Interview with Emily Kroshus
By Becky Orfinger

Emily Kroshus anchors Princeton's Distance Medley Relay at the 2003 Penn Relays.
(All Photos: Alison Wade/New York Road Runners)
Kroshus (left) runs with teammate Cack Ferrell at the 2003 Heptagonal XC Championships.
Kroshus kicks to her first Heptagonal XC title.
Kroshus receives her first-place award at Heps.

Princeton senior Emily Kroshus was one of the most heralded recruits of 2000 when she chose the Ivy League over higher-profile running programs like Stanford. After battling injuries and illness during her first couple of years running for the Tigers, Kroshus, a native of Calgary, Canada, had a great junior season and is now nearing the end of what could be her best cross country season ever. After winning the individual Heps title on Halloween and leading her team to second behind national power Columbia, Kroshus will be making her third consecutive appearance at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Waterloo, Iowa on Monday, November 24.

But unlike the past two years, this time Kroshus will be heading to NCAAs with "six of her best friends" — the rest of her Princeton team. Currently ranked fourteenth in the nation, Princeton will renew their season-long battle with Heps foe Columbia in Iowa and Kroshus will look to secure All-American status in cross country for the first time.

We caught up with Kroshus soon after she and her team returned from the Mid-Atlantic NCAA Regional in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. Congratulations on winning the Heps cross country title last month and coming in second at NCAA Regionals. How did those races unfold for you?
Emily Kroshus:
The goal [at Heps] was for [teammate] Cack [Ferrell] and me to finish one and two, and seeing as I've had problems [at] Van Cortlandt in the past, I didn't want to do anything rash during the race that could have jeopardized our placing. We came by the first mile in 5:20 and then kind of tag-teamed Caitlin Hickin of Columbia on the hills. I felt pretty strong and pulled away once we got back on the flats.

Regionals was a fun race, too — basically a glorified track race, because of the flat course. Cack and I worked together again, trying to push the pace a bit in the middle. Some of our girls had a rough time at the start, ending up stuck behind a bunch of people, but we did well enough to qualify. Running at this level as a team is a new experience, so we're all learning and improving with every race.

FW: I have to ask — was it bittersweet winning the individual Heps title but placing second to Columbia?
Definitely, although Columbia ran a great team race, and it's exciting to be part of a real rivalry that brings out the best in both teams

FW: Has level of competition of the Heps conference increased during your four years?
Yes, largely attributed to the O'Neill sisters (Kate and Laura) of Yale. They set a high standard and have motivated all of us — well, motivated me for sure — to work harder.

FW: You've been to NCAA Nationals as an individual, but this year your team will be joining you. Has that been a goal since the beginning of the season?
Definitely. Personally, I have the rest of my life to focus on individual goals, but I can't wait to be in Iowa with six of my best friends — and [Coach] Peter [Farrell] — and really put Princeton Cross Country on the map. We entered this season with higher standards and have kept the level of excitement and expectation up week to week.

FW: Does it help to have Cack running comparable times to you in workouts and races?
It has helped my confidence in races in particular. She is a great racer, usually running way above her training, something that I really admire — it has motivated me to be tougher in races. The combination of having Cack to push me in shorter workouts — she may still consider herself a miler — and now Meredith Lambert, another really talented sophomore who missed the first five weeks with tendinitis, to push me in longer workouts has made for a great training environment.

FW: Princeton's team performances have surprised a lot of people this year. What do you think are the biggest reasons for the team's success so far this season?
The level of intensity on the team has risen, and there is a growing culture of excellence. In my time at Princeton, I've tried to lead by example and show that hard work equals success. Once you have several girls working hard and succeeding, it's contagious. Extrapolating from our track performances last year, I was pretty sure we'd surprise people in cross country — Cack, Meredith, Carrie Strickland and Laura Petrillo all made huge strides throughout indoor and outdoor and qualified for NCAA regionals.

FW: How would you describe the team dynamic amongst the Princeton XC women?
In general, we're all really close — it's a great atmosphere. A lot of us live together and usually eat together, hang out on weekends. We also have innocent fun with the entire team, such as the seniors challenging the freshmen to a rap-off — and winning, based on both lyrical quality and Pilar Marin's fro (laughs).

FW: I remember reading that you had a lot of choices as to where to attend college and still compete at a high level. What attracted you to Princeton?
Academics, first and foremost. Knowing myself in high school and how I had a tendency to fixate on one thing — running — to the exclusion of the rest of my life, I wanted to go somewhere where I respected and had faith in the coach, but where I would be able to explore a lot of avenues in a less pressured environment. I've come full circle, though. While I participated in a lot of different activities during my first three years on campus, I'm now at a point where I know what it important to me — and that's running. Without having had the chance to expand my horizons, I don't know whether I would have the same passion for training and competing as I do now, and whether I would have the same desire to continue racing after college.

FW: I know you've struggled some with injuries and illness during your college career. How did you deal with those?
Initially, not very well. It all started with pneumonia during cross country freshman year. I didn't let myself get entirely better and then tried to make up for lost time by running too much — and doing stupid things like a lot of 200s, not looking at long term development — which resulted in a bad stress fracture. When I finally got myself together after that, I got greedy and impatient again and ended up pounding myself into the ground until I came down with mono and was again not allowed to run for a month or two.

So basically I've learned from that that it's so much better to take a few days off here and there rather than a whole season. To that end, I've been more conservative this year — when my foot was hurting leading up to pre-NCAAs, I took a few days off. When I'm starting to get sick, I back off. That's not to say I'm a wimp or don't work hard. When the time is right, I try to outwork everyone, but from two tumultuous years, I now have it ingrained that the key to improvement is long term consistency.

FW: You had a very high-profile, successful career even before you got to college. Did you feel a lot of pressure when you first got to Princeton?
To some extent, yes. I think that is one factor in my downwards spiral freshman year. I was attempting to do everything — late nights with friends, late nights doing homework all the while trying to run a lot of miles. My response when my training and racing and health started to suffer was to run more, whereas now I realize it should have been to evaluate my lifestyle and training and do both in a more intelligent manner.

FW: How have your workouts progressed as you've continued to improve during college? I know you were a high-mileage runner before college; has that continued?
I try not to focus on my weekly mileage any more, but rather on improving the intensity and duration of key runs and workouts and then doing whatever it takes to recover — be it a day off, cross training or a 90 minute run — in between. If I added it up, I would say I'm doing around 70 miles/week, but that really can vary by plus or minus 25. I've experimented — sometimes with disastrous results — with my body and I know that I can handle a lot of mileage without breaking down, but that doesn't necessarily correlate with running fast. Within the scope of our team program, I am focusing this year on getting my pace down on tempo runs and being consistent about getting several runs of good quality in every week. I feel that over the long term this will be the biggest factor in my success.

FW: Do you incorporate any cross training into your normal training schedule?
Yes! I am so paranoid about getting injured — as I now realize that the biggest obstacle to improvement is not being able to run and then having to rebuild from scratch — that I try to limit the amount of lower intensity running I do. I've replaced easy morning runs with equal time on the elliptical, and I generally take at least one of our recovery days either on the elliptical or in the pool.

FW: I remember reading that your mother was a marathoner. Did her success get you interested in running?
Definitely. Running is part of the culture in our family — my father was a weekend warrior road racer too — and although my mother wouldn't let me start "training" until ninth grade, I always knew that I would eventually be a runner. My mother has also been instrumental in helping me through my tough times in college. She and I ran similarly well in high school, and both got stress fractures at age 18. Much to her frustration in hindsight, she used that as a point to walk away from the sport for a bunch of years. She later won our local (Calgary) marathon, after having her third kid, in 2:45, so she clearly had the talent. She has really instilled in me that I need to be patient in dealing with adversity and not to let a bad season or year crush me.

It was really fun this summer though, as we would run together at 6:00 a.m. most mornings before I went to work. She's still very fit — my first run back for the summer, it was all I could do to not fall behind!

FW: So your genes probably will dictate that your best event will ultimately be a long one.
Probably the 10,000 meters, although one of my goals for my last year in college is to improve over shorter distances. Much to my coach's chagrin, I also want to try out marathons after I graduate.

FW: How do the 2004 Olympics fit into your training goals for the upcoming track season?
Unless something supernatural happens, the 2004 Olympics are penciled into my calendar as prime television time. I really just want to focus on consistent improvement and not doing anything rash. I do think that if I continue working hard and intelligently and keep improving, the 2008 Olympics are a distinct possibility in either the 10,000 meters or the marathon.

FW: Have you had time to get involved in any non-athletic activities during college?
Yes, to a large extent. I wrote for the school paper for three years, participated in a large range of volunteer programs — such as teaching environmental concepts at a low-income school in Trenton — and served as a Student Health Educator.

FW: What are your career plans after college? Do you intend to run professionally?
My career concessions for running have involved not applying to major investment banks in New York City. I'm still in the process of interviewing at a bunch of slightly less intense financial firms — mainly fixed income — and plan on hibernating for the next year or two, just working and training, and then I will reevaluate and see which one should take precedence.

(Interview posted November 20, 2003.)

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