Aside from our post-competition interviews, we also like to reach out to athletes across the state and conduct interviews by email. If you have athletes that you would like for us to interview, drop us an email or let us know on twitter and we will reach out to that athlete.
For this edition, we interviewed St. Mary's Stockton senior Karl Winter. This spring, Winter has been one on a roll recording personal best after personal best. At the just-completed Arcadia Invitational, Winter won one of the Friday 3200m races in a new PR of 9:12.09. Just for perspective, Winter had a best of 9:49.98 in the event. He has also lowered his 1600m time to 4:16.39. He just recently committed to Pepperdine University and is aiming at qualifying for his first state meet in Track and Field.
1) What led you to Cross Country and Track and Field and did you have any experiences in the two sports before high school? If so, what were some of your PRs?
With the exception of running a 5K each Thanksgiving, I did not have any running experience prior to high school. I joined cross country my freshman year because my mother is a runner (high school, collegiate, etc.), my older sister was on the cross country team, and I didn't have anything else to do in the fall. I didn't officially start running track until my sophomore year when I gave up baseball.
2) What were some of your highlights from your freshmen and sophomore seasons in both sports? Any learning experiences?
My underclass years really helped me start to love the activity of running rather than just the joy of victory. In cross country, I won a Sac-Joaquin Section title with my team at the end of my freshman season. It was only Division 4 and only the freshman division, but it sparked a bond between my teammates and I for the years to come. At the end of my freshman year, after playing basketball and baseball, I asked the track coach if I could run in the league championship meet. He allowed it, and despite only training for a week, I ran a 4:51 1600. That race was part of the reason that I realized that running was my thing, and eventually I gave up basketball and baseball to focus on running.
3) Looking at your high school career, what race do you feel was the race that gave you the confidence that you could run with the best runners in the state?
After a relatively disappointing junior season, I didn't really gain confidence in my abilities until recently. In my opinion, my best cross country race during my senior season was a 3rd place finish at the Clovis Invitational in the small school's division, but even that didn't cement my confidence as a potential State-class runner. The true turning point has been right now, early track season. I would say that my experience at the Stanford Invitational, closing a 1600M race in 60 seconds to finish in 4:16, a day after running 9:20 for 3200M in the heat, was really a turning point for me.
4) You have already established new PRs in the 1600 and 3200 this season. What do you feel are some of the reasons for your early season success?
My early successes and PRs this track season can be attributed to the training that I did in the summer between junior and senior year. My mileage and training in the past 12 months has been significantly better than ever before in my career, and the base that I've established over that time period has helped greatly in track. I'm also being more careful this track season about my health and recovery, in order to remain fresh and not run too many races.
5) During your high school career, who are the coaches that have helped you get to this point in your career?
The aforementioned track coach, who was only at my school during my freshman and sophomore years, deserves credit for maximizing my potential and helping me grow immensely as a runner. My longtime cross country coach deserves credit for teaching me the psychological aspect of running. My parents deserve the most credit, as they always support me, take care of the little things that help keep a runner healthy, and instilled in me the work ethic that keeps me going.
6) What does a typical week look like for you training wise? Any workouts that you have repeated through the season? Pace of typical road runs? Longest run distance? Any morning runs?
Each week typically includes a track interval workout on Monday or Tuesday and a tempo run on Wednesday or Thursday. Weekends without a race will usually mean hill work (either a long run in the hills or hill intervals) on Saturday. All weekends, with or without a race, usually means a long run on Sunday. My long runs during the season are usually no longer than 10 miles, but I keep my mileage up because 8 miles is the typical distance for any recovery run. During the offseason, I'll do a few more 12 mile runs, and I did a half marathon last summer, but 13 miles is the longest distance I've done in one run. As for pace, my regular recovery road runs usually average about a 7 minute per mile pace, as I'll drop the pace throughout the run from about 7:35 to about 6:30 pace or faster. As for workouts, mile repeats are something that we do several times per season in track. Tempo runs and pyramid intervals (1K down to 200M and then back up) are also common workouts. Morning runs during school are extremely rare for me because I take a very difficult course load and therefore rarely get enough sleep, so I rarely have the opportunity to run twice per day.
7) During your high school career, who are some of the runners that you looked up to whether on your own team or not and what advice did they give you?
I've always looked up to the top guys in my Section, starting with Michael Vernau and Luis Grijalva, and now Collin Ullrich and Matt Strangio, because I strive to reach their level and be able to compete with them. However, the guys that really helped me out were Andres Sandoval and Aldo Perez, both of whom were in my league (they both graduated from Tokay High in 2017) and taught me the importance of base mileage, helped me to bounce back from a bad race, and pushed me to be better by competing with talented and classy guys
8) How much of an incentive is qualifying for the state track and field meet this season?
The state track meet is a huge incentive this season, as I've made it to State in cross country twice, but it's much more difficult to do in track. Although I haven't yet decided if I'll make an attempt to double at the Section Masters meet, my goal right now is to make the State finals in 1600. Having success at the big invitationals in March and April is fun, but I know that I need to be in peak condition in late May and early June.
9) Favorite XC invitational? Favorite XC course? Favorite XC workout? Favorite long run location? Favorite TF event? Favorite TF invitational? Favorite TF workout?
Favorite XC Invitational is the Capital Cross Challenge in Sacramento because the course is fast, the competition is good, the college meet is exciting, and the prizes are nice. Favorite XC course is the Calaveras County Fairgrounds ("Frogtown"), our subsection course because it's challenging and forces runners to be both conditioned and strong. Favorite XC workout is hill work, because completing a hill workout gives a great sense of satisfaction, and we have very few hills in Stockton, so doing hill work also means a change of scenery. Favorite long run location is Pardee Reservoir, where I can get some work in the foothills with some nice scenery. Favorite TF event is the 1600M or Mile because it's always been my bread and butter and I think that its popularity in high school is declining. Favorite TF invitational is a tough question, but I'll go with the Dublin Distance Fiesta because the atmosphere is great, all distance runners of all levels can compete, and there is good competition. Favorite track workout is interval work with minimal rest (maybe 800s or 400s) because they are challenging but satisfying... and one can finish them quickly!
10) Have you made your college decision yet and if not, how much will your potential collegiate running affect your decision?
Just this weekend, I committed to running cross country and track next year at Pepperdine University! I will be signing an NLI this week. I've already learned a lot from my future college coach about training and I'm extremely excited to join the Waves. I know that my training will need to be quality this summer because the transition from 5K to 8K/10K in XC won't be easy.
11) From personal experience, what would your advice be for a talented freshman with hopes of being a state level runner?
I would advise a talented freshman to stay connected to the sport. Running can be challenging and grueling, but make sure you're always having fun by surrounding yourself with other runners with whom you enjoy spending time and don't be too obsessive over times and early successes. If you stick with it and gradually improve your training, the success will come.
Thank you very much for your time Karl.