Interview with Sara Wells
By Parker Morse

Sara Wells on her way to a surprise sixth-place finish at the 2003 USA Cross Country Championships.
(Photo: Alison Wade/New York Road Runners)
Sara Wells' Team USA Minnesota bio
Open Spaces (Feature from the Daily O'Collegian, October 2000)
A Brief Chat with Sara Wells (Runner's World, November 2001)

Sara Wells made her first World Cross Country team with her 6th place finish in the 8k ("long course") race this month in Houston, but she had already represented the USA in two consecutive Chiba Ekidens. Wells started running as a high school junior in Salina, Kansas, and improved rapidly enough to be a Junior College All-American at Colby Community College before transferring to Oklahoma State University for her junior and senior years. Wells' best finishes for the Cowboys included 20th at the 2000 NCAA Cross Country Championships in Ames, Iowa, and fourth in the 2001 NCAA 10,000m.

Since graduating in December 2001, Wells finished 10th in the 8k at the 2002 USA Cross Country Nationals, joined Team USA Minnesota, and set PRs for 5k (16:11 indoors this January) and the half marathon (1:12:50 as the first half of a relay with Katie McGregor at the Dallas White Rock Marathon.) caught up with Wells after her race in Houston. When did you graduate from Oklahoma State?
Sara Wells: I graduated in December of 2001, but my eligibility had been up that previous track season.

FW: Were you more a cross country runner than a track runner in college?
SW: Definitely. I liked it a lot better.

FW: Which was your last nationals in college?
SW: [2000 at] Iowa State. [Laughs] And I liked that one! It was horrible, but I liked it! I was nineteenth. My family was there. They're here today, they're big supporters. They're awesome. They were all over the course.

FW: Did you think you were likely to grab a spot on the team today?
SW: No, I didn't. I knew I've got more strength, I'm more of a strength runner, so I felt like I might have more of an advantage in a race like this [in muddy conditions]. And I was a lot more confident coming in this year because I've been up training in Minnesota with Team USA under Dennis Barker. I have a lot of confidence in him as a coach, and I know that helps a lot.

FW: Have you been in many other races since graduation?
SW: Not too much. I've done the Chiba Ekiden the past two years, but nothing with these big names [laughs] so this is exciting.

FW: Has Team USA allowed you to train full-time?
SW: I'm working part-time, actually. I'm working in an elementary school, and then I'm volunteering at a hospital. And actually I just found out I've been accepted into medical school, so now I've got decisions to make!

FW: What do you think you'll tell them?
SW: I already talked to them, and I can defer for a year, which most likely is what I'll do. That will be through the 2004 season, and will let me find out where I stand.

FW: Where were you accepted?
SW: At the University of Health Sciences in Kansas City, Missouri. I'm from Kansas, and my brother lives there now.

FW: You've got Lausanne on your schedule now. What else is coming up?
SW: I'm training for the St. Louis Marathon on April 5th. I'm not sure, now, if I'll be able to do it. My coach thought I might be able to. It's what I'm planning on right now. I'm excited to run a marathon, because I feel like I'm more of a long distance runner.

FW: And St. Louis is going to be the course for the Trials in 2004.
SW: Yeah.

FW: Do you have the Trials in mind?
SW: Yes, a little bit. Actually, I don't know if it's going to be good to say, but I don't know a whole lot about what I should be doing and shouldn't be doing. I depend on Dennis to help me out a lot, and I'm always asking him. And I did ask him that, I just asked if he thought [racing the Trials course] would be bad, especially if I would happen to have a bad experience on it. I also considered Boston. But I'd really like to just go and do one.

FW: Bob Kempainen ran Boston as a medical student.
SW: When I tell them I don't know what I'm going to do about medical school, everyone says I should be on the "Bob Kempainen plan."

FW: He's in Minneapolis somewhere.
SW: That's what I've heard, but I haven't seen him around.

FW: Will you do anything for the track season?
SW: That was another question with the marathon and all. I'm not a real speed runner, but my workouts on the track have been going okay. That's another thing we've talked about a little bit, like within the last week or two.

(Interview conducted February 15, 2003)

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