Heather Stephens

Last week we got to watch Kerri Gallagher race at the World Championships in Beijing. Starting with the 1500m prelims, Kerri finished 7th in 4:06.34, making it by time into the semi finals. 50+ fans watched her step to the line from the Oiselle Store, cowbelling our hearts out. Kerri earned her way into the semi finals this past Sunday, and capped off an amazing experience at #Beijing2015. Hear from Kerri herself...this run family is so incredibly proud of you!


Lauren Johnson and I after the walk through at National Stadium. 

This year has been hugely successful for you! You started the season off with a first place finish in the Penn Relays Mile and then qualified for the World Championships in Beijing. Tell us about your experience leading up to the World Championship meet.
This has been an incredible experience on so many levels. My first taste of racing overseas was in Europe and while there are some cultural adjustments to make there it was that much more to adjust to when I arrived in Japan and then China. Everyone has been very welcoming and USATF does a great job of supporting the athletes and making sure we have whatever need to compete whether that's having physio staff at practice or making sure there is peanut butter in the lounge and everything in between. That made it easier to focus on competition without any other stresses or barriers to success. While I  was definitely anxious to race the top women in the world, overall I found the racing experience extremely motivating. With veterans Jenny Simpson and Shannon Rowbury, I had good examples to follow. I also got to know fellow teammate Lauren Johnson very well and it was great to have her to navigate this new arena with.  It was an honor to represent  the U.S. on this stage with these ladies and the rest of team USA and I hope to have the opportunity again.


Watching the women's steeple prelim with Lauren and Marielle Hall.

Your Oiselle teammates were rooting for you from all over the world! What was going through your head as you entered the stadium?
Luckily I had done a walk through the day before because the stadium itself is incredible and can be overwhelming if you're not ready. Knowing how impressive it was beforehand was helpful for me to step out onto the track for the prelim knowing that it's still 400m around.

The day of your race, we asked your fans, "What are you words of motivation mid-race?" Did you have a chance to follow along with this? Do you have any mantras that you use during competition?
I did follow along and it was amazing to see all the support from back home and words of motivation and encouragement. For me, I think my biggest advice to myself during a race is stay patient and stay in it!


Family and neighbor watch party in Rockaway!

You finished seventh in your heat in the first round and qualified for the semis, how did that feel to make it out of your heat at your first World Championship meet?
It was amazing! I knew it was going to be a tough round, but never expected 4:02 to win it. To be able to hang on and finish strong with a qualifying spot for the semi final was great.

What is your advice for staying cool under pressure and executing your race plan when you're racing on the biggest stage of your life?
Going back to what it's like waking into the stadium, I mostly focus on the fact that this is still the same distance and the goal is still the same: compete! Every race that will mean something different in terms of pace and tactics, but I know my strengths and can only control myself. 


Danielle Siebert (event planner for this meet and assistant track coach at UMD!) and I at the warm up track at National Stadium.

You were surrounded by the world's best athletes. Were you able to connect with any of your heroes or form any new connections? 
Absolutely! I've met some great people and gotten to know a few of the team members very well. It's very cool to be able to see these larger than life athletes when it comes to competition in smaller settings. You learn that everyone has their own story and their own personality and it's been awesome to see that first hand.


(photo credit: Paul Merca--thank you!)

We've had an absolute blast following your progress this season and we are so proud of everything you've accomplished and everything that lies ahead for you. What's up next for you? 
I will do some sight seeing and fangirling for the remainder of the week before heading back to the U.S. I have potentially two more races before wrapping up so stay tuned!

August 25, 2015 — jacquelyn scofield

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