Interview With Hannah Lawrence
By Alison Wade

Hannah Lawrence gets in some training while visiting
Lawrence leads the way at the 2001 NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships.

More photos of Hannah Lawrence @ 2001 NCAA DII XC Championships:
One | Two | Three

Western State's Hannah Lawrence will attempt to win her second-straight NCAA Division II Cross Country Championship this fall. At last year's Championships she ran away from two-time defending champion Marjo Venalainen to win by seven seconds, helping Western State its second-straight team title. Lawrence, 24, hails from Auckland, New Zealand. She attended college for three years and ran for a club, Counties Manukau, before coming to the United States in the fall of 2000. A Psychology and Kinesiology major, Lawrence will finish out her eligibility at Western State this semester. You didn't run for a college in New Zealand, but you were a runner, right?
Hannah Lawrence: Yeah, I was, we just don't have any collegiate system over there, we just run for clubs.

FW: How did you end up at Western State?
HL: Coach (Duane) Vandenbusche came to New Zealand for a holiday and he recruited some of us at a track meet, he just came and chatted, and then he just kept calling us. [Some of my friends] came over and they enjoyed it, so I decided to come too.

FW: It seems like there's a strong connection between New Zealand and Western State.
HL: Yeah, there seems to be (laughs).

FW: Did you run in high school?
HL: Not for my school, just for myself.

FW: Did you race at all then?
HL: Yeah. I did a 2:16 for the 800 when I was 16, and then a 10:15 for the 3,000 and I did a 4:38 for the 1,500, [my times] aren't very fast (laughs).

FW: Did you play any sports when you were young, before you took up running?
HL: I played field hockey since I was seven, probably right up until I was 17. And I did some triathlons and dabbled in other sports in high school.

FW: When did you start exclusively concentrating on running?
HL: Probably when I was about 18, I just did all of them for a while.

FW: What kind of times did you run in New Zealand for Counties Manukau?
HL: 4:31 for 1,500, 2:12 for the 800 and 10:01 for the 3,000.

FW: What are your best times now?
HL: I haven't done anything different in the 1,500 or the 800, I ran the 5k for the first time last year and did a 16:34 and then a 9:54 in the 3,000.

FW: So you ran cross country for Western in 2000, then did you run track that year?
HL: Yeah, I was injured for indoors and then I got fifth in the 3,000 outdoors.

FW: Did you run track in 2002?
HL: No, I went part-time at college, I didn't have track (eligibility) left.

FW: How has your training changed since you came over to the US?
HL: I get to train in a group, with people. I did all my training alone at home and would just [occasionally] run with a group, so it's a big thing having a group to train with. In the summertime I do a lot more miles than I did at home. And we do more workouts a week, and we do longer intervals than I used to do at home.

FW: What kind of mileage do you do over the summer?
HL: I kind of go by hours so my miles are probably not very accurate. But I think it's between 70 and 85 in the summertime... This summer my biggest weeks were 10 hours to 10 hours and 15 minutes, they were the longest ones I did. I just did about a month of that and then came back down.

FW: Over the summer, what kind of pace do you run most of the time?
HL: I don't know (laughs). Usually we go 8-9 miles an hour.

FW: And what's your training like during the season, you mentioned doing more workouts -- how many do you do and what types?
HL: We do workouts three times a week. Tuesdays we do hills, either short or long, we alternate them week by week. Thursdays we either do mile repeats, 1,000m repeats, or fartlek-type training. And then Saturdays we have long tempo runs that will get a bit shorter as the season goes on.

FW: Do you ever run with the men's team?
HL: We're always working out in the same area. In the summertime, sometimes we'll train together, but I enjoy running with the girls (laughs) so I just stick with them.

FW: How often do you get to go home?
HL: I haven't been home yet, since I came here.

FW: Since you came in 2000? Is that hard?
HL: Yeah.

FW: When will you next go home?
HL: I'm not sure, because I just got married (to Brent Kinseth, an American) in the summertime, so I've got to get back on top of my bills (laughs). It's kind of expensive to go home, I just haven't been in a position to afford it yet.

FW: Congratulations on your marriage. Is he a runner?
HL: He does the hurdles and the decathlon, so he dosen't do the same running I do.

FW: Do you think you'll stay here after you finish up this semester?
HL: Yeah, we're going to stay here a couple of years, because I want to keep running. And then we'll go home, I don't know when though.

FW: Are you going to keep your name?
HL: Just for running, I've changed my name for all my accounts and everything.

FW: Does the fact that you married an American make U.S. citizenship a possibility? Do you even have any desire to change your citizenship?
HL: First I have to get residency, which you're pretty much granted when you get married. And then you have to wait, I think, three years living in the country before you can apply to get citizenship... I'm quite happy just to have residency, I don't see a huge point in getting citizenship because I would probably just compete for my country anyway.

FW: We assume that your victory at last year's NCAA Cross Country Championships was a bit of an upset since you be the two-time defending champion. Were you surprised by it?
HL: Kind of and kind of not. I went in to the race knowing that if it was God's will for me to win it then I was ready, but at the same time I hadn't raced [Marjo Venalainen of Kennesaw State] or even gotten close to her before, so it was a big unknown.

FW: How did the race unfold?
HL: Well I didn't mean to be in the front from the start, but I just kind of found myself there. So I was like, 'Okay, I'll just stay here. I'm not going to drop back and then try and come back again.' So I started in the front and then one of the girls from Adams came from behind and tried to make a break. She had done that at Regionals and I didn't go with her then and I lost the race, so this time I went with her. We had a group of four and we basically ran together for the whole race, until about a kilometer or 1,300 meters to go. I picked a hill that I wanted to go on, and I did. I got a surprise because they didn't. I was expecting them to come with me and they didn't. So I was shocked.

FW: Do you feel a lot of pressure going into this year?
HL: I guess more so than last year because last year whatever I did was okay. I guess I just have higher expectations for myself, there's no pressure from anyone on my team or anything.

FW: How's your team looking this year?
HL: They're actually looking really good (laughs). I'm probably fourth on the team at the moment. We have some girls returning that were injured last year that are doing really well this year, and we have a new recruit who's doing really well too.

FW: Did you run in the team time trial on August 24th? And how did it go?
HL: It was good, we have a points system to make the nationals team, and the top four spots all got the same points. We just ran it as a tempo run and I just came in fourth and got the same points as they did.

FW: And you have a race tomorrow (September 7th) at Adams State?
HL: I'm not running tomorrow, none of our top five are running. But we have a race next weekend in Fort Collins (the CSU Invitational).

FW: How many times will you race this season?
HL: We don't have many races, we have two races, definitely, before conference, possibly three. But that's it, then we just have conference, regionals and nationals. So probably only five races.

FW: Is that what you've done in the past also?
HL: No, last year we had one or two more races. I'd kind of prefer to have one more (laughs), we're just a little bit short this year.

FW: Josh Eberly mentioned Coach Vandenbusche's army-like style, how does that manifest itself with the women's team?
HL: It takes a while to get to used to. I think sometimes the girls get a bit of a shock at first, I know I did. But then you get to know him and he is really awesome! We all have a lot of fun together. He really toughens you up and inspires you. He is a great judge of talent and is great at drawing that talent out into performances. He's actually probably a teeny bit... I wouldn't say softer with the girls, he can yell at us just the same, but you get more of a companionship maybe... He's threatening to take all of our tummy-button rings out (laughs). He made two of the girls take out their nose piercings... None of the girls have crazy hairstyles or anything, usually with the girls he'll hassle us about it, but he doesn't always enforce it the same.

FW: Has Coach Vandenbusche been different than the coaches you've had in the past?
HL: Yeah, he's been very different. The coaches I had at home were individual coaches, they were like my personal coach. It's more like being on a sports team because it's more of a team coaching style. It took a while to get used to, but I really appreciate it now.

FW: When you graduate, do you have a plan for how you're going to pursue a running career?
HL: I would like to stay in Gunnison and train. There's a group of people that have finshed school that seems to be growing here. I have to improve my times on the track a lot to get any kind of career going. I am just going to work on doing the best I can on the track and see where that leads.

FW: Have you ever run a 10k on the track?
HL: No.

FW: Do longer distances interest you?
HL: I'm not sure, I'd kind of like to master the 5k a bit more. I've only run one and that was indoors, and I had only done two indoor races, so it was kind of an experience. But I'd like to do some more 5ks before I do a 10.

FW: Do you envision your racing career being mostly on the track, or on the roads?
HL: I prefer cross country the most, there's not much of a career in that. I'm not sure, I have to see whatever works out the best.

(Interview conducted September 6, 2002, Posted September 20, 2002)

Nothing contained herein may be reproduced online in any form without the express written permission of the New York Road Runners Club, Inc.