Interview With Renee Metivier
By Rachel Mosteller

Renee Metivier finishes second at the 2001 NCAA Cross Country Championships.
Photo: New York Road Runners

In 2000, Renee Metivier was just another freshman toeing the line at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, where she finished 123rd. One year later, Metivier finished second in the same meet at Furman University in South Carolina. We caught up with the soon-to-be junior at Georgia Tech as she was preparing to travel back to her home state of Texas for the first time since Christmas. On the day we spoke to her, Metivier was announced as a member of the ACC's 50th Anniversary Women's Cross Country Team. How did you feel when you were running at the NCAAs in cross country?
Renee Metivier: I felt great while I was running. I was very confident going into that race. I know a lot of people hadn't picked me to be [in the top three] but my coach and I both believed in my abilities and I had progressed all season. When I found myself in the situation I was in, I wasn't surprised. I know a lot of other people were, but I ran the best I could. I was very happy afterwards.

FW: Were you in second the whole time?
RM: Through most of the race I was in second. There was a part of the race where I was in fifth and the last half mile I moved back from fifth to second. There was a chase pack, following Tara (Chaplin). We were straggling behind. We didn't want to go out as fast. We were kind of relaxed. I was kind of leading the charge of that group. Right around two miles, I was in fifth place. I guess there was a big decision in the group to go and get Tara and I was hanging on at that point.

FW: Did you think you had a chance of winning?
RM: Yeah, but I didn't quite know. I've become a lot more confident since then. Winning [would have been] huge, but I was happy where I was. I wish I had been a little less content so I could have charged a little bit more. At that time I was quite thrilled to be in second.

FW: What were you thinking when Shalane Flanagan started to walk?
RM: That was a sudden thing that just happened. It was just weird. I started to catch up to them and the end was really hilly. Most of the course was not that hilly. A lot of people tend to waste their energy before they get there. It surprised me, we both have run on that course before. But she's a really tough athlete and she was going for the win. Sometimes it doesn't happen the way you plan it. I think she was dehydrated, but while I was running, it was a shock. Everyone expected her to win.

FW: Why did you choose Georgia Tech?
RM: I chose Georgia Tech because, one, the coach (Alan Drosky) was a big factor. He was All-American himself. He knows what he is doing. He showed a lot of interest in me and I wanted to go to a team where I was actually wanted. I was good in high school but I wasn't national level in high school. I also wanted to go in the south. I don't like cold weather at all. I don't do well in cold weather. [I liked] the environment, it's in the city. It's academically prestigious. My parents weren't going to let me go to a school that didn't have a good academic reputation.

FW: What other colleges did you look at?
RM: Notre Dame, Rice and Vanderbilt.

FW: How was going to school at Flower Mound [Marcus High School]? Y'all had a really good team.
RM: Yeah, it [was a supportive] running environment. We worked together... My high school was team-focused.

FW: How would you describe your high school running experience?
RM: It was so much fun. It really got me hooked into running. We had a big team, 140 people total on the distance team. That's girls and guys.

FW: You were pretty good in high school. You won state cross country.
RM: Yeah and the mile in track. I had some success in high school, obviously. That's what got my coach to look at me. But it wasn't what you'd expect to get second at nationals in college.

FW: How did you do at Foot Locker in high school?
RM: I did terrible but it was more of the experience that was awesome for me. I got eighth in the south region and I got 24th at the [national finals]. That was my first 5k because Texas runs the two-mile.

FW: How did you go from being a good high school runner to being second at the NCAAs?
RM: I had a good coach in high school but it was more team oriented. When I got to college I got a lot stronger myself. I think a lot of factors had to do with it. One, I never got hurt, but I can't say that now. I hadn't been hurt in years. Each season I got better and better. I had to take six weeks off recently.

FW: What did you do to hurt yourself?
RM: I don't know… it's running-related. I had compartment syndrome in my left calf. I had surgery right after NCAAs outdoors. I was running on a lot of cement but I'm trying to fix that next year. I also went from running cross country to doing a lot of fast speedwork for me.

FW: How many miles a week do you run?
RM: In cross I did 70, 75 was my peak. I know a lot of girls do a lot more than that. But I like doing quality rather than quantity.

FW: How many miles per week did you do in track?
RM: Well that varied, it started off real good. I did 75 and even 80 a couple of times. But when my calf started hurting, which wasn't really far into the season, I had to bring it down a lot. I think I may have been doing 40 for the end, maybe 35. I took a whole week off after conference... I couldn't run the week before [NCAA outdoors].

FW: You were still All-American, weren't you?
RM: Yeah, I got eighth. It was a miracle. I just ran as hard as I could, basically. I just did the best that I could. I'm a pretty tough runner - I try to run through as much as I can. It usually starts hurting around two miles.

FW: What's your favorite event to run?
RM: The 5,000. That and cross country. I don't really like sprinting. I'm not a sprinter. For a distance runner, I have a lot of speed, but I like the 5,000 it's not super long. Not like the 10,000 when you can fall asleep for part of it and still be okay. It's really intense and there's a lot of strategy involved in it. That's my favorite part of racing is thinking out the strategies and all the competitiveness of all the runners. Cross country is just great. I love getting off the track, as much fun as doing multiple laps around a circle is. Cross country training is different. It's more team-oriented than track and I like that a lot. In high school we stressed team a lot. I still feel that and our team is really close. We just have a lot of fun in cross.

FW: Do you still do the steeplechase?
RM: Not really. I don't prefer to do that race if I don't have to. People called me a steeplechaser for awhile but I'm not. I did it for my team at conference this year. But that's the only time I did it, I didn't even practice for it. I just did it for points. I'll probably run the 10,000 this year.

FW: What are your future goals?
RM: I do want to run after college, competitively. I'm gonna try and get a little faster and hopefully get a sponsor. That's my plan right now but I'm gonna focus on the rest of my college years. I think I'm going to go five years in college. So I have three more years to go but two more years of eligibility.

FW: You seem very in shape and healthy. What do you think about being such a healthy runner while there are pressures to be thin?
RM: They call me the healthy runner. I think its good, I don't think people should look at these girls who are a little too skinny and think that's what you have to be to be fast. You don't have to be anorexic to be fast. I eat as much as I want. I'm happy and I eat a lot and I love it. Obviously it hasn't been holding me back. I plan to be good for future seasons and I don't think my body will be deteriorated when I stop running.

FW: Do you have a certain diet?
RM: Not really, I eat pretty healthy but I don't limit myself. I don't eat anything fried. I don't like chocolate or cheese so that helps me. I'm kind of weird [in that] I don't like chocolate. Everyone says that, but that's the way I am. I'm kind of a vegetarian. I eat fish but I don't eat other meats. I eat a lot though. So its not like I limit myself. I'll eat ice cream every now and then. Some girls in my sport won't touch it but I don't believe in that. I believe in being happy.

FW: Are you still a math and biology major?
RM: I dropped the bio, I'm just math now. I just couldn't handle both. I was killing myself, basically. Trying to study for both and trying to run and I wasn't getting any sleep. I just reevaluated my goals and what I want to do in the future and decided biology wasn't in there. I used to want to go to med. school but I changed my mind. I want to be an actuary. It's in the math major, you do projections for large corporations.

FW: It seems that people who do a lot of math are often very organized. Do you consider yourself to be an organized and methodical person?
RM: I don't know if you could describe me that way. I'm sometimes disorganized. But I always get what needs to be done, done. I wouldn't say I'm super organized.

FW: Are you a little more methodical in your running? Do you make your plans out like "This is what I'm going to do"?
RM: Kind of. Yeah. Like with the mileage and stuff. I talk it over with coach and we set it out and that's what I do. Some people call me a machine when I run. I don't know.

FW: Why do they call you that?
RM: I have no idea. I guess they say, like, my stride… I don't know. You'd have to ask Coach Drosky.

FW: How do you prepare yourself mentally for a race?
RM: Well… I don't get nervous until I step on the course. To prepare myself mentally I kind of visualize the race but I never put myself out. I always believe in myself. I never give up in a race and I go for it. I don't usually have a race plan because I kind of go with how I feel. But in the same sense I don't ever, even if I feel bad, I don't give in.

FW: What do you do in your spare time?
RM: I like to be well balanced. I know for a lot of runners that it's all running oriented. I like to paint, I like to do anything outdoors. I played soccer for 11 years so I like to do that every once in a while, though my coach doesn't want me to. I love to swim. I like music a lot and I just like hanging out with my friends. I love to go dancing and stuff like that. During season I don't get to go out much and do stuff, but that's what I choose. I like to run and study but I still keep it open to other things.

FW: When did you have your surgery?
RM: On June 7. It was exactly a week after my race at NCAAs.

FW: What have you been doing?
RM: I'm in the training room three hours a day but its starting to dwindle now that I can run again. Our trainer has been awesome. He has massaged my leg and I do exercises. I have these two pretty scars on my calf, but it's actually on the front of my leg. But, you know they're not that bad. But I'm getting back into running and that makes me happy.

FW: Do you think you will run this fall?
RM: I probably will. Knowing my coach, I probably will. I'm kind of leaning towards red-shirting. I haven't yet and I have lots of time. The team kind of wants me to not. I probably won't but we'll see. I'll run unattached in a race in the middle of September before conference. My first race for Tech will be conference if I don't redshirt.

FW: What place did you get at Iowa (NCAAs 2000)?
RM: (Laughing) 123rd.

FW: That's a big jump from 123rd to 2nd.
RM: (Laughing) Yeah I had a big improvement. But I had gotten sick at the region meet before that. I think the cold weather really did affect me, but I wouldn't have done much better, probably. It was still my freshman year and I still felt like one of those little freshmen. It was overwhelming for me at first.

FW: Did you ever get intimidated?
RM: Oh yeah, when you're standing there and you see other girls speaking different languages. And they all look so good. In high school you go from being where you're the big person and you go into college your freshmen year and nobody knows who you are. Everyone there looks so much older than you and look so much faster. You get a little intimidated. But, I found my niche my freshman year. Going into outdoors, I had a pretty good outdoor season. I was all-ACC and I just improved every season I was here.

FW: Who do you look up to?
RM: Wow… I have a lot of role models. I look up to my parents and I look up to God a lot. I think God is one of the biggest factors in my running. My relationship with God became a lot stronger this year. I think that running was an overflow from that. Running-wise, I look up to… I was a big fan of Flo Jo in high school and when she died I cried. I know she's a sprinter but she's a really tough athlete. Regina Jacobs and Deena Drossin are so tough right now. I want to be like them when I get older. They are such amazing athletes and the aspirations they have, they just go for.

FW: What would you tell someone who is kind of like you were a couple of years ago - maybe a Texas high school champion that nobody knows about?
RM: Don't sell yourself short for anything. When I was in high school, I would never imagine [being] where I am now. You never know what is going to happen. Amazing things can happen if you put your mind to it. Nobody would guess I would be where I am now. Even in the race (NCAA cross country) I was in fifth for a while and I didn't give up. That's basically what happened. I started hurting at the two-mile mark and I wouldn't let go, basically. I was hanging on and you never know what will happen. I got to the hills and I ended up being the strong one on the hills. I ended up in second, you never know. Even in that race I didn't know I would become second until the very end.

FW: Did you get a lot more attention after that?
RM: Oh, definitely. People started taking me more seriously. I think the south region never gets a lot of press because they never do that well. Before the race, I won my region by 35 seconds. But they were like, "Oh she's from the south. We don't know if she's really going to be up there." But now they will look at it a little more.

FW: Maybe you will do it again this year.
RM: Yeah I hope so, I just will do my best. That's all I can say. I'll never give up, I will keep training as hard as I can.

Rachel Mosteller is a journalist who currently lives in Durham, NC with her husband.

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