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Getting To Know USC Track and Field's Isabelle Cairns

Oct 28, 2021

Freshman distance runner Isabelle Cairns is in her first season of running for the USC cross country and track and field teams.  She has a best 800m time of 2:12.90 which she ran in winning at the 2019 Stanford Invitational.  We caught up with her as she prepared for the 2021 Pac-12 Cross Country Championships scheduled for Oct. 29.
Q: What led you to choosing to come to USC?

I.C.: The tradition USC has had.  It has been so successful as a track program.  That was something I always watched on the NCAA Channel.  I just felt like following in the footsteps of all of those athletes was something I had dreamed of.

Q: How has your adjustment been from high school to college?

I.C.: I would say I'm busy more of the time which is something I've had to adjust to, but I think I'm doing pretty well.  I'm staying on top of everything and we have lots of resources here to help us.

Q: Do you have a go-to place for studying?

I.C.: Honestly, just outside at my apartment complex.  It is just quiet out there and I can sit and do my homework.

Q: How would you say your cross country season has gone so far?

I.C.: I've only competed in one race so far.  I had a sprained ankle pretty early in the season, then I'm racing at Pac-12s (6K) on Friday, so I've definitely had a slow start, but now I'm definitely ready to pick back up.

Q: Have you run a 6K before?

I.C.: No, I haven't.  It is exciting, definitely a little scary, but I'm ready for it.

Q: What are you looking forward to about Pac-12 Championships?

I.C.: Honestly just being able to run with this team.  I feel that running with them everyday in practice is really inspiring.  Coach (Jebreh) Harris has this big thing about running in a pack.  I feel I'm able to finally be part of that, its been awhile since the first meet, to be able to all work together and push each other and make a big statement.  As a cross country team I would definitely say we are underdogs and we'd like to come out and prove some people wrong for sure.

Q: Do you have a specialty running event?

I.C.: Definitely the 800m is my favorite event, for sure.

Q: Do you have any specific goals for track season?

I.C.: For a long time I've wanted to break 2:10, so that is definitely something.  There are a lot of 800m runners on the team, so I think that will be good to have them on the team to help me succeed with and all that.

Q: Tell me about some of the volunteer work you did while in high school?

I.C.: My mom volunteered pretty much every day. Back home in England she was a sign language translator.  When we got here, American sign language and British sign language didn't correlate so she couldn't do it anymore, so she volunteers at this place which uses horses for people with developmental disabilities, so I would go there pretty much every Tuesday and Thursday for 30-minutes shifts.  It was just like therapy on the horses which was really cool, I had never seen it before.  I ended up volunteering there and really loving it and went back every week.  There was this one little girl I worked with and she said her first words after a few months on a horse which was so cool

Q: What was it like for you coming to the U.S. from England roughly seven years ago?

I.C.: Definitely a huge transition I would say.  Culture shock, everything was so different…honestly, everything.  Me and my family we're really close and getting through it together, I think I am so much more appreciative of everything because of sacrifices.  Obviously, I said my mom couldn't work here because of the sign language difference, so it is just little things like that you come to appreciate because I've had so many more opportunities since coming here. 

Q: What do you miss most about England?

I.C.: My family and my friends.  My grandparents are still back home.  Just because of COVID we haven't been able to visit as much.  My mom orders all of our British snacks on Amazon and places like that.  There certainly are some random snacks that I miss.

Q: If your teammates were to describe you, how is it you think they would or would you like them to describe you?

I.C.: I hope they would say that I'm supportive with what Coach Harris is fostering, everything is really about the team. We have group chats, everyone texts and runs.  I fell like during the workouts, if your teammate is struggling, you need to kind of push them along a bit.  I feel like this year that is kind of a theme for us.  Really working together and noticing everyone around you and even if they don't say they are struggling, you have to be able to notice that, so if you are in a race you are going to be much more connected.

Q: Is there a place you like to go or a thing you like to do when you want to unwind?

I.C.: Definitely going to the beach and listening to music.  I've noticed I don't really have time to sit and just kind of be, because I feel we are always running around doing different things, so I like to get a moment to relax and not really do anything, just listen to music.

Q: Do you have a favorite musical artist?

I.C.: I wouldn't say I have a favorite one.  I like to listen to R&B, kind of like calm music…but I also like house music.

Q: Since you are from northern California are you a Giants fan?

I.C.: Yes, I like the Giants.  I love going to the Giants games.  I also lived in Seattle, so I also was always a Seahawks fan, too.

Q: What do you think of your classes at USC?

I.C.: I like them.  Anyone that has been around me lately knows that I have been dying in my math class, but we have a lot of math majors on the team, so I'm with them everyday doing my math class. Other than that, all of my classes are super-interesting.  I love all my professors.  I love how you can take whatever you want more or less…there is a lot of variety. 

Q: You say you want to go into the sports marketing industry…what draws you to that?

I.C.: My dad works at EA Sports and video games company, so I've been around Madden and FIFA and all that kind of thing and it made me really interested in that industry, like NIKE and all the signings he does…I've always been really interested.