Interviews with Dena Evans and Arianna Lambie
by Parker Morse

Ari Lambie at the 2003 Finish Lynx/Murray Keatinge Invitational. Click on photo to see remainder of Stanford lead pack.
(Both Photos: Alison Wade/New York Road Runners)

Dena Evans

Just named Junior Women's Team Leader for the 2004 World Cross Country Championships in Belgium, Dena Evans is a first-year head coach at Stanford with one of the strongest teams in the country. An assistant coach with Vin Lananna for four years, Evans was a three-time All-American for Stanford (as Dena Dey) and a 1996 Olympic Trials qualifier at 1,500m (4:16.30 PR). Evans has a year-old daughter, Adrienne Catherine Evans, with her husband Marlon. spoke to Evans after her athletes swept the scoring at the Finish Lynx/Murray Keatinge Invitational at the University of Maine at Orono, before she was named to the World Cross Country coaching staff.

FW: What drove the decision to come to Murray Keatinge this year?
Dena Evans:
The last couple years we've gone to Notre Dame, or another meet out of state. This year we thought it would be nice to bring some folks home to the East coast. It's been a fun meet for everyone who has been before.

FW: Did you expect to have such a big pack in the front?
Did I think they would be that close together? I'd have to say they executed really well. It was definitely possible, but the fact that they did it was a great job. Many of those were PRs.

FW: What kind of instructions did you give them before the race? What did they execute well?
Well, I wanted them to make sure to take care of the team score, and to run within themselves for the first two miles, which I think they did. To look for each other, and not beat each other up if they could run together. And they did all those things well, which resulted in this. It's amazing that they were able to run that well together, because a lot of those were PRs.

FW: They barely looked winded when they finished.
Well, you never look winded when you do that well!

FW: Was this the second race for most of them?
For a few it was the third, but the first was a very low-key affair. We split the team last week at Stanford, and got people a couple different types of opportunities to run, and that was because a lot of people got to be part of the score. I think not winning those races last week was a positive thing.

FW: When you have a team with as many talented individuals as this team has, how do you keep them from beating each other up? How do you keep them working together?
One of the reasons they wanted to be on this team, and one of the things they enjoy about being on this team, are the team goals, and having that be a big part of everything we do. That's what they're here to do, to have a really good team. And they generally like each other. They're a really good group.

FW: What do things look like for Nationals so far?
You know, I can only judge us relative to ourselves. We can't be anybody else.

FW: What is this team like relative to last year's team?
It's a different feeling. There aren't many seniors, you know that. They're all girls I've worked with from when they arrived, so that's a bit different.

FW: Did Vin Lannana give you a lot of space with the team, or is this a big change this year?
He really went out of his way to make it a partnership, and I always have appreciated that. It was important to him to help me develop as a coach, and I really appreciate that, because the transition was easier.

FW: It doesn't seem like the change is as much of a change for your team.
But I think it was for me, though. It was always fun for me to think about coaching with Coach Lananna in that he had a lot of experience, and I was young, so we had a lot of yin-yang going on in terms of what we brought to the table. That was always a lot of fun. He's doing something that he's really excited to do, and the girls understand that. It's not like we're doing completely different workouts than we've ever done before, so the day-to-day transition isn't huge for them. Their athletic tasks aren't going to change. He did a great job of really creating a partnership.

FW: So it's been harder for you than for the team.
Well, everything was all peachy-keen until we lost last week! [Laughs] Coach Lananna was out in California for the weekend, and he said, "The girls look great!" I said, "I can't stand losing," and he was cheering me up.

FW: What has changed in terms of what you do?
The tasks haven't changed, but I always have to stop myself because I say "we" a lot, and sometimes it's just me that I'm talking about!

FW: I think they call that the executive "we."
What's been really neat is that Lauren Fleshman has been around, she's pursuing her Masters. So she's been training with us a bit. It's been a great addition, because she knows these girls really well, and she knows me really well, and it's been a good thing.

FW: The kind of season she had last summer sort of commands respect.
Oh, yeah, the night she got home from Worlds, the girls just wouldn't stop talking to her, asking her questions about what it was like. She was over there for several weeks.

FW: It must be a big boost for them to see her as someone they ran with.
Her workouts were our workouts. Especially folks like Alicia and Sara, who trained with her last year, it's really encouraging for them to see, this is someone who puts the workouts in every day like they do and was able to achieve some great things.

FW: What's Alicia's outlook?
She's looking to do her personal best. We've spent some time looking at what she's done in the past, and her fitness level in comparison to then. She doesn't get competitive, she's patient, she's really good at delayed gratification. She runs within herself.

FW: The race she ran in Sacramento was astounding in terms of being patient and having a lot left at the end.
She's excited, and we're looking at getting her in really good shape.

Arianna Lambie

Arianna Lambie was set up to win the Finish Lynx/Murray Keatinge Invitational, though some confusion about the actual finish line on the track gave the final victory to teammate Amanda Trotter. In her first year at Stanford, Lambie is a contributor to a team expected to contend for the national title.

And a bit more than a contributor, according to one tale: apparently Amanda Trotter was asked by a classmate if she had a twin. When Amanda said yes (sister Katy), the classmate said, "It's Arianna, right? She's in one of my other classes."

We talked with the third triplet in Orono after the race.

FW: We saw the pack take off, then we saw the seven of you come in together. What happened in between?
Arianna Lambie:
The whole idea of the race was to win it. We went out in the middle of the pack. Some people felt stronger than others, but we encouraged each other and called them to come up, and two came up from the back to join our pack. We just gathered the energy and carried it through. We ended up coming out of the woods together and decided how we were going to finish, looking strong, and it worked out.

We had run the course yesterday, so we knew the terrain, and the gentle hills. We were going to work together up the hard parts and roll together down the easier parts.

FW: Were you trying to come across the line together?
Teresa McWalters:
Our goal was to let the hometown people go first.

FW: Was it as easy as you made it look?
We were feeling strong. You get a special energy running with the pack, and we were all feeling motivated and positive together, and that makes it easier.

FW: Does the course offer anything different from the courses you usually run?
I think we all agreed it was a beautiful course. It was a nice atmosphere. But the course itself wasn't that different. This is the only race my parents could come to. Coming back to the foliage and New England, it's great. This is the best time to be here.

FW: How does this team compare? Is this the best group you've ever run with?
Oh, definitely. Coming this far, we expected some competition, and we found it. This team is unlike anything I've ever come across. It's unbelievable to run with them. There are a lot of young people, from all different places, and the energy coming together is unbelievable. One way it is like my high school team is the cameraderie, the friendship, but running-wise, in the race, there's nothing like it.

FW: Is there any good-natured pressure to keep up?
Oh, sure. I feel like I have a duty, if you're going to take advantage of the pack, you need to give back. We're learning that together.

FW: It must be odd coming on to a team that's both so young and so experienced in terms of national competition.
It is. The older girls, who aren't even seniors, offer a lot of experience and knowledge. It's a great skill, to teach us younger kids, who've had good high school careers but no NCAA experience.

(Interview conducted October 4, 2003, Posted October 15, 2003)

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