The UC San Diego cross country team is coming off a strong performance at the UC Irvine Invitational, with the men’s team finishing 6th-of-20 and the women’s team taking 5th-of-12. The Tritons will have back-to-back out-of-state races on the next two weekends, beginning with the Southern Stampede in Joplin, MO. Amanda Burkhardt, UCSD’s Most Improved Runner from last season, has helped the Triton women’s squad reach the NCAA National Championship finals in each of the last two years. Burkhardt recently took time to discuss being a student-athlete at UCSD and the current season.
Q- How did you get started in Cross Country running?
BURKHARDT- I started running cross country my sophomore year of high school. The coach, who was my phys ed teacher my freshman year, noticed my potential when we ran the mile in class. She made me promise to come out for the team the next year. I couldn’t believe that she thought I was a distance runner. All through junior high and my freshman year of high school I considered myself a 400/800m runner. I tentatively came out for the team the next fall and immediately fell in love with cross country. I am so grateful that my high school coach was willing to invest that much time and interest in me; if she hadn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Q- Do you enjoy other sports outside of Cross Country?
BURKHARDT- Besides cross country I really enjoy track, which is at the same time a very similar yet different running experience. Outside of running, I enjoy swimming, racquetball, tennis, horseback riding, and ballroom dancing.
Q- What are some similarities and differences in Head Coach Nate Garcia’s coaching, compared with Ted Van Arsdale?
BURKHARDT- Nate has not only been a member of the team, but also an assistant coach, so his coaching style reflects a lot of the same methods and ideologies that Ted’s coaching followed. Since they are two very different people, Nate brings new attitudes and ideas to our training and team. He has made changes to some of the old workouts so they fit better with what the team wants to accomplish this year, but some things have stayed the same as well.
Q- What did you enjoy about last year’s NCAA Championships Festival in Pensacola, Florida?
BURKHARDT- Last year’s Championship Festival was such an amazing event because of the group of girls I got to experience it with. The team we took to Nationals was so close knit, both on and off the course, it felt like I was going on a vacation with six of my closest friends. The nature of the festival was also great. Instead of it just being cross country Nationals, all of the fall sports were in one location at the same time. It was great to get to meet different teams from around the country and be a part of something that was so big. The event was treated like it was a four day version of the Olympics and it was great to be a part of it.
Q- How do you feel about the team’s performance at the UC Irvine Invitational?
BURKHARDT- Both teams, men’s and women’s, gave great performances at the UCI Invite. The women’s team worked well together and did a great job of attacking the race as a unit. We’ve been working on running in packs and utilizing our teammates to push each other through different challenges on the course. Saturday definitely showed great use of teamwork. The men’s team handled the stress of the course altering mid-race and still came out with great individual and team performances.
Q- The Cross Country team makes trips this year to Joplin, MO and Boise, ID. Are there many differences running in those places, compared to La Jolla?
BURKHARDT- La Jolla is a very unique place to run, so there are almost always differences between running at home and running on an away course. I’m not sure what the Joplin course looks like yet, but I know that the weather will definitely be different. Another factor will be quickly adapting to the time change since they are a few hours ahead of California time. The major difference between La Jolla and the Idaho course will be the altitude difference. Boise is located at a much higher elevation than La Jolla, so that will definitely be a factor in how well the team runs there.
Q- What are some of your goals to accomplish this year?
BURKHARDT- My main goal is to enjoy my senior year of running. College athletics is a very unique experience and I want to savor every last moment that I have. I also want to do everything I can to get my team to Nationals so I can run on the national scene one more time.
Q- Which newcomers do you feel may surprise some people?
BURKHARDT- I think that all of the newcomers have the potential to surprise people with their talent at different points throughout the year. Collegiate running is completely different from high school cross country and the ability for new people in the program to show their talent depends on how easily they adapt to the changeover. We have a great class of freshman recruits this year and I think they are all going to contribute great things to the team.
Q- What is your major and what would you like to do with it after graduation?
BURKHARDT- I’m currently completing my microbiology degree from the biology department. I’m looking at a couple different options for myself following graduation. Graduate school is definitely an option that I’m investigating, but I’m also open to taking a year to gain research experience before beginning my graduate program.
Q- Being from Northern California, what are some of your likes and dislikes in comparing Northern and Southern California?
BURKHARDT- One big difference between home and Southern California is the beach. I’m from a really land locked part of Northern California, plus any beaches you can find aren’t nearly as nice as the ones down here. The temperature is also a lot more temperate in Southern California. Back home our summers are really hot and the winters are very cold; in San Diego the temperature doesn’t vary quite as much. It’s also really interesting to see how different the people and their attitudes towards life vary between a small town and big city.
Q- Is there a funny story you can share involving this year’s team?
BURKHARDT- Every year the team goes to Mammoth Lakes for high altitude running camp. Inevitably every year someone always asks why there is a giant, fuzzy elephant all over the clothes and shops. Then we have to tell them that it’s not really an elephant, but a mammoth...
Q- Who on the team, is the funniest, the smartest and the best dressed?
BURKHARDT- Ashleigh and Nina both have great senses of humor that keeps us all laughing. As for the smartest, we’re all dedicated students who are great at our respective fields of study. The best dressed category belongs to Catherine and Marie: they are always very up with the newest fashion and help keep the team looking great.