After redshirting the 2008 season, senior hurdler Laiah Blue has made a seamless return to the UC San Diego women’s track and field team, recording three individual victories and four NCAA qualifying marks in the team’s last five events. A four-time All-American, Blue set the school record with a time of 13.66 in the 100 meter hurdles in 2007 and her personal best of 59.87 in the 400 hurdles currently ranks second. As a junior, she became the first ever non-Division I athlete to be named the Athlete of the Meet at the Cal-Nevada Championships, something head coach Tony Salerno says really put the program on the map. “Laiah is truly a leader by example,” he says. “She brings a new level of intensity to the program and when it’s competition time, she really shines.” After competing against an impressive field at the UCLA Rafer Johnson/Jackie Joyner-Kersee Invitational over the weekend, Blue took a moment to answer a few questions for UCSDtritons.com. Q: Last year, the UCSD women’s track team placed fourth at the NCAA Championships, which was the highest finish in program history. How does this year’s squad compare and what does the team need to do to get back to that level?
We did loose a few key people from last year but I think our team is looking better then ever. It is coming to that part of the season where everything is coming together. I think that we have a shot at fourth again, if not better.Q: After earning All-American honors in three events in 2007, you sat out last season to give birth to your first child, Isabella. Now that you have rejoined the team and are off to an impressive start to the season, what are your individual goals for your senior campaign? BLUE:
Of course each year you want to do better than the year before, so naturally I would like to PR in all of my events. I also hope to make the 4x400 National Team. After taking a season off, it has been challenging coming back and running a good leg in the 4x400 after the 400 hurdles. I can feel my strength improving after every meet and I'm determined to finish the season as if I never took a break, so hopefully it will be enough to make the squad.Q: You definitely appear to be back on track after big performances at the Mangrum Invitational and the Rafer Johnson/Jackie Joyner-Kersee Invite. The last two weeks, you have posted victories in both the 100 and 400 meter hurdles and helped set a school record in the women’s 4x100 relay. What has been the biggest difficulty in returning to competition?
The biggest difficulty in returning to competition has definitely been patience and staying positive. After taking a season off to have a baby, this year has been a lot of rebuilding and the season started off pretty rocky. I'm still not where I would like to be, but I am happy with the progress I've made so far. Q: You hold the school’s top-two times in the 100 hurdles and rank second all-time in the 400 hurdles. What are some keys to being successful when it comes to hurdle events? BLUE:
Definitely focus and confidence. Hurdling is an aggressive event so if you don't enter your race with confidence, you’re not going to attack the hurdles efficiently. People use hurdles as a metaphor for defeating obstacles in life. If you’re timid approaching an obstacle in your life, you probably aren’t going to overcome it. It’s the same thing in a race. If you enter your race with confidence, you will defeat the hurdles, if not, the hurdles will defeat you. It doesn't matter how fast you can run between the hurdles, if you’re timid approaching them, its not going to be your best race.
Q: You were a track standout at Granite Hills High School in El Cajon. What are the main differences between competing in high school and at the collegiate level? BLUE:
The main differences are the level of competition and the dedication of all the athletes. Whether it’s someone on your team or someone you’re competing against, you know that person is participating in the sport because they love it. In practice and in the meets you can feel the passion of the athletes and I love that!Q: Second-year head coach Darcy Ahner has the women’s program reaching new heights again this season. How would you describe her approach and what about her coaching style resonates most with you? BLUE:
The amazing thing about Darcy is that she coaches five events, all of which are some of the most technical events in track and field, yet she is somehow able to keep everything in order. Everyone is working on something different for a respective event and Darcy remembers what each of us is working on and how to fix it. I think most people would be spread too thin and wouldn't be able to give every athlete the attention they need. But there always seems to be enough Darcy to go around. She is willing to sacrifice her time for her athletes, whether it’s for a problem on the track or something going on in our personal lives. Darcy has a real love for the sport and a love for all of us.
Another great thing about Darcy is how much she believes in all of her athletes. Sometimes she’ll give you a mark she thinks you can reach, and you’re like 'Yeah right, Darcy.’ Then the end of season roles around and Wala! If we didn't have a coach who believed in us so much, I don't think some of us would have reached the marks that we have.Q: What would you say is your single greatest memory of your time at UCSD? BLUE:
There are way too many to choose from. I can definitely say that they all involve events with the team.
Q: What is the best part about being a mom? BLUE:
Oh gosh, there are so many things. It gives you this new purpose and motivation to work hard and be the best you can be. I think it might be one of the greatest privileges in life to be a mom. Everyone always tells you that you don't know how much you can really love someone until you have a baby, and it is definitely true.
So the best part...being in charge :) No, the best part is when she looks at me and smiles and, no matter what else I have going on in my life, I know I'm exactly where I need to be. That might sound cheesy, but there really is no better cure for stress or being tired than seeing that little smile.Q: You are a double major in Economics and Psychology at UCSD. Do you plan on pursuing a career in either field after graduation? What does your track and field future look like?BLUE:
After graduation I plan on getting my teaching credential and teaching at the elementary level. As for track, I think it is something I will somehow be involved in for the rest of my life, but after this year, I think my days of competition are over.Q: You have to choose one meal for the rest of your life. What would it be?BLUE:
Chicken tortilla soup with Panera french bread. It’s not necessarily my favorite meal, but I don't think its something I could ever get tired of.
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to prospective UCSD athletes, what would it be?BLUE:
My advice would be to approach every practice and every competition as if it were your last. No matter how big the meet, leave everything you have out on the track. Anything can happen, and whether it ends up being your last race or not, you'll always finish satisfied and won't look back with 'If onlys.' Four years go by so quickly so take in every moment and take advantage of any opportunities that come your way!
Previous Q & A Articles
Ryan Andre (Men's Crewl) April 2, 2009
Josh Tanner (Baseball) March 24, 2009
Anju Shimura (Women's Swimming) March 7, 2009
Stephanie Bocian (Women's Water Polo) February 20, 2009
Lauren Chastain (Softball) February 5, 2009
A.J. Maulhardt (Men's Basketball) January 28, 2009
Annette Ilg (Women's Basketball) January 22, 2009
Steven Hardy (Men's Swimming) January 13, 2009
Frank Fritsch (Men's Volleyball) January 5, 2009
Kendall Bohn (Women's Swimming) December 22, 2008
Kelvin Kim (Men's Basketball) December 15, 2008
Michelle Osier (Women's Basketball) December 5, 2008
Sylvia Schmidt (Women's Volleyball) November 7, 2008
Denny Harper (Men’s Water Polo Head Coach) October 17, 2008
Ron Larsen (USA Volleyball Assistant Coach) October 13, 2008
Jessica McGovern (Women's Soccer) October 6, 2008
Bre Schofield (Cross Country) September 26, 2008
Tony Fernandez (Men's Soccer) September 18,2008
Kimberly Carpenter (Women's Volleyball) September 12, 2008
A.J. Kotanjian (Men’s Water Polo) September 2, 2008
Peter Akman (Men's Soccer) August 21, 2008
Natasha Belak-Berger (Women's Soccer) August 15, 2008
Jake LaVieux (Men's Cross Country) August 8, 2008
Dr. Penny Rue (Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs) July 30, 2008
Michelle Torres (Women's Volleyball) July 15, 2008
Jon Pascale (Men's Soccer Head Coach) July 1, 2008
Julie Ertel (Athletics) June 16, 2008
Clint Allard (Men's Basketball) June 9, 2008
Jen Myers (Women's Crew) May 27, 2008
Casey Ryan (Men's Track and Field and Men's Basketball) May 21, 2008