An interview with the fastest returning female runner from last year's California state cross country meet, rising junior, Fiona O'Keeffe of Davis HS in Sacramento (photo courtesy of Chris Saur and Davis Enterprise).
1) What other sports have you participated in aside from running?
Aside from running, I played soccer for three years and basketball for two, but I was mostly just running up the field/court the whole game without much contact with the ball.
2) How did you get your start in running?
I started running in 5th grade when I joined our elementary school's track team, and I joined cross country in 6th grade. I really enjoyed it right off the bat, and I joined the Buffalo Babes (a Sacramento running club) in about 7th grade. In junior high, running was purely fun--only about 3 days a week.
3) What were your track PRs heading into high school?
Heading into high school, my best times were 4:45 for 1500m and 10:11 for 3000m.
4) Tell us a little about your freshman seasons in cross country and track and field. Highlights?
My freshman cross country season, our team took fifth at the state meet and I placed sixth individually in division 1. I also qualified for Foot Locker Nationals, but I was unable to finish the race due to a hip flexor injury. It was still a great experience for me, though. In my freshman year of track, I only competed towards the end of the season, but I was able to qualify for state at SJS Masters in 10:40 in the 3200.
5) Did you do anything differently heading into your sophomore season in cross country in terms of training?
Heading into my sophomore season of cross country, I focused more on core and PT. My mileage didn't really change from my freshman year, but I think I was more mentally prepared for what high school competition entailed.
6) What were the highlights for your during your sophomore seasons in both sports?
The biggest highlight from cross country this past year was the state meet, when we placed second as a team and I took first. Everything aligned perfectly on that day for us. We were lucky enough to be invited to NXN, and we placed 12th there, which was solid for us. I was happy with my 4th place finish as well.
In track, a major highlight was running the 4x1600 relay at Mt. SAC. We had great competition in Great Oak, and the atmosphere under the lights was almost magical.
7) Who is your coach and how he has helped you develop as a runner?
My coach is Bill Gregg, and he's absolutely someone that I fully trust. He's helped me to believe in myself and pushed me to set goals that may seem like a reach at first. Bill also sets a great tone for our team, which is like a second family to me.
8) Favorite cross country course?
Probably either Mt. SAC or Woodward Park. Both have a nice mixture of hills, and I have good memories from both places.
Favorite cross country invitational?
Mt. SAC is a really fun experience because our whole team goes down together in a bus, and we go to Disneyland the night afterwards. The meet itself has almost a carnival vibe because the races are stacked so closely together.
Favorite cross country workout?
Mile repeats at around race effort on a grass loop with small terrain changes in the Davis greenbelt.
Favorite track and field event?
I like the endurance aspect of the 3200, and I love the DMR for the excitement and teamwork of it.
Favorite track invitational?
Stanford Invite--I really enjoy watching the collegiate/pro races in addition to competing.
Favorite track workout?
Repeat 800s, descending.
9) What is your weekly mileage now and how long is your longest run? Any workouts during the summer?
My current weekly mileage is in the low 30s. I'm just ramping up my training now, and by the end of summer my long run will be around 80-90 minutes.
10) As you peek ahead to the cross country season, what are the invitationals that your team is really looking forward to and can you share some of your goals (individual and team)?
Last year was pretty great overall, so I'm looking to continue to build upon my performances and keep my momentum going. We're looking forward to Stanford, Clovis, and Mt. SAC, but we want to be at our best at the end of the season. If we could match some of our performances from last year, hopefully we'll have the opportunity to compete at NXN again.
11) What did you learn from your experience as a young talented runner that you can share with a rising talented freshman freshman/sophomore?
High school is definitely another level of running, but don't assume that you can't succeed simply because of your age. Putting yourself in the mix in races is the best way to gain experience. Also, make sure you're having fun!
12) Anything else you would like to add.
Thanks very much for the interview! Your website is great!