of course nobody wants to be hurt, but I think being around everything here, of course I wasn't extremely happy being hurt, but I think in the long run it kind of made me realize how much I like to run, and how much I appreciate it, and how much I appreciate the people around me supporting me through frustrations of being hurt. I've definitely come a long way from last year.'

GH: How many miles a day now do you run?
'I don't know how many a day but per week about 50 miles a week.'

GH: So at what point in the summer could you start training again?
'Probably as much as I wanted to, end of July. I think I did my first workout end of July. I came back really slow. The coaches brought me back really slow which was a good thing.'

GH: Because from day one of the cross country season you seemed like you were in great shape.
'I think I had so much time to get a really good base, which I've actually never been able to do before, because in high school I would just run track, take a week off, and then immediately start back into cross country. So it was probably the first time I've had a chance to get a really good base in.'

GH: So since the first day of cross country practice this has been a long and pretty rewarding season. What are your thoughts looking back on what you and the women's distance group achieved?
'Well there's this joke that I'm kind of naïve to the concept of our team, so during cross country I didn't get it. I was like, `I don't really understand how good our team is.' And after Pre-Nats I was like, `Okay, I get it,' and then at Pac-10's it was just, `Wow.' So that's just always been a thing with me. My sister's told me, `Mel, you don't realize what you're capable of' and the coaches say that stuff to me too. So it was a slow realization that our team is really good. It's been awesome; especially having the people to train with like Anita, Katie, Kailey, Christine and everyone, it's so beneficial.

GH: On the track now you ran 9:40 in the steeple, 15:50 in the 5k, did you think you could reach those times at the start of this season or were you not focused much on specific times?
'I definitely didn't think I had 9:40 in me. I was really shocked when I saw that at Nationals. I wanted to go (under 9:50), so when I saw it I was like `Oh my gosh!' But I didn't run my first steeple `til later in the season and I kind of wanted to run early but Metcalf knows what he's doing and I'm just going to trust him. But now that I think about it, the season went by so fast. I only got to run one 5k, and I ran 15:50, but man now I want to run another one and see what my time would be. I want to run another 1,500 too and see what I can do there. It just goes by so fast.'

GH: How hard was the 9:40 at nationals? Do you think you could go under that again at USA's?
'It felt hard. Of course racing always feels hard.'

GH: Really? Because it never looks hard for you.
(laughs) 'It's hard though, I promise. I hope I can go faster. If I can get into the high 9:30's that would be amazing. I want to, I'm going to try really hard. If the race plays out nicely and I don't crowd myself with the steeples, I think I can get there. I hope, it's just one second.'

GH: Have you heard that a lot, that you look very relaxed when you run?
'Yeah, everyone's like, `were you even trying?' I have to say `Yeah! I was!' Jordan Boase, actually the first time he saw me run was at Penn Relays and he leaned over to Austin (Abbott) and said, `Why isn't Mel trying?' and he told him I was. I don't know, it's kind of nice I guess that I don't look tired because maybe people think `she's not even tired, she has a lot in her.' But there's times where I've definitely looked tired. I don't know why it is though, it's just like that.'

GH: Well just in track you've won a Pac-10 title and broke the Pac-10 record, got your first track All-America honor, you won Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year. Is there anything out of that you're most proud of?
'I think the Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year is pretty awesome, because if it was this time last year I definitely wouldn't have been anywhere close to what I'm doing right now. I don't even know how people find out about this stuff. I didn't know about it but everyone tells me congratulations. I'm like how do you find out and I don't know this? Maybe I don't look in the right places. Not that I was searching for it. But the Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year looks at the entire season and not just an individual race.'

GH: So after USA's what's your summer looking like training-wise?
'After USA's I'll probably take a week off, and then slowly start getting the base in for cross. Coach thinks I could potentially make it to Berlin, but we'll see. If so I would keep working out until August, I think, when World's are. So either it will be keep training or take a break. I wouldn't mind to keep training at all (laughs).

GH: Talk a little bit about how you got into the steeplechase. It seems to be gaining in popularity now. What makes it a good event for you?
'I like it because it's just something different. It's not just running on the track. In high school I liked cross country more just because everything is different and I hated just running in circles in high school. Honestly now that I'm in college I'm not sure which I like better, but I like that the steeple is different in that you're not focusing on laps really, you're focusing on getting over the next barrier. It's something different to focus on rather than six laps ... five laps ... four laps.'

GH: USA's is probably going to be your biggest meet at least in terms of the level of competition and running against a lot of pros. What do you think the mood is going to be at the track?
'I'm pretty excited. It's a really good opportunity to be able to run against all those people. I don't get too nervous because I've gotten to the point where if I'm going to run bad, I'm going to run bad and I can't do anything about that. So I try not to let my nerves get to me too much. But I'll probably be a little bit nervous just before, because I'll be on the starting line and look to my right and left and see all these professional athletes I have to race, but I'm more excited right now because it's going to be a really good opportunity.'

GH: And then as hard as it is to believe you guys will have to start thinking about defending the cross country crown before too long. You'll definitely have the target this season. It would be hard to believe but do you think the team could be even better?
'I hope so. Everyone of course wants to keep (the title). It kind of is unfortunate that we have that target on our backs because this past season we didn't really have it on us until Pac-10's. But I think we can do it, everybody wants to do it. I can't believe I'm going to be a junior first off, it's crazy. It goes by so fast I can't believe it's almost cross country again.'

GH: So where are some of the places that Husky fans will see you out running this summer?
'Green Lake definitely. Right out my door is Ravenna so I just run right there. The arb, the Burke (Gilman Trail) if I have to do a tempo. Those three most of all probably.'

GH: Are many of the other women sticking around this summer?ML: 'Yeah, I room with Anita (Campbell) and she's going to be around all summer so we'll always run together. And then Lauren (Saylor) is here this summer also so we'll probably run together a bunch. It's nice to have training partners instead of by yourself. It definitely makes it easier.'

GH: Allright well thank you Mel that's all for now, good luck this weekend at USA's.
'Thank you!'

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