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Getting To Know Lucy Westlake

Oct 17, 2022

Welcome Lucy Westlake to the stage as the newest edition of the "Getting to Know" Q&A series. The nationally acclaimed freshman joins the shield after establishing her own brand in the mountaineering community. As the youngest person to reach all the highest points in the U.S. and the youngest American woman to summit Mount Everest, Westlake has stories that most people wouldn't believe. Join us as we embark on another journey to hear about what makes this world-class athlete tick and see from where the mountaineer draws her inspiration. 
Q: What brought you to USC?
LW: It was between USC, Duke and Princeton and I just loved USC. It stood out because of the coaching staff and also the athletic facilities in general like the lifting facilities, the trainer room and the track, which is beautiful. With all of that, and the extra support you get and the fact that they really care about their student-athletes, really drew me here. The school also drew me in for sure, just the academics side of it is really great. I'm currently studying public policy. They have a great public policy school here, which I'm really enjoying so far. And lastly, the sunny weather. I'm from the Midwest, so just having that sunshine is really, really nice.
Q: How is the transition from a Midwest town to sunny L.A.? 
LW: Running-wise I love it, I just love the options here in L.A. It has been a little tricky with it being so urban right here on campus, but our coach does a great job of getting us off campus and going to places like Griffith Park, sometimes down to the beach. So that's really nice. I love running over there. They have some great hill work for sure. School-wise, the school is definitely challenging, but I feel like I've gotten a pretty good routine of doing the schoolwork and the practices in the morning. It's hard to go to sleep really early and wake up really early, but I feel like I've gotten a pretty good routine down.
Q: What is your favorite thing about L.A. so far? 
LW: I'd say the people I've met, that's one of the main reasons I wanted to get out of the Midwest. I really want to get out of my comfort zone and meet people that I've never met before, just all different types of people. I feel like L.A., especially USC just being such a great college, it brings people from around the country and people that are just different from those in Chicago. It's really refreshing to just have something totally new. So that's probably been my favorite part.
Q: Has L.A. begun to feel like your second home yet? 
LW: I was just in New York for two days and when I was coming back here I really felt like I was coming home and I know I've only been here for two months, so I didn't really expect it to feel like home so fast. I feel like it has because my family travels a lot and my family actually just moved from Chicago to Nashville while I was moving here. So I don't really feel that connection to anywhere else. I feel this is basically my home now.
Q: At what point do you believe everyone on the team found themselves on the same page?
LW: When we went to Mammoth, that was a big bonding experience. That was right at the beginning of our season, but I didn't really know any of the girls beforehand and to just have that bonding was really special. Just being together all the time for a few days and swimming in the lakes was huge. We were having good workouts together, and it got me to really look forward to the PAC 12 Championship, because we're hosting it. Then to travel together in regionals will be great, and I'm really excited for the future of opportunities as well.
Q: What is your favorite stress relieving activity? 
LW: I love being outside, anywhere that I can just be in nature. There's a lot of little places on my way to class. I have an hour break in between my classes and I'm just going to sit in this little grass field by some trees and listen to music. Just listen to relaxing music. I love doing that. I mean, we do some art. I'm actually in an art class here. Most of my art is actually part of the class, so that's not really relaxing at the moment. But when I'm not in class, I don't have those responsibilities. I love doing art to just have a stress reliever. 
Q: Obviously, you are a big time mountaineer, what are some of your favorite experiences from that? 
LW: I started climbing when I was seven years old, and I just love the outdoors. I love nature. My family started doing this thing called high pointing, which is climbing to the tallest mountain in every state. That grew my love for the mountains. I really discovered that in myself and it created some of my favorite moments. There have been so many times that I have reached my goals. I always kind of have a goal in mind when I climb and when I accomplished the goal of completing all 50 state high points and being the youngest female to ever do that, that was an amazing experience. That's what I did when I went to Denali, which is the highest mountain in North America. That one was a very hard mountain and reaching the summit of that was just incredible. I did it with my dad as well and it was extra special since it was on Father's Day. Then also recently on Everest that has been just the highlight of my life probably, just reaching the tallest place in the world. One of my favorite parts of climbing is just those sunrises and sunsets that you see up there because they are just unlike anything you will ever see in your life. That the sunrise on the summit day was probably one of my favorite moments ever
Q: What were some of the challenges you faced while climbing Everest? 
LW: There's a lot of moments where you just really have to say, 'Oh my gosh, like can I really do this?' and you have to push through those mental barriers. One of those was in the Khumbu Icefall, that's the really technical part of the mountain right above Basecamp. That is lots of walking across crevasses on ladders, sometimes jumping through bosses and then climbing up ice walls, things like that. So that's a very technical part of the mountain, it takes like six hours to get through. It's really mentally challenging as well. That was a very difficult part and you actually have to go up and go back down through it and then go up again to summit, so just having to do it two times is very mentally challenging. When I went up to the summit on our stomach push, we actually had to turn it around one day, because the winds were so high. We had to turn around and then go back up the next day, so I was definitely a little nervous. I didn't know if we're going to get back up, or if that was going to be the end of our trip. So that was very emotionally challenging.
Q: Have you gotten the chance to use your mountaineering skills out here in L.A. yet? 
LW: I would love to. I don't know the California area very well. Also, I've really been wanting to get involved with the SC Outfitters and there's some amazing clubs here, but just being in a cross country season, I just haven't had time. Most of their trips are overnight and I only have one day off of practice. Any overnight trips, I can't really do since practice times are pretty strict in that regard, but I'm hoping after our season ends which is November 11 I'll have a little bit of time. Before I leave for Christmas break I would really like to explore the L.A. area more and get outside, maybe head up to Malibu, which I've heard is gorgeous. So yeah, I mean, there's mountains, and a whole lot of them around here, I just have to find the right ones.
Q: You have done a ton of things in your life, what is your favorite accomplishment? 
LW: I would say the summiting of the 50 state high points, just because that was my first goal from when I was very young. That one took me a really long time to do. So, I would say that that one was really special and I did it again being with my dad for all of them. We did every single high point together. So making it to the top of Denali and completing that goal was, I mean, it's hard to say that I loved it more than Everest, but that one was just really extra special because of that.
Q: You have traveled all around the world, what is your most memorable trip? 
LW: Recently, I went to Kenya and Uganda and it is absolutely so different from over here, your world just completely changes when you go over there. Perspective on everything changes like what you're grateful for. What we enjoy here, is really called into question over there, because I mean their lives are just so different. I loved going over there and the people I've met, I met some really amazing people over there and made some really great friendships. That for sure has been a highlight of my travels. I've also loved going to Australia, for sure that's just again like another amazing different climate and I got to snorkel and scuba dive over there. I saw sharks and it was just an amazing adventure on that island, and then also Switzerland. I got to go there and climb a little bit this past summer and that was really a highlight too because the mountains and the Alps are just beautiful.
Q: How has mountaineering allowed you to become a better student-athlete? 
LW: I say every mountain I've climbed has just made me more mentally tough and it just taught me a lot of things about myself, what my own limits are, what my body can do, what my mind can push my body to do and that is so applicable to running, because it's the same you know. You just got to push yourself as far as you can, and that's what I love about running compared to a lot of other sports. Other sports take a lot of skill, you have to work together as a team, which is very hard, but running is just you and yourself and how much you can push your body to do it, so it correlates perfectly to mountaineering.
Q: When it gets tough during the season, what do you tell yourself to keep you in a good mindset? 
LW: I try to think with each step, 'Is this as hard as I can go?' You know, 'Is this really my limit?' One of my life mantras is that limits are perceived. So maybe when it feels like you're going your hardest, you're pushing as far as you can, there's always more that you can give. Just trying to get that out of yourself is really challenging and it doesn't happen every day, or every workout, but I really strive towards that and that is what I try to do when I'm really struggling.
Q: What are your main goals for this year at USC? 
LW: I'd say my main goal is to just really get into the routine of college, to really understand what is expected of me for my classes and find that balance between that gives yourself the time you need. Finding that social balance, getting a really good friend group, and just being able to have that in my life as well as school just got to find the right balance. Need to balance working really hard in classes, but not stressing too much. Not putting too much of a burden on yourself, and then same with running; it takes so much time, so much effort, and you have to  really give your all to see where you can go, but at the same time you can't burn yourself out. You can't push too hard; I know I'm just a freshman, I want to have a very long career.  I want to get the best out of myself, but I don't want to burn out or put too much pressure on myself as a freshman. So just finding that balance is a must. That is definitely my goal for cross country. I mean, I've only run two races so far. One was a 5K, one was a 6K, so my next race will be the Pac-12 Championship, so I'm not exactly sure what I can do yet. I'm really trying to push my limits right now because I'm not exactly sure time-wise or place wise what that will be right now. I just really am discovering what I can do in college and getting those first few steps out there, so I can really gauge my improvement from them.