SL: Mel, when did you decide you wanted to keep running in college? Was it just assumed? Did Collier play a role?
ML: I probably decided to keep running after my freshman year (and I wanted to continue in college), but at the same time it seemed like it was assumed. Collier was going to be running in college, and I was running well so it just seemed to make sense that if my running success continued I would do the same thing.
SL: Tell us the ins and outs of your recruiting process. How did you decide which programs to visit? How many trips did you take? What did you look for when you were visiting programs? Talking to coaches?
ML: My recruiting process all went pretty fast. I had the early signing option, and I wanted to take advantage of that. I'd heard stories of people waiting too long to decide and having good opportunities and offers pass them by. I didn't want to be stuck in a situation like that. So I took 5 official visits and 1 unofficial visit all in the course of 2.5 months; it was a little bit of a whirlwind.
I had an idea of places I wanted to visit, and after talking to college coaches over the course of the summer (they were allowed to start calling July 1st), I had my places narrowed down...kind of ;-) we'll get to that part in a second. Most of the places I visited had strong college programs, but weren't at the tippy top. I decided I wanted to be part of a strong team, but one that was also building something special and stronger. I wanted to be a part of that building process. I visited Arizona State, University of Oregon, Colorado, Washington State, University of Nevada (unofficial visit), and finally University of Washington.
I was looking for a program that was exciting to be a part of and was excited to have me be a part of it. When it came to talking to the coaches, I was mostly looking for someone that I had an easy time communicating with and who also seemed excited to talk to me. I'm pretty quiet now, and was even more quiet back then so being able to talk to someone easily was good for me.
Mel and her roommate from her freshman year, Lauren Saylor, at Footlocker Nationals.
SL: You mentioned your dad was more involved in your recruiting process than you knew at the time. Can you tell us about that?
ML: In passing I mentioned to my dad that I wished I had talked to UW during my recruiting process. That little comment was all it took, and he went up to the UW coaches and said, "Hey, how come you haven't recruited my daughter?" Just like that...very much to the point, haha. They asked him who his daughter was, he said Mel Lawrence, and by the end of the meet I had talked to all three coaches and was going to be visiting in a week.
After I came back from Seattle I had it narrowed down between two schools. My dad called both head coaches and talked each of them about what they could do for me as an athlete and asked why I should go to their school. Coach Metcalf (UW coach) laughs about it now and says my dad was really getting in his bucket. I didn't know he was doing that in the moment, but I'm really glad he did. My parents always told me it was my decision, but he was happy with my decision and it was his preference as well.
My dad is no longer with us today, and it's memories like these that really bring a big fatty smile and happy-sad (is that a thing?) tear to my face.
SL: Is there anything looking back on that recruiting process now that you wish you would've known?
ML: That's a tough question, but I don't think so. As a 17 year old it's kind of crazy to be visiting all these places and trying to make a decision about your future. I felt very well informed along the way, and had a great high school that was very helpful when needed during the process.
Mel racing in a purple uniform at Footlocker Regionals her senior year after she knew she would be running for UW.
SL: How did you ultimately decide where to attend college?
ML: The first thing I tried to do when looking at schools was thinking of a place where I would be happy if I couldn't run. Someone gave me that advice (I can't remember who it was now), and it's probably the best advice I could have received. Every visit I took, I always thought about that. In most cases I think you can be happy wherever you are if you're surrounded by your friends and good people etc, but I was really looking for a place that grabbed my attention. Everyone says that you get a gut feeling for a place and you just know, and it's true. I really liked all the places I visited, and the coaches, but as soon as I visited UW I just knew that was where I wanted to be.
Funnily enough though, I didn't start talking to them until Pac 10's (so about 2 week before the dead period, right before the signing period starts and the schools can't contact you). My friend Lauren Saylor had visited there and really liked it. We were in the corral at Mt. Sac getting ready to race and she was raving about it. At this point I thought I had my mind made up, but was feeling unsettled in my decision. So hearing her gush about it made me feel like I had missed out on something. The next weekend my family and I went to watch my sister (WSU runner) at Pac 10s at Stanford, and walking past the UW tent I mentioned to my dad that I wished I had talked them about school. Next thing I know the coaches are talking to me at the race and I'm on a plane the next weekend. My whole recruiting process with them was about 2 weeks long, but once I was up there I had that gut feeling about it and I loved the energy of the coaching staff. So I became a UW Husky and love that it's the school where I ended up. It wasn't always easy, and I had my struggles, but I loved, and still love that place.
SL: What's new with your December training...and what is your next race?
ML: I'm still doing a lot of classic fall/winter strength workouts, but we're also starting to do more speed work since I'll be racing indoors. At least once a week Lauren writes a workout to get me to tap into my speed and to feel the pace of a 3k since that's what I'll be focusing on this indoor season. My first indoor race will be a 3k at the Indoor Preview in Seattle. I love racing at the Dempsey!