After being named the cross country squad's Most Valuable Racer as a sophomore in 2007, Daniel Anderson was limited to just two events his junior year because of injuries. Anderson, a graduate of John Burroughs High School in Burbank, Calif., aims to rebound this season, his final one as a Triton. In the 2009 season opener at home, Anderson finished with a mark of 24:17.8 as the Tritons topped Point Loma Nazarene and Cerritos College. An Electrical Engineering major at Sixth College, Anderson is one of four seniors on the men's cross country team. Despite a busy practice schedule, Anderson took a few moments to provide us insight on pre-race rituals, music, his world-renowned skills at playground games and much more.
Q: The UC San Diego men's cross country team finished second at the 2008 California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Championships and seventh at the NCAA Division II West Regional. Can you tell us what fairy-tale ending you have in mind for the 2009 squad?
Anderson: We have a really young team this year with lots of potential. Not only do we have an awesome freshman class, but everyone from last year has improved tremendously. Nate has made some significant changes this year to the training sequence, and I think we're responding well to it. I have confidence that some of our top runners will take some surprisingly huge leaps forward in performance. Hopefully, we will be able to perform as well, if not better, than last year at both Conference and Regionals.
Q: How has head coach Nate Garcia helped you through your first three years?
Anderson: Nate has helped me become a great long-distance runner. I am a mid-distance guy, an 800-meter runner. "I hate anything longer than a mile, and even a mile is pushing it," I used to say all the time. Now, I only say it during track. But during cross country, I now possess the desire to really push myself in an 8K or 10K. This was something that was really hard for me to overcome and throughout the years, Nate really helped me get there. He can really get you excited and motivated about the cross country season and running in general.
Q: Through your time as a Triton, you've competed in places like Minnesota and Idaho. When traveling long distances, what are the most important preparations you make to be race-ready?
Anderson: You just have to make sure that you relax and have fun, but at the same time be focused on what you went there to accomplish. Also, be sure not to forget to bring your uniform and racing shoes with you on your carry-on.
Q: As one of four seniors on the men's cross country team, what advice do you have for a freshman runner entering his or her first cross country season?
Anderson: Don't be afraid to wear short shorts. Don't wear spandex under your short shorts. Don't be intimidated by competitors who look twice your age. Teamcest might seem like a good idea, but it usually isn't. During a race, think about whether or not you will regret how you performed after you have finished; it might hurt now, but it won't later. Try not to regret anything, and leave every ounce of strength on the course.
Q: Your personal bests at UCSD came in 2007 with a 22:22.9 5K finish at a dual meet with Point Loma Nazarene and a 32:07.4 10K finish at the NCAA D-II West Regional. How does your race strategy change from the 5K to the 10K?
Anderson: For me, rhythm is really important in a 10K. I find a decently fast, slightly uncomfortable pace to work for most of the 10,000 meters, and as that pace gets more and more uncomfortable, it's just a matter of punishing yourself in the last mile. The 5K is a little more involved in that you always have to think about what move you want to make next, especially on your home course. It's all about accelerating through turns, cresting the hills and working the downhills.
Q: How much of a home-course advantage is there in cross country?
Anderson: We have a pretty substantial advantage over other teams when it comes to our home course. Our course is extremely hilly and technical, and it helps to know when the appropriate time to make a move is. It can be confusing to an outsider as to where exactly you are in the middle of the race in the eucalyptus forest, and I would imagine it all looks the same to them. It's advantageous to know where you are at all times in a race. Of course, it also really helps when you have a ton of fans cheering for you.
Q: What sort of pre-race rituals or superstitions do you have?
Anderson: Before any big race, my roommates give me "bicep power." They flex their gargantuan biceps as hard as they can near my legs, and with a single grunt, the energy from within their biceps is transferred to my legs, giving me unimaginable strength.
Q: With your father having been a pole vaulter at Cal State Northridge and your oldest brother Brian competing in cross country and track at MIT, can you describe the sports environment you grew up with as a kid?
Anderson: My childhood was always surrounded by sports and my brothers and my dad definitely had a big influence on my desire to be a great athlete. I mostly played basketball growing up, but quit the team my junior year of high school to focus on track and cross country. I was also the No. 1 player in a variety of playground sports in elementary school, including kickball, 4-square, and handball, to name a few.
Q: Seeing that you play the guitar and ukulele, what sparked your interest in music?
Anderson: I've always been a fan of music ever since I was little, but I had never played a musical instrument until I got to college. I figured that since I was ridiculously good at Guitar Hero, I should give the actual guitar a shot. Turns out the actual guitar is a billion times harder than Guitar Hero. But there's something really satisfying about learning, playing, and singing a song you really like.
Q: If you could choose one band to go on tour with, which one would you pick?
Anderson: Black Eyed Peas. Mazel Tov!
Q: From your days growing up in Burbank, do you have an interesting story of bumping into a Hollywood celebrity?
Anderson: Can't think of anything in particular that's worth sharing. I've seen Jay Leno quite a couple times driving around in some crazy cars. See? That wasn't really worth sharing.
Q: Which city is No. 1 in your heart, San Diego or Los Angeles?
Anderson: San Diego! Can't beat the weather, the beaches, and the people.
Q: What are your aspirations beyond graduation from UCSD?
Anderson: The Olympics. I'm serious. Being an Olympian in this economy would be awesome. If that doesn't pan out, I'd really be interested in getting a photonics related job for an electronics company.
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