Interview with Kassi Andersen

Reported by Parker Morse

Kassi Andersen en route to a national title in the 3,000m steeplechase.
(Photo by Alison Wade/New York Road Runners)

Kassi Andersen became the third consecutive NCAA steeplechase champion from BYU, continuing the Utah school's monopoly on the event. After spending most of the race at the tail end of the lead pack, Andersen was the only one to cover the move made by Northern Arizona's Ida Nilsson with two laps remaining. She drew even at the final water barrier, then pulled away from Nilsson down the homestretch to win in 9:44.95, an NCAA meet record and a four-second PR.

Fast-Women.com: This is another chapter in a series of BYU steeplechasers.
Kassi Andersen:
Yes. It's so crazy, it was nothing that was planned, nothing pressuring me. It didn't cross my mind until they mentioned it after the trials and I thought, yeah, it would be really cool. It's so awesome. It hasn't really sunk in yet. We talked about winning like it was an option -- if you don't get it, it's okay as long as you really did your best. I wanted to be in the top three, that was my goal going in to the whole thing. But we said, 'You know, if it all plays out right, you're in shape to go with whoever tries for it.' And I told myself, 'I'm in this race as much as anyone else, and I've worked hard for it.'

FW: Did Coach (Pat) Shane give you an idea how fast he thought you could run?
Yes, he knew I could PR, he knew I could go for the record, and it just came down to how the race went and how I felt.

FW: Did he give you a number?
Anywhere under 9:45, just in that ball park. My pace was to hit a 45.

FW: Are those your splits there on your hand?
Yeah, that's my split for the 400, 800, and mile [first lap, two laps, and four laps.]

FW: You were actually a little slow off all of these. You must have closed faster than expected.
Yeah. I didn't even look at the times. I just said, I'm behind everyone, I'm going with them, and so I just pulled it out at the end.

FW: When did you know you had it?
At the last water jump. I went with [Ida Nilsson] at the bell, and I thought, she's kicking. I know I have a kick too, so if it comes down to that, I'll go for it, but I thought, she's looking good too. In the back of my head I remembered that coach said, 'At the water jump, take it, take the lead.' It's crazy how that's what he gave me, and that's what happened. At the water jump I said, 'This is it, go for it now,' and I gave it my all to the finish.

FW: What does that feel like, coming down the homestretch knowing you have it won?
It was awesome! You're not straining, you're not hurting, you're just thinking, wow, it's almost over. It was awesome.

FW: Has steeplechase been your event this year?
Just this year, yeah. I've been really working on it. I'm not much of a hurdler, I have a lot of work to do. That race was probably one of my worst as far as technique.

FW: Still, you took the lead right after the water barrier.
I'm good at the water jump. Hurdling... I'm really bad on my left leg, and I probably had to use my left on the majority of them. But still, I didn't panic, I was just like, whatever, it doesn't make that big a difference, because I knew I'd been doing that all year.

FW: You were a miler last year, right?
Yeah, I ran the 1,500.

FW: What led you to the steeplechase?
I just... I didn't know that I'd be coming to nationals in the steeplechase. I wanted to do both this year to see what I liked. After my first steeple, I thought, I really like this, I could be really good. I think I have more potential in the steeple. It kind of decided it for me, when I did well.

FW: Do you train with the other steeplechasers, like Michaela Manova and Elizabeth Jackson, at BYU?
Oh, yeah. Liz has come with us a few times. She's not competing, but she's trained off and on. She's not going to Nationals this year. Next year she's coming, she'll probably go to the Olympics or something.

FW: Will you run USATF next weekend?
Yeah, uh huh.

FW: How fast do you think you can go there?
Faster! I want to go faster.

FW: Where will you make the improvement?
Hurdling. It's hurdling. Training will make me faster, but technique is the majority of my problem right now. It's definitely something that can be improved, and that's exciting to me.

FW: Coming from a mile background, speed isn't really a problem for you.
No. I don't have to worry about staying with someone. If I'm with them, I'm pretty confident I can stay with them.

FW: Didn't Manova move up from a middle-distance background as well?
Yes, Misha was a miler. Her first year she was a miler, her second year she was like me. We do the 1,500m indoor, then steeple outdoors. She's a good distance runner and she's got hurdling in her background.

FW: You had a pretty decent cross country season as well. How did the winter go?
Indoors I was injured. I went to Nationals but on the relay team, the DMR. I ran the 1,200m.

FW: What was the injury?
I had tendonitis in my foot. I overtrained after cross country, I should've taken a break and I didn't. But I've learned from that and I won't do it again.

FW: You've got a couple years of both cross and track, right?
Oh, yeah. I redshirted my first cross country season, so I've got three years of that left. Then two more of track.

FW: What kind of a role does Coach Shane play in your success?
He's huge. He believes in me, he trains me, he sees potential, he knows what we can improve on, he's very involved in each individual. He's the best coach I've ever had.

FW: How about your teammates?
They're huge too. We're all really close, we train together, and we work hard.

FW: Does that change from cross country, especially with track being so different?
It does, just because we all run different events so our training is different. When we come to meets, it's a little different, because we all warm up different times, it changes the whole routine. But when we train, we're with each other, we're more encouraging. There's a lot more going on, and we're not competing with each other. We're working hard together.

(Interview conducted June 13, 2003, Posted June 14, 2003)

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