Today we chat with Albany junior, Sophia Nordenholz. This past weekend, Nordenholz won both the 1600 and 3200 at the Dublin Social Distance Fiesta, just missing the meet record in both races. Currently, Nordenholz is ranked 5th in the 1600m and 8th in the 3200m in California if you include all the official and unofficial meets that have taken place this year. (Daniel Tyree photo.)
1) How did you get your start in running? Any running experience before high school? If so, any track personal records? Did you participate in any other sports before or during HS?
I started running with my mom in 3rd grade. We would do 3-mile runs in the mornings before school. I started running competitively in middle school where I ran for Albany Middle School and Raptors Club, along with playing soccer. My PR in the 1600 was around 5:40.
2) What do you remember about your freshman year in XC? Highlights? Who were the older runners that you feel helped you transition into being a high school runner?
Freshman year XC was exciting because it was so fun to be part of a team and run in big races. Natalia Porras, Ellery Renger, and Calla Marchetti were upperclassmen who helped me transition. They were so sweet and friendly and made all of the freshmen feel included right away. The highlight of my season was competing at State as an individual. Unfortunately, my NCS race was canceled due to smoke from wildfires but they took runners based on their times from the season. Going to State for the first time was such a fun experience.
3) What about your freshman year in track? Proudest accomplishments?
Freshman year track went really well. I stayed healthy and was able to improve my times throughout. My proudest accomplishment was qualifying for the NCS Meet of Champions and running a 3200 PR there.
4) Your last full season was your sophomore year in XC. What did you do over the summer to prepare for the season? What do you feel were your best races that season?
Over the summer, I built up a base but didn't do any speed work. I started doing speed in August. Sophomore year cross country started off well, but I was disappointed as the season progressed because I was not hitting the times I wanted to. I was especially disappointed after my State meet that year, where I felt lethargic during the race and did not finish where I wanted to. I did not feel that my performances were a good indication of all of the work I had put in. I couldn't figure out what was wrong with my training, which was frustrating. I found out later that I was iron deficient for most of the season.
5) You had a very shortened sophomore year in track. How many races did you get to do? What did you do once the season was canceled? Did you do any additional races or did you just continue to run?
I only ran at two meets for sophomore track. One was the Stocking Super 7 Invitational, where I ran the 1600, and the other was a league meet where I ran the 16-32 double. I was disappointed with how I performed at these meets. After the season shut down, I continued to train and do speed workouts on my own for a while. I did a couple of time trials on my own, with disappointing results. I was unsure whether the season would resume at that point, so I had no idea how to train.
6) What about the summer before your junior season? What did you change? How many races were you able to do for XC during the official season?
Leading up to and during the summer before my junior year, I focused on running consistent mileage and incorporating hills into my runs. I was still running alone at this point, and I was still not feeling great on my runs because of my iron deficiency. My family went on a road trip during the summer so I had to wake up early to get in runs before hiking with my family. The big breakthrough for me came when I finally got some blood work done and found out that I was iron deficient. Within a few weeks of taking iron, I noticed a huge change in my energy levels and I began to feel much better on my runs. In November, my team was able to resume practice in a limited capacity, and I hit PRs of 5:03 and 10:45 in 1600 and 3200 time trials. January through March, we ran five cross country races in addition to a few additional time trials on the track.
7) You had an impressive double this past weekend at the Dublin Social Distance Meet with PRs of 4:55.86 and 10:29.83. Tell us a bit about each race. Did you have a goal in mind before each race? Did you have a race plan or were you trying to win both races? (Jeffrey Parenti photo above)
For the 1600, my goal was to win and get the MR. I wanted to go out in 2:28 and see how fast I could close. I executed my race plan really well and was very happy with my splits and the time, even though I just missed the MR. (WATCH SOPHIA'S 1600m RACE)
In the 3200, my goal was to run under 10:40, which was my previous PR. I didn't expect to get close to the MR, and I was ecstatic to break 10:30. I have huge respect for the girls I was racing against in both races, and I am psyched to be competitive with girls like Harper McClain and Audrey Allen. (WATCH SOPHIA'S 3200m RACE)
8) Favorite XC course? Favorite XC Invitational? Favorite XC workout? Favorite TF event? Favorite TF Invitational? Favorite TF workout? Favorite long run? Favorite pro runner? Favorite free time activity?
- XC Course: Woodward Park
- XC Invitational: Clovis
- TF Event: 3200
- TF Invitational: Dublin (Social) Distance Fiesta
- XC Workout: Ladder workouts
- TF Workout: Quick intervals on the track
- Long Run: Trails in Tilden/Wildcat regional parks
- Free time: Hanging out with friends, cooking, reading
9) What does a typical training week look like for you from Monday through Sunday with a Saturday invite? How many workouts? Any morning runs? How long are your longest runs? Anything else that you do that you feel helps you as a runner?
Usually, we do track workouts on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Throughout the pandemic, before we had scheduled practices, I was doing tempos on my own once or twice a week instead of track workouts. When I have the chance, I love to ride my bike up to Tilden Park near my house and get in 10 mile runs on trails. I try to get in an additional run per week of 7-8 miles, preferably with some hills. Any other days are an easy 4-6 miles. I take Sundays off.
10) Tell us about your coach and how he has helped you during your three years in high school?
The most important thing Coach Craig Stern has taught me is to trust the training process and have confidence in my training. As a freshman, I got so nervous about my races that I dreaded them. I psyched myself out and convinced myself that other girls had better training. Coach Craig has taught me to trust that my training will be enough and that sometimes, less is more. He has taught me to be confident and believe that I am capable of running at the front of the pack. In addition, he is extremely reliable and I can always count on him to pull through our team. He was so proactive in getting the cross country season going in January, and after nearly a year of not having a team or a season, I think everyone on the team was grateful. He has been extremely helpful in the recruiting process, which would be hard to navigate alone because I have no experience with NCAA sports in my family. I am so lucky to have someone that is very reliable and cares about his athletes beyond their times.
11) What races do you have left in the season? Any particular ones you are looking forward to? Any goals you have left for this season?
I am definitely looking forward to the 3200 at Arcadia. I'm excited to see what I can do against some of the top runners in the state, and hopefully, run a new PR. I hope to return to the third Dublin Fiesta and get at least one of the meet records. ... Time-wise, I want to get my 1600 down to 4:52 or so and my 3200 below 10:20.
12) There is a very good possibility that next year you will be able to experience two full seasons. What are you most looking forward to during your senior year?
I am so excited for cross country next year! I can't wait to have another shot (or two) at the Woodward Park course. I have never performed the way I wanted to on that course, so I hope to get my time down into the low 17s. In addition, a goal that I've had for a while is to get onto the podium at State for XC.
For track, I want to qualify for State and get PRs in the 1600 and 3200. I am very grateful not to be a senior this year and to have another year in high school cross country and track!
13) Have you started to think about college? How interested are you as far as running in college and if so, how much will running be a factor when it comes to deciding on what college to attend?
I definitely want to run in college. My coach has done most of the heavy lifting in terms of reaching out to college coaches, which I am grateful for. I want to go to a program where I can run at a high level but I don't want track and cross country to dominate my college experience.
14) Anything else you would like to add.
Thank you to my family and teammates for being so supportive. You all are the best!
Thank you very much for your time, Sophia!
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Albert Caruana is a multiple-sport coach at the Crystal Springs Uplands School in Hillsborough, who is a regular contributor to MileSplitCA and serves as the site's Bay Area editor.