Capistrano Valley senior Haley Herberg reflects on her state meet race and career

1) What was your plan going into Saturday's state final? Did anything happen during the race that was unexpected or did the race turn out as you planned? (Kirby Lee photo above)

Going into the state meet, I didn't know for sure if I would lead very much of the race or not. It does take some mental energy to lead, and state meets always has lots of tough competitors, so I was prepared for it to possibly come down to a kick at the finish. During the race, I felt good at the pace I was going, so when I found myself in the lead, I spent the rest of the race trying to hold on to that spot. I believed that I could win, but it's impossible to plan exactly how the race will go because there are just a ton of really fast girls in that race.

2) When did it first sink in that you are a California state champion? What was your reaction?
When I crossed the finish line, I felt a ton of emotions and realized that what I had hoped for so long had actually happened. I was sort of in shock and my family was very emotional and excited for me.

3) How did you get your start in running?
I started running when I was about eight, at a local track camp over the summer. I liked it, so I joined the South Orange County Wildcats track club. My older sister, Natalie, had already run with that club, so it was natural for me to join. At first, I only did track in the spring and played soccer in the fall, but in seventh grade, I realized I loved running the most, so I quit soccer and did both cross country and track throughout my seventh and eighth-grade years. I knew it was the sport for me, so I joined the team and have been running ever since.

4) What was the first track race that you remember that got your excited about running?
I remember my first race ever, a 200-meter dash in the 9-10 year old age group. I believe I got third place, and I got a ribbon for it, so when I got home I was very proud of it and took it to my best friend's house to show her that I got third in a race. I think at that point I got very excited for my next race.

5) Looking back at your two seasons in track, what do you feel has been your best race so far? What about cross country? What do you feel has been your best race?  
Looking back at all the track races I have run, I have a hard time choosing one. My most special and memorable race was Seaview league finals my freshman year, where I broke 5 minutes in the 1600 for the first time in 4:57. It was my season-long goal to break 5, so to do it at the last race of the year made me incredibly happy. I got third place (behind Tesoro's Amanda Gehrich and Briar Brumley...I have looked up to Amanda and it was an honor to race her). The other one is Masters meet from this year, 2017, because even though I didn't win, I qualified for the state meet, which is also something I wanted to do for a very long time. That race also felt really good and I almost tied my PR in the 1600. In cross country, my best race was definitely state meet this year! I felt strong and ended my last XC season on a high note.

6) Did you do anything differently this past summer to prepare for this cross country season?
I honestly didn't change anything from what I normally do as far as training; I did basically the same summer progression my coach gives us every year, but I just did everything a bit faster than last year. As captain, I tried to take more of a leadership role and make sure to bond with my team in and outside of practice. That makes it all more fun and keeps everyone motivated.

7) What does a typical training week look like for you? Any morning runs? How long is your longest run? Strength work?
A typical week for me during the school year is a very light run on Sunday, a long run Monday, tempo workout Tuesday (1k's), speed (either a speed ladder or 40's) Wednesday, recovery run Thursday, and then pre-meet Friday and race Saturday. During the summer, we did a handful of two-a-days with a tempo workout in the morning and a recovery run in the evening. Also in the summer, I like to go to the gym after practice to lift weights and do some core. I don't really have time for these things during the school year, though. My longest run this summer was 10.5 miles; I think the longest long run I have ever done was 11.5 miles.

8) Who are the coaches that have had the biggest impact and have helped you develop into the runner you are today?
I have developed in high school thanks to Coach Ken Sayles. He has always believed in me and encouraged myself and the entire team to set high goals because we can never become county or state champions unless we decide that we want to. If we don't reach our high goals, nothing bad happens, and if we do, then we are glad we set crazy goals! He taught me to be a student of the sport and constantly try to improve wherever I can. He is detail-oriented and plans our training with intention. I definitely also give a lot of credit to my youth track coaches, Coach John Jenkins and Coach Darren Phelps, for my start in athletics. Coach John coached me when I was a sprinter, and I honestly give him a lot of credit because that's when I learned to complete workouts without making excuses or complaining. I had Coach Darren later on when I started running distance, and he taught me a ton about the sport while still making practice fun, so I really enjoyed going every day.

9) Favorite XC course? Favorite XC invitational? Favorite XC workout? Favorite long run? Favorite TF event? Favorite TF invitational? Favorite TF workout? Favorite free time activity?
My favorite XC course is the old Orange County Championships course at Irvine Regional Park because I have a ton of good memories at that park and on that course. My favorite invitational is probably Woodbridge because it's the only time we get to run a race at night. For some reason, my favorite cross country workout is a bunch of 1k's at tempo pace with a short rest. My favorite long run is the one we do on our last day of camp in Mammoth, at Inyo Craters. My favorite track event is the 1600 meter; I love the strategy of it and breaking it up into four laps. But this year I am very excited to try out running some 3200's. My favorite track invitational is the Meet of Champions. I've gone the past two years and it was a really fun atmosphere.  My favorite track workout is 8x400 at 1600 goal pace. I enjoy the fast turnover, and the workout makes me feel accomplished when it's over. In my free time, I enjoy listening to music and spending time with close friends.

10) You have chosen to attend the University of Oklahoma next year. How did you end up choosing the Sooners and how many other universities did you consider?
The University of Oklahoma was my second official visit, but I had toured several colleges before and gotten an idea of what I was looking for. I could go on and on about OU, but basically, it will be a great fit for me because it has the majors I am interested in, a small town feel and dirt roads for running, a great team, and a beautiful campus. The coach, Kevin Ondrasek, has experience from being a pro runner himself and is incredibly knowledgeable. His vision for the team and for myself really resonated with me. Throughout my official visit, I kept thinking to myself that this was the place for me and how much I wanted to be an athlete at the University of Oklahoma.

11) You qualified for NXN. What are you most looking forward to this weekend? Any goals you want to share?
I have dreamt of qualifying for NXN since I learned what it was. My team almost made it my freshman year, and since then I have been determined to go. I am looking forward to meeting lots of runners from all over the country, and getting to race the best of the best! I want to go for it and race hard, and I hope to place in the top 5.

12) Anything else you would like to add.
I just want to emphasize how thankful I am for how supportive my mom and dad have been; I could not have survived this semester without my mom constantly helping me out behind the scenes as I balance my captain-ly duties, my own training, my homework, and still getting sleep. I am also incredibly lucky to have had Coach Sayles get me to where I am today. And thank you for this opportunity to express all this! I have had a nice time reflecting as I answered these questions.