Q&A With Kendra Schaaf

Oct. 12, 2009

Sophomore superstar Kendra Schaaf has toed the starting line at seven collegiate cross country races. She has crossed the finish line first in five out of those seven, including her first two runs of the 2009 season. Schaaf, the reigning Pac-10 Champion and Athlete of the Year, is back leading the top-ranked women's cross country team after she redshirted the most recent track season. The All-American from Canada chatted with GoHuskies.com this week about the early season returns for herself and the defending NCAA Champs, as they look ahead to the Pre-National Meet this Saturday in Terre Haute, Indiana.

GoHuskies.com: To start off just talk a bit about how your training has been going this year and how you feel compared to last year physically and mentally as well.
Kendra Schaaf:
'Training's been going really well. It's been totally different than last year. Knowing everything coming in and being more comfortable with everything than last year. I've been really relaxed so that's been good.'

GH: Has the vibe on the team been much different this season and has there been any more pressure?
'I don't think we feel any pressure. It's basically the same but I think we're even more serious. We know that we still have to do the hard work.'

GH: How was the whole trip to Notre Dame? What were your thoughts on the race and then sticking around for the football experience?
'It was a pretty long trip actually. By the end everyone was pretty tired, and I think at the first practice this week everyone felt it. But for the race, there was a girl from Florida State that was second at NCAA's last year [Susan Kuijken] that everyone thought was going to be there, so I was really looking forward to that and racing against her and then she ended up not racing, so that was kind of disappointing. So then the race became more or less the same as Sundodger. It was nice to run a 5k. It was fun staying and watching the football game. Too bad (the football team) had their walk-through at the same time or they were going to come watch [the race].'

GH: Are you much of a football fan? I imagine it wasn't as big growing up in Canada.
Not particularly, I usually can't last the whole game.

GH: Did you play many sports?
'I was more into baseball. I played baseball from when I was little until grade eight. There was softball but my older brother played baseball and I wanted to do that too.'

GH: Back on Mother's Day The Seattle Times ran a piece on the mothers of some local athletes and they got a story from your mom, and the story went that she had told you that if you placed a certain spot at Canadian Junior Nationals that she would give you a thousand dollars, and never thought you'd actually pull it off, but then you did. What's your recollection of that agreement?
'I don't know, we were shopping and talking and she'd say she would give me whatever if I got top-20 and then give me whatever if I got top-10, then a thousand if I finished top-seven and made the World team. Because obviously I was in grade eight and was still three or four years from being eligible age-wise. Did not expect any of that. Top-30 would have been good for me. But I don't know; the race was crazy. Afterwards I was like, `Hey, you promised me that.' I knew obviously it wasn't going to happen, but I bugged them about it.'

GH: At Notre Dame you guys went one through four, similar to how things went at Pac-10's last year. When you're out in front how aware are you when there's a big group of teammates behind you like that?
'I didn't know at Notre Dame because all I could hear was people cheering for these other girls from other schools, so I thought they were behind me, and I didn't hear anyone cheering for Katie or Mel or Christine, so I wasn't sure they were there. I was thinking, `uh oh,' but then I crossed the line and they were all there.'

GH: You seem completely comfortable going out and leading on your own, is running in a group something you're hoping to get more experience in?
'Running in a pack I'm not going to go out any slower, or change (my pace) because that can be worse. That's what I did at Pre-Nats last year. I tried to be more relaxed and controlled in the first part which doesn't always work out. I tried to go out more relaxed but I didn't feel relaxed.'

GH: Going back to your recruitment, did you have a ton of interest? How did you narrow things down and when did Washington work its way into the picture?
'Well Wisconsin I had visited, because my coach from high school had people going to Wisconsin, and I had gone to their cross country camp every year since grade nine, so that was where I really wanted to go. I would have signed there but then early signing got canceled. Metcalf didn't call me until a little later, because school starts later here. The first time I talked to him I was pretty interested. I planned a trip for January to come here and I didn't visit anywhere else. I would talk to some other schools, ASU was the only other Pac-10 school, but I did not want to go to Arizona. Too hot.'

GH: So what did you see on your trip that convinced you?
I really liked the team. Everyone seemed fun. You have a host, and I stayed with Mel (Lawrence) and Lauren (Saylor) in the dorms. I thought it was pretty cool because I followed Dyestat [prep track rankings] stuff and American high schools so I knew who Mel was.'

GH: Talk a bit about the coaching staff with Coach Metcalf and Coach Strong and what you liked about them.
'Well Coach Kelly, we have a huge benefit over other schools having her. She ran in college, she ran pro, she knows everything, and it's just like having a big sister. So you can talk about whatever, anything, and her and Metcalf balance each other out which is good. Metcalf's full of energy and I really like that.'

GH: Have you picked a major yet or what are you considering?
'Environmental Science and Resource Management. In high school I liked environmental science, so I was thinking maybe environmental engineering, but I don't really like school quite that much to take that many math and chem classes. I thought it seemed like fun and you can do a lot of things with that major.'

GH: Where are some of your favorite places to run around here?
'The Redmond watershed for a long run. The (arboretum) is always nice, and Green Lake. On Wednesdays I usually run from my house and go towards Green Lake, so I'm usually there once or twice a week.'

GH: We filmed a baking segment with you guys recently so what are some of your favorite things to bake?
'Well ever since I started running, my coach always said banana muffins were good for races because they were easy on the stomach. So banana muffins or bread.'

GH: Lastly, you'll be coming up on your first college track season. What do you think you'll focus mostly on and are there any races you're looking forward to?
'I'll run 5k, I'm pretty sure. I'll run some (1500-meters). Don't want to run a 10k, absolutely not! Specific races, the Penn Relays--outdoors they don't have (3,000-meters) anymore--Penn Relays has an outdoor 3k, I would really like to run that.'

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