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Getting to Know... Carlie Dorostkar

Aug 27, 2020

In the second installment of the "Getting to Know..." series, freshman distance runner Carlie Dorostkar explains what was going through her mind as she surged to victory in the 2019 CIF  Division I State Cross Country Championships. As one of nine freshman Cross Country runners from the Southern California area, Dorostkar speaks to the strength of UCLA's distance program and the pool of local distance talent .

Q: As both a competitive runner and swimmer in high school, did you always know that running would be the sport that took you to the next level?  
A: I did not know that at all. Before high school, I had always done 5Ks for fun and I felt like I was pretty good at them. Going into freshman year, my mom suggested that I should try cross country because 5Ks are the typical length of the races, so I decided to test it out. I used to play soccer and swim and I had always been used to doing two sports. As a freshman, I ran and swam, but I was more into swimming than running at the time. I was swimming every day, but on days I also ran, I would leave cross country practice early to go to swim practice. I was more committed to my swimming and I was on my school's swim team rather than the track team in the spring of my freshman year. I thought that I would just run for fun to see what it was like because my swim coach always supported people doing two sports and discovering what they really wanted to do. I always thought that I would just stick with swimming. And then I ended up actually really liking running. In my sophomore year, I decided to focus more on running, and it sort of took off from there.

Q: Walk me through your race at the CIF Championships in 2019. Was there a point when you knew you had it in the bag? What were you feeling when you not only crossed the finish line first, but also clocked a PR?
A: I went out and I was surprised that I was already in the top group. I usually don't have good starts, and have to make my way up after the first 200 meters. By the first mile, I was first. I remember thinking, 'When is Corie [Smith] - the girl who got second - going to pass me?'  This was her home course because Buchanan -- her high school -- is a 15-minute drive from the course, and she had won the invitational on the same course a month prior. I just kept running and thinking, 'Alright, she's going to pass me eventually.' And then I kept gaining and I could hear the cheers for her getting quieter and quieter. At that point I realized that I could win and that I really wanted to. At the last mile I thought I better go, 'What if she comes?'. It was sort of crazy. After races it takes me a while to think through what just happened because my mind is still in the mode of racing and just trying to get to that finish line, then remembering where I was going to kick and what I was going to do at different parts of the course. So, I think once I started talking to people and doing interviews I realized, 'Oh my gosh, I just won. I can't believe I did that.' It was pretty awesome.

Q: Back home, what's your relationship like with your twin sisters and although the year was cut short because of COVID-19, how special was it to be able to compete with them on the XC team when you were a senior and they were freshmen?
A: It was really fun. I'm just so proud of them because there were two races at the beginning of the season I didn't run in, so I actually got to watch them race. They had done middle school cross country and also track and field, but I had always had my own competitions those days, so I never really got to see them race. I loved seeing them become a part of the school, make all their new little freshman friends and enter the cross country family that I had been a part of for three years prior. I am so happy that I got to spend a season with them before leaving for college.

Q: What was your recruitment process like and was there something about UCLA or its Cross Country/Track & Field programs that made it "the one" for you?
A: I just loved the school. I had been to campus a few times before I had my official visit.  I came back again in January of this year when I had a few days off of school. And I remember driving to UCLA and being excited to be on campus. It's a gorgeous campus and I love all the activity on Bruin Walk, and there is always so much going on. I was born in LA and my parents lived in Hermosa Beach for a while. And I've always felt like it's my second home. It's close by, and I know it well, so it felt right to me.

Q: Nine of the 10 Cross Country freshmen are from the Southern California area, how important was it for you personally to stay local, and what does this mean for the future of UCLA's program?
A: I don't know if it was initially important for me to stay local, but I realized as I was looking at schools that I like to run in good weather. I imagine that could also be the case for my teammates. The fact that UCLA offered such great academics didn't hurt either. Southern California has such a strong running community, so it doesn't surprise me that we could have such a competitive group that are all pretty much local. I haven't thought too much into what that would mean for UCLA's program, but I do think it's interesting that we share similar experiences and I know that you have to be tough to have competed in Southern Californian sections.

Q: Following the Pac-12's decision in canceling the fall 2020 season, what's your mindset as well as the rest of the team's mindset heading into the school year?
A: I'd say, with our team, it's a little bit of a pause. When you're getting ready in the summer, you're logging the miles, you're putting in the work and you're expecting to have this time when you can use that work that you put in, to [ultimately] race. And I think the mindset of the team is that we have more time to log in more miles and more work and be even stronger in the future. I mean, it's a little disappointing, but I'm not surprised that it happened. I'm really looking forward to racing, so when the time comes, I'll be ready to run even harder.

Q: How have the Cross Country and Track teams welcomed you and the rest of the freshmen, especially during these times of pause?
A: We have had a lot of communication, specifically between my freshman class and the sophomore class. We keep in touch and talk about school, running, and life. Our team has regular zoom calls, and the freshman girls and I have gotten pretty close over FaceTime. I've been able to meet up with other teammates for runs or coffee like Ashley Johnson, another freshman, Jackie Garner, who just graduated, and Kira Loren, who will be a senior and was a teammate of mine in high school. I've always felt really welcomed and that the team was really connected. It has been a little bit harder online, but through our team meetings, I've gotten to know some of the girls better. I'm really excited to actually be able to run practices with the team soon because I've done a lot of training on my own. I know most people think of running as an individual sport, but cross country has a strong team aspect.

Q: What will you be studying at UCLA and what are your future career goals post-running? 
A: One of my first goals while I'm at UCLA is to qualify with my team for an NCAA Championship. I don't know exactly what it takes to make an NCAA championship so I may need to know more before I really put my goals out there. Right now, I intend to pursue a degree in Human Biology and Society and I hope to have a full college experience that would include studying abroad one summer and getting involved with different groups on campus.  I do see myself continuing to run, but I don't think I will professionally. Running will always be a part of my life. After UCLA, I see myself pursuing a Master's degree and a career in biology and public health.

Q: I know you've been super into cooking and baking and trying new recipes, especially these past few months. What got you into cooking and what are some of your favorites to make? 
A: I know a lot of runners that are into baking and cooking, and that is because we spend a lot of time talking about food while we run and we're always hungry. During the quarantine, my sisters and I have finally had the time to do all the cooking and baking that we've wanted to do. Some of the best things we've made are vegan quiches, homemade pot stickers, bagels, and our own sushi. We've also baked a lot, maybe too much. A few months ago, a friend of ours started collecting baked good donations for a local homeless shelter, because families in homeless shelters don't have access to a kitchen to make their own baked goods. So, every weekend we're baking cookies or muffins. It's been a good way to try out new recipes without eating too much.

Favorite non-running activity? Swimming, hiking, traveling, and cooking.
If you could live anywhere... ? Southern California or Switzerland
Favorite musical artist? Migos, Chance the Rapper, Taylor Swift
Favorite movie? The Shawshank Redemption
Athletes you admire? Colleen Quigley, Missy Franklin
Go-to post-meet meal? Acai bowls
Favorite professional team? U.S. Women's National Soccer Team
Why UCLA? It just has a perfect mix of academics, athletics, and social community.

Previous "Getting to Know..." Publications
Obi Eboh -- Football