Interview with Erin Bedell
by Ricky Quintana

Erin Bedell competes at the 2003 Foot Locker Cross Country Championships.
(Photo: Alison Wade/New York Road Runners)

Senior Erin Bedell of Plano West High School in Plano, Texas, dominated Texas high school miling last season and made a name for herself on the national scene. At the Texas Relays in April, she stormed to an easy victory in the mile (4:56.21) after leading her team to great finishes in the highly competitive DMR (second 12:04.85) and the 4 x 800m (fourth, 9:36.37). At the Texas 5A state championships, she won the 1,600 by running the last 800m in 2:17 and the last 400m in 62 seconds, for a final time of 4:47.33.

A month later, she traveled to the Golden West Invitational in Sacramento, California, to compete in the mile. She again used a fast finish to hold off Nike Indoor mile champion, Katelyn Kaltenbach of Smoky Hill, Colorado. Her winning time of 4:43.71 earned her a #3 U.S. high school ranking for the year.

After finishing third in the 1,500m at the USA Junior Track & Field Championships (4:26.62), Bedell took an eight-day vacation. She resumed running and built up to 60-65 miles per week by the end of August. She hopes that the increase will help her improve on last year's season where she placed 25th at the Foot Locker Cross Country Nationals. On October 2, she will get a tough test as she travels to the Great American Cross Country Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she will face some of the country's top runners.

Ricky Quintana: You had a great state meet. Can you review that meet?
Erin Bedell:
I just ran the 1,600. I dropped the 800 after districts to focus on the 1,600. We went out really slow in that race, because it was windy and I didn't want to lead for at least a lap or so. I ended up leading. We hit 75 and then 2:30. I was waiting for the last lap to come because I didn't want to go too early and die at the end. So I was just waiting, waiting, waiting until the last lap. Once it did come, I was going to wait until 300 meters to go, but I just went and finished in a 62. I knew the pace was way off in the beginning. I wanted to get the state record [4:43.80 set by Plano's Cindy Tolle in 1983] and I didn't think I had a chance. I was really surprised [to come that close] because I waited so long.

RQ: You really dominated girls' high school running in Texas last year.
All those girls are awesome. They did really well last season and they are all younger than me. They did push me this year. I'm sure with experience they'll be up there with me next year. I think I'll have a lot of competition next year because they'll all be juniors and sophomores.

RQ: You had a lot of time off after the state meet, before you went to Golden West. What did you do for that long period of time?
I went to really hard base for the Golden West meet and USA Juniors. We did two-a-days and we did a couple of long tempo runs [to help me] last until the end of June. My speed workouts gradually got harder. When it got closer to Golden West, I completely tapered. I wanted to do well there. My speed workouts were really short and I did a lot of time trials.

RQ: What type of goals did you set for Golden West?
I really wanted to run faster than I had. I just wanted to stick with the competition, because I knew it was going to be great. All the girls' times, except Katelyn [Kaltenbach's], were right around 4:49. I knew it was going to be a hard race and I wanted to stay with the front pack and get a PR.

RQ: Can you describe that race?
Again, I didn't want to lead again [laughs]. I think it's easier not to lead for at least a lap, but I went out and led for two until Frances [Koons] came and passed me in the third lap. I just tucked right behind her. I wanted to be positioned on the inside for the last lap so I could run the shortest distance. I stayed behind Frances for that third lap and waited until 300 meters to go again. I went with 300 meters and hoped that no one else would be able to stay with me. Katelyn caught up to me; I didn't realize how close she had gotten until I saw some pictures later. Luckily, I was able to hold on in the end.

RQ: That was a huge PR for you.
Yes, it was. I was really pleased with my time more than my place.

RQ: What was your best coming into the season?
I had run 4:57 for the mile at Golden South [in 2003].

RQ: During Golden West, did you have any notion that you were running that fast?
I knew that the pace was what I wanted it to be. I wanted to go out in at least 70 and 2:22 to 2:25. I knew we were on that, but I didn't know how fast we would finish up.

RQ: Did it surprise you that you had that much of a kick?
I don't know if it surprised me. I was really happy with what I did. I'm used to kicking that long because I've been doing that all year long. I was happy that I could kick that hard at the end.

RQ: You opted not to the adidas Outdoor Championships because of travel, right?
Yes. I had been to California, and then to turn around and do AOC and then juniors — which I had already declared for — was not something I wanted to do.

RQ: Can you go over your experience at the USA Junior Championships?
It was a great experience because I got a chance to run against college girls. Running their pace was definitely difficult. In the warmup, I definitely didn't feel too great. I just didn't know what to expect and we went out really fast. It was the first race that I wasn't leading or right behind the leader. It was definitely a faster pace than I was used to. I think that because it was the end of the season, it wasn't one of my best races. I tried to stay in there with Sarah Bowman, but I just couldn't. I ended up third.

RQ: How did you feel after that?
I was a little disappointed. I would have loved to go to Italy and complete my season overseas. I was disappointed in the place because I'm a really competitive person and I like succeeding all the time, but no one is going to have perfect races for the whole season. I think it was good opportunity for me, I had a good track season, and [then it was] time to take a break. I took eight days off after [USA Juniors] and took a vacation.

RQ: How much did you train coming back?
I ran 20-25 miles the first week, just to play it safe and not go too hard too soon. My sister and I did 25-30 minute runs the first week. We gradually started picking it up each day. Now, I'm in the 60-65 mile range. [Editor's Note: Erin's sister, Lyndsy Bedell, is also a top runner. She graduated from Plano West this spring.]

RQ: What does a typical week look like?
Sunday is my long run. Monday and Wednesday are my easy long runs, but not as long as Sunday. Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays are the harder days where we may do tempos or something like that. That's just for the base phase.

RQ: Texas runs two miles and the rest of the country runs from 4K to 5K. How are you going to account for the difference?
I'm hoping that the training that I am doing now will help me to prepare for both distances. It's kind of like track. Sometimes you run the 800m, sometimes you run the mile or two mile. You prepare for the differences. The longer tempo runs will prepare me for the longer distances.

RQ: Were you expecting to make it to Foot Locker nationals last year?
I wanted to get top eight [at the South Regional]. That was my goal, but I thought that goal was out of reach. When I was in the top eight, I was completely shocked. I didn't think that I would make it to Foot Locker and I did. It was a great experience. This year, after being top eight last year, I want to get top eight this year at the South Regional and do better at nationals.

RQ: What are the things that you want to do differently this year if you make it to nationals?
I want to be able to stay with the top group. I'm training really hard for Foot Locker and the bigger meets. I just want to improve there on the hills. I don't do the training on the hills that other girls do, so I want to get better on the hills. That course is pretty hilly.

RQ: Do you enjoy cross country?
Yes, I do. I excel more in track, but I like the team aspect in cross country.

RQ: Are you going to Great American to give you some experience against some of the top girls?
I definitely think Great American is going to be a great experience to run a 5K race against better competition. It will prepare me for some other bigger races.

RQ: What has been your mileage the past few summers?
My freshman year, I didn't run during the summer because I played soccer. My sophomore year, I probably ran about 50. Last year, I hit about 55 and this year I'm trying to run 60-65. I have a long cross country season.

RQ: Can you go over how you got involved with running?
When we moved here from California, I loved soccer; it was everything. I had been playing soccer since I was 5. I played select soccer for about five years here. In sixth grade, when soccer was out of season, my parents had us run track in the summer. I loved it. I would do the 100m and 400m. In seventh grade, I started doing the 800m and by the eighth grade I was doing the mile. That's probably when I started getting more serious about running. Freshman year, I joined cross country because my sister had run the year before. I dropped soccer after my freshman year to focus on cross country.
I definitely was an active kid. I played all sports — gymnastics, soccer and basketball. Now I'm just concentrating on running.

RQ: In eighth grade, how fast did you run?
I think in eighth grade, I ran 5:28. I think that was during the state summer track meet.

RQ: How hard was it for you to drop soccer?
I think because I had been playing it since I was 5, it wasn't too hard. I think I got burnt out on it.

RQ: What has helped you to become as fast as you have?
I think that because I'm a very competitive person, the level of competition has definitely raised the bar. It has helped me strive to run faster. Even in every day workouts I push the pace. It's comfortable, but it's more just thinking about competing in meets and being able to run faster. I think it's the level of competition that lets me push myself harder.

RQ: Texas is pretty competitive, but do you follow what the other girls are doing?
I know the girls that have been excelling pretty well. Miranda Walker and Brooke Upshaw are really sweet. It's more like friendly competition. We don't really race each other that much, because we are in different districts. That will change this year, because my district changed so we run against them at regionals this year. Other than that, I follow them, but we're more just friends.

RQ: Do you follow what goes on outside the state?
I definitely follow the big meets. With cross country, it's so different because every course you run is so different. It could be more hilly or flat or it could just be a slow day. I don't look at times, but I look at more at who is excelling.

RQ: You are traveling to Great American to race. Are you looking to compete in more big races in track too?
I don't know. I haven't really thought about it that much, because I will probably do [the USA Junior Cross Country Championships] it's just a fun experience. I know I'll be doing that which would interfere with indoor season. Normally, we don't do indoor seasons, so I probably won't be looking to do track until outdoor season. We start outdoor season early because it isn't cold in Texas; we don't have to deal with snow or anything like that.

I probably will do some bigger meets this year, but I won't be doing too much traveling because that can take a lot out of you. I'll definitely do the same meets as this year plus a couple more.

RQ: I tried phoning you one night and you were already in bed. I think it was 9 o'clock.
I think it was 9:30 p.m. I try to get to bed early because we have practice at 6:00 a.m. I have to get up 5:40 a.m. I try my hardest to get eight hours of sleep because I function a lot better and I'm a lot happier.

RQ: Do you do double workouts?
We run twice after school each week and then I run with my Metroplex Striders coach, Terry Jessup, on Tuesdays. We run every morning, Monday through Friday. Coach Jessup has been coaching for 30 years. He's South African and he came over to the U.S. to run in college. He decided to stay here and started the club with a guy named Robert Vaughan. They used to have a whole track team, but then they started concentrating on distance. They had a couple of great athletes; they coach them and then they leave to go to college.

RQ: That group is pretty big. You've had a lot of success with them.
Yes, we have. I think that also helps because I get to train with my sister, Crystal Rodriguez, Rachel Forish, and Rachel Collins. It helps me to run with such a high intensity group. It makes you want to work harder in your practices.

RQ: Does that work well with your high school coach?
Sometimes, there are a couple of conflicts, but other than that it always works out for the better. I think it helps a lot because he's very knowledgeable and he has a lot of experience.

RQ: How has the recruiting process been going?
It's good. I think because of how well my track season went, it opened a lot of doors. I'm really happy with the calls I've gotten. I think it will be great to get a good education and also excel in college running. I have some schools in mind and I'll be taking some visits. Hopefully I'll make my decision by November.

RQ: With Tiffany McWilliams and Shalane Flanagan signing pro contracts this Olympic year, do you see yourself being a professional runner down the road?
It is definitely one of my goals to excel in college and have fun with that. I hope to excel after college too. I hope that I can train myself for that. It's one of my aspirations, but if it doesn't work out, I'll still have a college education. Being a professional athlete has always been one of my goals. First it was soccer, but now it's running.

(Interview conducted August 23, 2004, posted August 31, 2004.)

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