Heather Stephens

As the top collegiate runners from across the country prepare for the NCAA Championships, our elites weigh in with advice on how to approach the biggest race of the season.

Vicki Huber Rudawsky, Villanova University, 1989


"Think about where you have been and all the work you have done along the way. I used to relax in the hotel room and meditate on all the miles and workouts that got me to the starting line, and thinking of all that gave me the confidence that no matter what happened, I was prepared to do my best. That is all anyone can ever ask of you - to do you best. And don’t forget to have fun!" - Vicki Huber Rudawsky 

NCAA XC All American Highlights
1986 - 29th
1987 - 9th
1989 - 1st

Christine Babcock, University of Washington, 2013


NCAA XC All American Highlights
2008 – 7th place
2009 – 34th place

“Protect your mind. Be unwavering in your belief in what you can do. It is easy to let little things throw you off and open the floodgates of doubt. Take things as they come, but know that everything doesn't have to line up perfectly. You can feel terrible in the warm-up, have a cold, get no sleep, take a week off for a little injury, etc. and still have one of the best races of your life. The mind holds more power than we often realize....stay mentally engaged, grounded, and unmoved by what is going on around you. The preparation is done, believe that you are ready to go! - Christine Babcock

Lauren Fleshman, Stanford University, 2002


NCAA XC All American Highlights
1999 – 5th place
2000 – 11th place
2001 – 3rd place
2002 – 4th place

“My advice would be to have a plan and execute it, with full knowledge that the first 2 miles can be a bit of a shit show. The key is remaining positive about your position and remembering how quickly you can change it. When the group is packed up tight the way NCAAs tends to be, you can pick up your pace 10 seconds on mile 3 and pass 30-40 people. One trick I used to stay calm in the storm was to blur my vision when running, so people were just silhouettes of bodies. Always worked to keep the emotions and stress low as I picked my way through the crowd.” - Lauren Fleshman 

Shalaya Kipp, Colorado University, 2013


NCAA XC All American Highlights
2010 – 40th place
2011 – 19th place
2012 – 18th place
2013 – 9th place

“The night before a big race, everyone has those roller-costing, knotted stomachs. That numb feeling that consumes your body as you think about your race drawing near. For these moments, my calming remedy is spending some good, quality time with my running log. I sit down and thumb through my weeks of training. This helps remind me of all the preparation I have done. My next step is to actually write. I write what I feel from the moment the gun goes off, to the painful discomfort during the race, and across finish line. This helps calm the nerves, and prepare me for what is about to come.” - Shalaya Kipp

Mel Lawrence, University of Washington, 2012 


NCAA XC All American Highlights
2008 – 25th place 

2009 – 31st place 

"It will feel like a ton of pressure going into this weekend, but remind yourself that you've run so many 6k's over the course of this year. This 6k isn't any different. But I think the biggest thing is to try and remember to have fun. Your college career is going to go by way faster than you could have possibly imagined. Enjoy the ride of this weekend." - Mel Lawrence 

Maria Elena Calle, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2000


NCAA XC All American Highlights
1998 - 8th
1999 - 8th

"When you toe the starting line look at your teammates and be proud of what you have already accomplished. Qualifying to nationals is a huge deal, but guess what, you did it!! You probably don't want to go out too fast, but a strong start is key since there will be 100+ girls in the race and you want to make sure you put yourself in a good position. Stay in the moment, be positive, and take each kilometer as it comes. Be willing to hurt the last 1k and fight for every place you can possibly get as it will help your overall team score.  Whether you are a freshman or senior make sure you embrace your teammates at the finish line and treasure this magical moment. And of course don't forget to have fun and celebrate after your race with your team!" - Maria Elena Calle 

Marisa Howard, Boise State, 2015


NCAA XC All American Highlights
2014 - 28th

"Believe in yourself, believe in your training, believe in your coaches and believe in your teammates. Our mind is our most powerful weapon that we can use. Training our mind to be strong when our heart and legs are weak. Your mind was strong enough to get you to NCAA's, so it is definitely strong enough to propel you through the race. Have an unwavering belief that you will get through the race and be successful! Go out and have fun! Training is the hard part, racing is the fun part!" - Marisa Howard

Kara Goucher, Colorado University, 2001


"Take a deep breath, look around you, and take it all in. The team dinners, the pre-race shakeout. You are so lucky to have this experience in your life. Trust your training, trust your teammates, and most importantly trust yourself. You are ready for a great race. You are ready to run hard but more importantly, to have fun executing that race. Enjoy every last second." - Kara Goucher

NCAA XC All American Highlights
1999 – 9th place
2000 – 1st place


Whether your heading to Terre Haute for NCAAs this weekend or approaching your biggest race of the season, keep these tips in a mind and remember: the preparation is done, believe that you are ready to go!


November 17, 2016 — jbarnard

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