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Interview: Sharon Van Tuyl

Sharon Van Tuyl runs alongside Michelle Palmer of Vermont near the finish of the 2000 NCAA XC Championships. Van Tuyl helped her Boston College team to a 4th-place finish.
(Photo by Alison Wade)

When we found out that Boston College cross country and track runner Sharon Van Tuyl is also BC's ice hockey goalie, we had to find out more. Van Tuyl placed 4th in the 1996 Foot Locker Cross Country Championships and was a member of BC's 4th-place team at the 2000 NCAA Cross Country Championships. And that's just her running... (02-06-01)

FW: How did you end up getting involved in both hockey and distance running? Which one came first?

SVT: I first learned to ice skate when I was in 4th grade, and that led me into learning to play hockey. I started running on my own in the spring, summer, and fall in 7th grade as a pre/post hockey season conditioning exercise. I only usually ran .5-2 miles at the most a few days a week, but I guess that was enough to get me in shape. The summer before 8th grade I went to a hockey camp, and when we did a timed mile, I beat all of the boys, including the 18 year old instructors! The off-ice coach told me that I should run track, so I started track in 8th grade and did not start cross country until 9th grade.

FW: Is it hard to be both a hockey player and a runner? How do you stay in shape for running during hockey season? Are the coaches supportive of your pursuit of both sports?

SVT: I think people may look at hockey and running, and on the surface they appear to be two very different sports. However, I think in both sports you need to have a mixture of endurance and speed, strength, and most importantly positive mental energy.

It does take a lot of work to be able to do two sports at once. I don't usually play much hockey during cross country and track seasons, so I am only training for running then. However, during hockey season, I have daily 2-hour practices, two lifts a week, usually 2 games (home or away) on the weekends, plus I usually try to get in around 30-42 miles a week including one indoor track workout with my team, one longer run of 9-10 miles, and one "faster" or tempo run! I basically try to run as many days a week as possible. When I am on the road for games, sometimes there is no time and nowhere for me to run, so I have to take a day or two off from running. Other trips I get lucky and am able to sneak a short 4 mile run in the morning before the game. Game days I usually just run about 4-5 miles easy, so I am not tired in the net. On hockey practice days I tend to run longer and faster. It's definitely very time consuming though. Some days I have three workouts when you include lifts, which makes for a long day. However, I have been managing both sports since 7th grade, and even though the level of intensity is higher at the college level, I feel I have adapted to it fairly well.

My coaches are pretty good about letting me play both sports. I know both coaches would prefer that I just concentrated on either running or hockey, because they think the other sport detracts from my focus in their sport. On the whole, though, I feel they have been very flexible in allowing me to tailor workouts to fit my schedule, and they are both trying their best to let me get the most out of both of my sports.

FW: How did you end up as a goalie? Do/did you ever play any other position?

SVT: When I first started skating, I played forward and defense for about two years, so I could learn how to skate well and stick-handle the puck. I only played goalie maybe a handful of times. In 7th grade I made the switch to full time goaltender. I knew I wanted to be a goalie before I started playing hockey, but the coaches had told my parents to make sure I learned to skate well first before I turned to goaltending, because goalies need to be the best skaters on the team. This past summer for the first time in about 7 years I played some forward in co-ed roller hockey, and with my endurance from running so much, I rarely needed to take a break, I would've stayed on the "ice" all day if my teammates would've let me!

FW: I don't know if I should dare to ask this, but do you like one of the sports better than the other? Which one are you better at?

SVT: My running coach isn't going to like this (hopefully you don't read this, Randy!), but since I started running to get in shape for hockey, and I have been playing hockey the longest, I like hockey more. However, I also love running. If I didn't love running, I would have chosen to only play hockey at the college level. Besides, I am also very good at running, it got me a scholarship for college! I do not really know which sport I am better at. When I ran in high school, I was 4th at Foot Locker in cross country and I won outdoor nationals in the 3,200m for track. In hockey, I was one of 8 female goalies in the nation selected to attend the National Goaltending Training Camp at the Olympic Training Center at Colorado Springs, CO. I feel my talent lies in both sports, and this is why I continue to compete in both of them. However, I feel I will be a runner for life, and I think of hockey as more of a younger person's sport, so when I'm 50 or 60 years old, I know I will still be running, but I do not know I will be still playing hockey.

FW: What's it like playing a team sport (hockey) vs. competing in a relatively individual sport (track/xc) - is the team chemistry extremely different?

SVT: After finishing 4th at nationals with my team in XC this past season, I must say I have never experienced such a great team atmosphere before in running and in hockey. All of the girls on my team day in and day out, when we came to practice, we were there for business. We worked together to achieve our team and individual goals. There was some competitiveness between us, but we never had workouts that turned into races. Because we were so unified and so directed by the same goals, we were able to pull together and race as one in all of our meets this season. So, I now see running more as a team sport than an individual sport. Of course, track is more individual, because you don't have the "team scoring" like you do in cross country, and everyone's running different events. A good hockey team would put together the same aspects as our cross country team did this past season with good leadership, respect, encouragement, common goals, and hard work.

FW: What are your post-collegiate plans -- will you continue to play hockey and run competitively?

SVT: It has always been a dream and a goal of mine to either make it past college in hockey and/or running. The winter Olympics are only a year away, and I have wanted to play hockey in the Olympics since the first year I laced on my skates. However, the team has 2 seasoned veterans in goal (both goalies played in the last Olympics), and there are so many good goalies at the high school and college levels competing for 2 or 3 spots on the Olympic team. I really wish U.S. hockey would put together a women's NHL, because I feel I would have a shot at playing in that. As of right now, there are few places other than Canada and across seas for women hockey players to play post-collegiately.

I have been injured on and off the past two years, and this is my first year at BC being able to run pain free, so I am still playing catch up. I think I have the potential to be a fast runner, maybe an All American, but I need to keep improving and bring my times in track down. If I am able to stay healthy and start getting faster, I may think about continuing to train after college to race on the roads and on the track, but I think post-college running is similar to women's hockey, in that there's not a whole lot of support out there for runners who are coming out of college and are decent but not necessarily the fastest in the US I have ambitions of going on to medical school, and I would probably not continue with racing or hockey during this time. Perhaps after I get through my medical school training and things have settled down a little, I will have time to play in some men's league hockey and get back to workouts/races in running. A couple of years of lower intensity running/hockey might be a nice break after training so hard for all of these years!

FW: Could you tell me about some of your accomplishments as a runner and a hockey player both in high school and college?

SVT: Running: 3 state XC titles, 3 state 3200m titles, 4 state 1600m titles, 2 indoor state 3200m titles, state 3200m record, school/conference/regional 1600m and 3200m records, 3rd in 1600m and 1st in 3200m at 1997 outdoor track nationals, 4th at footlocker in 1996, 2 time All-American 3200m, 1998 Michigan Sports Hall of Fame Tomorrow's Winners award, high school PR's 800m: 2:15, mile: 4:53, 2 mile: 10:25. Current PR's 1500m 4:27, 3000m 9:45. 1999 earned All-Big East, All-New England, and All-ECAC honors as freshman. 2000 earned All-New England honors; qualified for Big-East and ECACs (3000m), XC team 4th place at NCAAs. Hockey: one of first females in state history to play at the "AAA" travel men's hockey level, only female invited to and attended Collingwood, Ont. and Erie, PA men's Junior A (semi-pro) showcase camps. Invited to tryout for 2-3 men's junior A hockey teams in Canada. 1998 first female inducted into the Kalamazoo Optimist Hockey Associations' hockey hall of fame, 1998 selected to and attended the national goalie camp at Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, CO. Currently have the best/ lowest goals against average of any goalie in BC women's hockey history (from freshman year).

FW: How has your (running) training changed from high school to college?

SVT: I run more miles now. In high school I only ever ran 40 miles max, and that was a few weeks in the summer. I usually average around 30-35 miles a week, with 2-3 hard workouts. This past summer I averaged 50 miles a week with a high of 65 miles. My "long run" in high school was 6 miles, and this past summer I did a couple of 12 milers. As long as I stay healthy, I will continue to improve my mileage each season/year.

FW: How do you manage to get so much done in one day? Any pointers for the rest of us?!

SVT: Good time management! I am also a premed/psychology student, and I guess I am willing to give up the "extras" like partying, going out to movies, and other social activities. Instead I spend my days running, playing hockey, going to class, and then at night I study for a few hours before I go to bed. I am usually in bed by midnight and then the day starts at 7:30/8:00am! Whenever I have some free time during lunch, after classes, before practice I bring my books with me to try and get as much homework done as possible. I try to make up work on the weekends. My roommates and teammates always rag on me about it being a Friday night and there I am glued to a book! I know what I have to get done, and I make an effort to be organized and get my work done before I go out with my friends.

FW: Thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule! Best of luck with all of your pursuits!


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