Interview with Treniere Clement
By Becky Orfinger

Clement on her way to the 1,500m title at the 2003 Big East Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
(All photos: Alison Wade/New York Road Runners)
Clement runs the 4x800m relay at the 2003 Penn Relays.
Clement runs the 3,000m at the 2003 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships.

It was mostly Georgetown University's long-standing tradition of excellent middle distance runners that attracted Treniere Clement there when she graduated from high school in 2000. And although it took a couple of seasons — and an inaugural "serious" cross country season — she has elevated the Georgetown program further.

Clement began to make waves on the national scene in 2003 and is currently enjoying a stellar senior season. After finishing 11th in the highly competitive outdoor NCAA 1,500 in 4:16.29 last spring, Clement trained hard over the summer and had her best cross country season ever. She led the Hoyas all season, finishing fifth at Pre-Nationals, fifth in the Big East Championships, and winning the NCAA Regional meet. Although she had a sub-par race at the NCAA Cross Country Championships (finishing 103rd), Clement rebounded indoors and pulled off an impressive double at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in March, coming in third in the mile and fourth in the 3,000, setting two new PRs in the process.

As she heads into the outdoor season, Clement will be looking to establish a qualifying mark for the Olympic Trials in the 1,500 while still remaining an integral part of the Georgetown team. We caught up with her over a cup of coffee soon after she returned from NCAA indoor nationals. Congratulations on a great NCAA meet. Had you expected to do that well?
Treniere Clement:
Well, originally I had planned to run the 3,000 and the [mile anchor of the] DMR because my coach thought that would be best for my training. But then, I wanted to do the [open] mile as well, and [my coach] thought it would be too hard to do the DMR-mile combination. So then I decided just to do the mile. But at the last minute, [the Georgetown coaching staff] said, 'We're going to declare you in the 3,000, too.' It was so last minute — but that's how I ended up doing the mile and the 3,000 — and it worked out. I'm really glad I did it, but it wasn't my first choice!

FW: You seem to like the shorter races better, although you do well at the longer distances, too.
I like the mile a lot. I guess you kind of like what you're good at. [Before this season] the 3,000 was something I had only done a few times, and I just never really felt comfortable doing it, but this year it's been a better experience.

FW: Do you think that your improvement in the longer races can be attributed to your excellent cross country season in the fall?
Yeah, cross country helped out a lot. I'm starting to see it. I've run cross country every year [in college], but I wasn't really serious about it during my freshman and sophomore seasons. But the summer before junior year, I just went home and really trained. My goal was to make the top seven that fall, and I did.

Then, before senior year, I adopted the attitude of 'The better I am in cross country, the better I will be on the track.' I just tried to become a cross country runner.

FW: Was your training last summer done pretty much by yourself at home?
Well, I actually studied abroad at Oxford this past summer, during the month of July, so I did a lot of training there. It was nice running there, because the weather is so much cooler than here. I [was in] a Shakespeare/English Literature program there — I'm an English major, so I got some credit for that. It was a very cool experience. I would love to go back there someday.

FW: What about the summers you've trained at home in Ohio? Do you have people to run with there?
No, none of my high school running friends do much more than run recreationally now — I'm the only one of them who is still training seriously. I'm starting to get used to training by myself, though, because even here I'm doing workouts by myself lately. My training is a little different than everyone else's on the team right now.

FW: Why is that?
Well, for indoor track, we decided to train all the way through the season — I really didn't taper that much. This is the first time I've ever done that, and it worked out very well. So towards the end [of the indoor season] when everyone else was tapering, I was still training pretty hard and running quite some distances for my long runs. So, I ended up doing a lot of the workouts and long runs on my own toward the end of the season.

FW: It must be hard to motivate yourself to do these hard workouts and long runs without teammates.
It is, but I'm starting to mind it less. I think cross country disciplined me a lot — just mentally.

FW: Had you run cross country in high school, or just track?
I did, but not seriously. I came [to Georgetown] with the intention of being an 800 meter runner. But when I got here, my coach told me I was going to be a good miler. And I was like, 'Okay!' Then, my sophomore year, I started to run the 1,500 outdoors and really see my potential in the mile. So then I was more like an 800-1,500 meter runner. And this year, it was like, 'Let's run the 3,000 and see how that goes.'

FW: So now that you are moving up in race distance, how long are your long runs during the season?
About 11 miles, during the indoor season. You would think living in a city, there wouldn't be too many places to do long runs, but there are trails — like Rock Creek Park — and a lot of other neat places here [in D.C.]. Today we went down to the Capitol, so it's fun.

FW: Are you back in full training mode now or still resting after NCAAs?
I took a few days off, right after the meet, but then started up my training again. The Olympic Trials 1,500 has kind of been my goal all along, and that's why I trained all the way through indoor. My coach thought it was important for me to still maintain the strength work since my season is going to be so long [Note: The Olympic track Trials are in mid July.] I really didn't race as much as some of the other kids on the team did during indoor, and I probably will have a similar plan during outdoor.

Today we were trying to figure out my [racing] schedule, actually. I really like training better, so we're going to race less and have some quality meets and train a lot harder. I'll probably do a lot of relays and get qualified for NCAA Regionals in a smaller meet.

FW: Do you get more nervous before meets when you haven't been doing a lot of them during the season?
Not anymore. The only meet I really got nervous for this year was Nationals. I try to think of smaller meets as practice and training, so they aren't as bad.

FW: Does your training group get competitive in practice? Maybe that helps prepare you for races as well.
Yes. I like to train hard, so it's probably me pushing the pace a lot of the time!

FW: How has it been getting track workouts in without a track on campus? [Note: The track at Georgetown was removed in the summer of 2002.]
We go to a local high school [in Arlington, Virginia]. I guess a new track is in the works, but I won't see it. We have buses or vans to take us out there — or, we can run over since it's only 3.5 miles away. When I first heard we weren't going to have a track, I didn't know what to make of it, but it really hasn't been that bad. At least being a middle distance runner, I don't have to get on the track every day, like the sprinters do. We go to the track two or three times a week, depending on the time of year. We still have turf on campus, where I do strides and drills and stuff.

We're also getting a small, 200-meter track inside our field house, which will be better than nothing. But winters aren't usually too bad around here, and I think running outside all the time like we do makes us tougher. We know how to train in any kind of weather conditions.

FW: What are some typical workouts for you on the track?
On Mondays, I will usually do light speedwork — 100s and 200s and strides and stuff. I'm starting to learn that the little things are really important, so I'm taking drills more seriously. I want to run a lot more 800s during outdoor, so that kind of stuff is key. On Tuesdays, we do distance or strength stuff some weeks and miler-type workouts other weeks. We also tempo every few weeks. I was doing more of it at the beginning of indoor. In cross country, we did weekly 8-mile tempos, which is probably one of the hardest workouts to do.

FW: Do those 'little things' that you mentioned also refer to eating right and getting enough sleep, things like that?
I guess I kind of pay attention to what I eat, but most of the things I like to eat are pretty good for me, too. I mean, I like cookies. I'm lucky to be in a healthy environment — the girls on our team are smart about that kind of stuff.

FW: Switching gears a bit, I know there are a few coaches for your team. Who's your coach?
The head coach is Coach Ron Helmer, and he was my coach up until this year when I switched to Juli Henner. She's an assistant coach.

FW: Was that switch your choice?
Yes, it was mutual. They agreed that I'm at a level where I need a little more personal attention and more one-on-one time. It was getting hard for them to fit me in with everyone else. In terms of workouts, I couldn't really go with the distance girls all the time, but I couldn't go with the sprinters, either. It was getting difficult, but being coached by Juli has been an awesome experience so far and made things a lot easier.

FW: What is her background?
Juli ran at James Madison University and she started coaching at Georgetown in 2000, my freshman year. She stopped competing pretty recently and is just coaching. She made the Olympic team in the 1,500 in 1996, so that is another help to me. She knows what I should be thinking and what I should be doing — we're on the same wavelength. It's nice, because she's been at that level and she can tell me how to get there.

FW: That's a great support network for you. Is anyone else on the team aiming for the Trials, or are you the only one?
We have another girl, Colleen Kelly, who actually just had a huge breakthrough on the DMR at NCAAs. She ran 4:40 for the mile leg, which was a big PR for her. She and I are training buddies. I think she's going to try and go out for the Trials as well. And there are several guys on the team who will be looking to run in the Trials, too.

FW: Was it hard watching the DMR at Nationals when you are usually a part of it?
Yes! It was so hard. I was really excited for them, but I wanted to be out there. I knew I had to rest for the next day, though. The DMR is my favorite — you're running with three other people and it is so exciting. When you do well by yourself, it's exciting, but when you do it with three other people, it's even better.

FW: How about your races at NCAAs? Did you go into the 3,000 expecting Kim Smith to win?
Yes. Everyone knew she was the favorite going in. I had run with her for the first time at Big East, and I just kept thinking I didn't want to get lapped. That track [at Syracuse] is awful, and she just dominated there. Seeing her times throughout the season, I already knew that she was set up to run very, very well at Nationals. I watched the 5,000 — that was ridiculous. She's just amazing to watch — I love watching her run.

FW: Was it hard to double back in the 3,000 after the mile?
I tried to not think about [being tired from doubling] too much — I just wanted to go out there and have fun, and whatever happens, happens. My goal was to try to be an All-American, but I didn't think I'd come in fourth. It was kind of like a bonus. I had started out running in the back and decided to wait until the last half-mile to really race — and it worked out well and gave me a new PR. It wasn't even as painful as I thought it would be. My parents taught me that's it's always important to have fun. Even this weekend [after NCAAs], when I talked to my dad, he said, 'So, did you have fun this weekend?'

FW: So was the mile fun?
The mile didn't actually feel that bad — I've been training at that pace for awhile now, so I was ready for it. I knew it was going to happen. I've run with Tiffany McWilliams and Johanna Nilsson before, last year in outdoor, so I knew what they would do. So in some ways, I was more at ease in the mile because I knew what to expect, but nervous because I had high expectations.

FW: Is it nerve-wracking to get through the mile heats without expending too much extra energy?
Yeah, I was just talking to Juli about that the other day. I knew I was capable of getting back [to the final], but you still have to go through the motions to make sure you really do. I've never done so much thinking in a race as I did in that mile prelim — trying to position myself and making sure I didn't get boxed in. I just tried to be as patient as I possibly could — but it's always hard. Finals are a lot easier. Once you make the finals, you can just concentrate on racing.

FW: Are the other national-level competitors pretty friendly to each other at the big meets?
Yeah. I knew Lindsey Gallo from USA Nationals last summer, so I talked to her a lot. You get to know people you see at meets — even Kim Smith and I were friendly because we had met at Big East. Everyone is just really, really friendly — it's a good group of girls.

FW: And on your own team — especially in cross country — is everyone pretty close?
Our team is very, very close — men and women. I watched our men run at Nationals, and wanted to stick around after my mile prelim to make sure I saw everyone. The men and women train together — we're always in the weight room at the same time, on the track at the same time, and in the training room at the same time. Our coaches work together as well, too. Juli's husband is one of our men's coaches.

FW: Speaking of the weight room, do you do a lot of lifting?
I try to get in there two to three times a week, but with races, it's hard — so it's usually twice a week. We bench, and do free weights, squats, cleans…a little bit of everything. Personally, I like lifting. I like to do it all through the season and not stop too much because it hurts more to try and get back into it. Our team is pretty good about it. We all get our own lifting schedules and most people take it seriously.

FW: You have had some post-collegiate meet experience already, running at USA Nationals last summer. How was that experience?
It was awesome. Lining up with all these elite athletes I see on TV, like Suzy Favor Hamilton, was a great experience. It was a lot of fun.

FW: Do you think you have a pretty good shot at getting that 'A' standard for the Trials, 4:10?
The NCAA meet will be really competitive, just like it was last year. All those girls are going to run really fast.

FW: You mentioned earlier that it was your goal to be a real cross country runner in your final season. You must have been thrilled with the way your cross country season went. How did it feel to win the NCAA Regional meet?
I was speechless when that happened — even though I was running well during the season, I didn't expect it. Unfortunately, I didn't run well at Nationals. I got caught up in the pileup, and even though it was early on in the race, I just couldn't get it back together. When I fell physically, I fell mentally at the same time. It was really sad — it was the final meet and the last time it counted, and I didn't want it to end that way.

FW: Backing up a bit, how did you choose Georgetown in the first place?
I came to visit the school and loved it academically. And on the athletic side, since I wanted to run the 800 meters, there wasn't a better program for middle distance runners — it was just incredible. I knew Georgetown's 4x800 record in the Penn Relays, and that was a big deal. I wanted a school that had a balance of good academics and athletics, but I also wanted a track program that would let me grow as a runner, too.

FW: What's your mileage like heading into your final outdoor track season?
I keep record of my mileage, but I haven't had a set mileage each week that I had to hit. At least for indoor, it was about 50-55, but that varied because I get my workouts from Juli the day of or day before I do them. At the beginning of indoor, I had tendinitis in my knee, so it was easier for me to take things day to day rather than have a set weekly mileage.

For cross country, I ran 70 [miles a week] consistently, which is pretty high for me. I hadn't ever consistently been that high. I would do morning runs about three times a week.

FW: Do you think you are going to continue working with Juli after you graduate?
I really don't know what the future holds. I know I want to continue running. I am going to stay here and with Juli at least through the Trials, since I have a good routine going. As for after the Trials…I'm keeping my options open.

(Interview conducted March 18, 2004, and posted April 1, 2004.)

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