When the word "veteran" is used around the University of California San Diego men's cross country team, the name Scott Acton comes quickly to mind. A fifth-year senior out of Lancaster, Acton was a top-five scorer for the Tritons in each of his first three seasons, before redshirting in 2015. He's back this year, and picked up right where he left off as a solid team contributor. "Scott has been a great member of our team for the last five years, even when he was redshirting," says head coach Nate Garcia. "He's been an excellent captain so far this season, and has really been a key to our success as a team." A structural engineering major and longtime cross country representative on the Triton Athletes' Council, Acton took time ahead of Saturday's lone home date, the Triton Classic (8 a.m.), to reflect on his career, this year's team, and what's ahead.
Q: When you hear someone say "this is your final year," what goes through your mind?
ACTON: Oh man, a lot goes through my mind. It's bittersweet because I've loved being here at UCSD and being on the cross country team with a great group of guys, but I'm definitely excited for that next chapter in my life. I don't know if it's really set in yet because I have a full class schedule for the year, but I definitely want to finish strong.
Q: Every year, the cross country team takes a preseason training trip to Mammoth. How was this year's trip different for you? Did you do anything special?
ACTON: Mammoth is always one of the highlights of our year, and this year was especially great. I think for me, and most of the guys on the team, it was the best we've done physically up at altitude. More importantly though we came together as a team up in Mammoth, both getting closer with the returners and also integrating the new guys on the team. Probably the most fun thing I did was run down from the top of Mammoth Mountain with a few of my teammates on a double day, it was a mixture of running a lot of downhill while also getting some great views of the mountains.
Q: How does it feel to be the veteran on the team? What kind of advice do you give the newer runners?
ACTON: It feels great being a captain and veteran on the team. It's crazy to think about when I came in as a freshman in 2012 and how I've grown both as a runner and as a person in general. The team culture has definitely changed throughout the years and I've been blessed to be able to see what's helped the team to get to where we are today. I think the best advice I could give to the younger guys is to trust in our training program and to keep perspective.
Q: Last year you redshirted. How tough was it to help your teammates from the sidelines? What did that year teach you and did it cause you to approach this year differently?
ACTON: Well luckily for me and my teammate Tareq (Alwafai) who also redshirted, we were still able to fully train with the team and compete in some of the same races unattached. So although it was different because we weren't wearing the UCSD jersey, we were still able to get some good training and racing in. Being able to cheer on the guys in the championship season was great but I know we're excited to be back in jersey this year.
I think the biggest takeaway from last year for me was the importance of the team and just how much I rely on the guys around me. Cross country is definitely a team sport and what the team can accomplish far outweighs what any of us can accomplish individually.
Q: What goals have you set for yourself and the team this season?
ACTON: In Mammoth we set our team goal to place in the top 20 at the national championships and that's something I wholeheartedly believe we can do. It's not going to be handed to us though and the whole team is working extremely hard to make our goal a reality. Our team's running great right now and we're definitely excited for the upcoming races. Individually, I want to be a stronger racer in the upcoming races and I want to finish this season on a high note knowing I ended my collegiate career with no regrets.
Q: You are a three-year member of the Triton Athletes' Council (TAC) and in 2015-16 were elected the group's vice president. Talk about the decision to run and how the position benefitted you?
ACTON: Yeah, I've definitely been on TAC for a while now. Entering my fourth year on the council, I feel like I have a lot of experience that I can bring to the new group. Being head of the community service committee for two years and last year being the vice president was a great experience. I initially wanted to run because I wanted to get more involved and I love community service. Looking back, I definitely got a better idea of how the department works and working with athletes from other teams has been fun.
Q: The Triton Classic is this Saturday. How big of a factor does home trail play in cross country? Do you prefer to race at home or away?
ACTON: Racing at home is definitely a huge advantage, especially for our course. We've run through the eucalyptus grove too many times to count and you start to learn the best lines to take and the parts that you can really make moves on. Our home course is definitely my favorite place to race, both because it's at home and because it's extremely hilly compared to other races we do.
I hope it's not a shameless plug, but everyone should come out for the race this Saturday. Men at 8 a.m., women at 9 a.m. It will be a great event.
Q: What is your favorite type of workout (intervals, hill repeats, long run, etc.)?
ACTON: Well I think I have two favorites. One being a step down tempo run where we start out at a slightly slower pace and get increasingly faster throughout the workout and the other being long runs. Both require a lot of endurance and strength which are two things I take pride in having. Also, with long runs you can cover so much ground and run in a lot of different areas even within the same run.
Q: You've said super fries from Vallarta's are your favorite meal. For people who are unfamiliar with the dish, could you explain what those are and why you love them so much? Rumor also has it that you have quite epic eating habits (two burritos in one sitting). Have you tried any local eating challenges?
ACTON: Yeah people who know me well probably know that I could eat Vallarta's three times a day, seven days a week for the rest of my life and not get bored. For those who haven't had the pleasure of eating super fries from Vallarta's, it's a huge plate of fries with carne asada, guacamole, sour cream and cheese. I don't know if I have epic eating habits, but after a really hard workout or a 20-mile run, anything's possible.
Q: What does life after cross country look like?
ACTON: Well after running on a team for the last 13 years, I'm planning on competing individually in the marathon. I also still have two more quarters until I graduate in the spring so I'll focus on my engineering classes and finding a job. I'm planning on moving back to my hometown of Lancaster for a while once I graduate, but until then I'll be a huge supporter of all the sports teams while I enjoy San Diego a little while longer!
Previous Triton Q&A Features
Marie Paris (Women's Volleyball) September 16, 2016
Kiera Bocchino (Women's Soccer) September 2, 2016
Nick Alexander (Men's Water Polo) August 23, 2016
Karina Carstens (Women's Cross Country) August 8, 2016
Amanda Colla (Women's Volleyball) July 22, 2016
Palano Twins (Men's Soccer) July 13, 2016
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