Vicky Gill of Florida State

Trackshark.com Gill ran 19:54.8 at the Pre-National race at Indiana State (Prettysporty.com)

Vicky Gill hasn't been running as long as some of the runners in Saturday's (October 19, 2002) prenational race. The Brit never ran in high school and only began running a few years ago after joining her local running club. She surprised everyone Saturday with her victory in the white race, the second race of the day for women collegians. Her time of 19:54.8 was the fastest time of the day eclipsing University of North Carolina's and NCAA individual title favorite Shalene Flanagan's 19:56.5. Gill was nearly done with her medical studies at St. Andrew's in Scotland before she transferred to FSU two years ago.

An advertisement in a UK Youth Athletic magazine for athletes seeking running opportunities in the US caught her attention. She was referred to FSU Cross Country Coach, Bob Braman, by the ad's placer, Mick Hill. Braman saw potential in her and brought her in for a visit. She loved it and has been at FSU since. Gill placed 122nd at last year's NCAA Cross Country championships and 11th in the 10,000 meters at the Outdoor Track Championships. She has PR's of 9:27 for 3k and 33:59 for 10k. Trackshark caught up with Gill this week after her stunning win.

1. What a victory! Can you go over your race?

I went out in control from the start. I knew Stanford was in my race and they would run in a pack. They were all top ten runners. At least the first few girls were top ten. My prerace plan was to find them and run with them in a pack because I needed to run pretty evenly. So I did that and by the 1k, there were about six of us in the front pack. A couple of girls went out faster, but we knew we could reel them in anyway. Basically, I stayed behind them. It didn't feel like a race to me. I kept calm and with 1k to go it was down to three people. I put in a move and no one challenged me. That was the race really.

2. Was it one of your best races?

It probably was one of my best races. I've learned a lot about how to race over the past year. I used to go out as hard as I could for as long as I could. Now, I'm more confident that I'll be able to pick it up in the end. I don't panic so much.

3. Going into the race, did you feel that you could run with the leaders?

I didn't go in to win at all. I just wanted to have a solid race and finish in the top twenty or so.

4. How did you feel after the race? Did you feel like you had gone to the well and run your hardest? Can you assess your race?

I finished the race and it just felt so easy. I didn't feel like I was struggling . I felt very comfortable and relaxed. Even after my cool down where I normally kind of hit the wall, I was just fine. It just felt really good.

5. What do you think you need to do in the next month to run well at nationals?

I'm still in the middle of heavy training. Last week I ran 105 miles. I've been over one hundred miles every week. I haven't tapered at all yet. Our workouts have been volume based. Long repeats. So as nationals approaches, I'll cut down a bit and do some shorter faster stuff to help me kick at the end of the race. And just stay healthy. That's the key to everything.

6. 105 miles. That seems like a lot to some people after running so sensationally. Is that something that you normally do?

Yeah. I've always been a high mileage runner. That's the way I always train. When I first arrived here, Coach Braman was a bit skeptical because he was worried about the injury side of things. We've worked together and come to compromises. I've cut back when we get to big races. It's basically what works for me. There's no reason why I should change it.

7. When we talk about tapering, what kind of mileage are we talking about?

I'll probably go down to 75 in the week of nationals

8. How did you get to Florida State?

I raced a good cross country season two seasons ago over in England. I saw an ad in the Youth Athletics magazine. There's a guy named Mick Hill who actually went over to the United States on an athletics scholarship. He ran for a small Division 1 or Division 2 school. He was interested in getting athletes over here because he knew what a help it could be to your training. I contacted him with my results. He contacted me and told me that he had sent the results off to a couple of coaches. Coach Braman was one of the guys who got back to me. He was very nice. We talked on the phone and he invited me over to visit. As soon as I got here, I knew I would be happy. I really got along with Coach Braman. He really had the same kind of philosophy as my coach at home so I knew that it would work out.

9. How was the transition your first year?

It was quite difficult. It took a while to get used to the heat and humidity. And then, I had to get used to training in such a big group and being told what to do all the time. I was used to meeting with my coach for two or three times a week and running on my own or running with my friends the rest of the time. Being told when and where to train took a lot of getting used to.

10. Last year, you did wonderfully at the Stanford Invite to qualify for nationals. Was that time expected?

At nationals in cross country, I had a horrible race. Coach Braman was cheering for me and he was actually running faster than I was running. Afterwards, I went in for a bone scan and it revealed that I had five stress fractures. All over Christmas, I didn't run. I was cross training like crazy. I had only been running three weeks before I ran my time at Stanford so it was a total surprise that I was actually in shape.

11. That was a pretty early qualifier. How did that affect your plans for the season?

It was nice because it was very unexpected to get it that early. But the fact that I didn't have my base mileage because of the cross training kind of caught up with me. I had a month of really bad races and I started to doubt myself and thought what the point was to go to nationals. I just couldn't get on a roll. It was hard qualifying so early. A couple of weeks before nationals, I really dug down and did some good workouts and luckily did OK.

12. When you got to nationals, Tara Quinn of South Florida was one of the favorites. She was one of Coach Braman's recruits when he was there. Knowing that, did it affect your race at all?

It didn't really affect my race at all. I respected all the girls in the race. I wasn't out to beat anyone in particular. I just wanted to run my race and do the best I could. Seeing her finish second gave me inspiration for next track season. It just shows what you can do building up season after season. Coach Braman can get me developed. That's all.

13. It seems like you've had some experience. What do you think of the US system and how it's run?

I think it's organized a lot better than the system is at home. At home, we just have nationals and that's it. There are hardly any intercollegiate races. Part from that, you have to run club races. One criticism of the system here is that you can't run internationally because the cross country season over laps with the track season here. I know one of them have done it. Alicia Craig has gone over and run worlds, but it's hard for us if we want to do both.

14. Has that infringed upon your opportunities to run internationally?

If I would have been at home, I would have run the world trials and hopefully made the team for world cross country. I still have the next five years to do that. While I'm here, I might as well progress the best I can within the collegiate system. Nationals and NCAA's is very high quality so to do well in it is a good stepping stone.

15. You are now in the limelight. How is that going to affect you preparation from here to nationals?

I try not to think about it too much. I had a good race this weekend. I want to take the experience and shove it into the back of my mind and approach the next race as if this race didn't even happen. I don't want to get over confident and get carried away with winning. I want to approach the next race level headed and not stress out too much. That's what I want to do.

Trackshark.com Gill has been all smiles during the cross country season (Prettysporty.com)

16. Have you ever met Paula Radcliffe and what do you think about her performances?

I've raced against her in a road race, but I've never met her, unfortunately. I think she's awesome. That's the person I aspire to be. When it gets tough in races and I'm working hard in practice, I just think how hard she works. She got to where she has on talent and hard work as well. That's what makes her such a good athlete and such a good role model.

17. Was she someone that inspired you to begin running?

Originally, not really because I didn't know much about international athletics. I didn't know her. She wasn't very high profile. As I've improved and started reaching new levels, she's definitely inspired me.

18. The injuries you spoke of, can you pin point the cause?

I think because I've been following a vegan diet, I haven't been getting enough calcium. I hadn't been careful enough with supplements. The stress fracture was a sign that I need to be watching it a bit more. Now, I'm taking calcium and taking more care of the finer things. I think that's really helping me.

19. Have you noticed a difference this year?

Definitely. I think I'm recovering better from workouts. I went for a bone density scan at the beginning of the season and it was above normal so I've definitely noticed a difference.

20. In the ACC, you'll face Shalene Flanagan for the title. Then, you'll face her at nationals. How will you prepare yourself for those two races?

I'm just looking forward to racing her. I prefer to race against people who are good and will give me a good race than just go and win easily. I like a challenge. I think she's an awesome athlete, but she can't win every time. I just like testing myself and my limits and seeing where I am in relation to people like that.

21. Coming from a foreign country, can you give an assessment of American talent?

The country is a lot bigger so there are more athletes out there running. Especially girls. In Scotland, there is only a handful. As you get nearer to the top, there is probably the same proportion of elite runners as there are middle of the road runners. One thing that makes me sad about the American system, is that some of these girls will not be running after they finish college. NCAA's is their main goal and that's all they are going to do. They don't aspire to take it any further which is kind of sad.

22. Why do you think they have that attitude?

I think a lot of people are in it to get a scholarship and pay their way to college. As soon as they finish, they don't need to run anymore and they just want to go out there and get a job. I think a lot of it is because they've been pushed since high school. They've been in a rigid program and told what to do all the time. It can put a lot of people off carrying on into later life.

23. What's given you the inspiration to keep going?

What motivates me is achieving things and getting out there and running. When I was at St. Andrew's, they didn't even have athletic scholarships. I was out there twice a day for the fun of it. Sometimes, I wouldn't even race for a season. I'd just be enjoying the running and testing myself to see how far I could go. I don't know. That's why I do it.

24. Socially, how is running taken in Scotland compare to the US?

I think the running scene is the same in both places. Camaraderie and friendly rivalries within the running community.

25. Do you consider yourself a track runner or a cross country runner?

I don't think I've been racing enough to find out what I'm best at. I just want to be good at everything. Maybe later, I'll find out which one is my forte. Right now, I just think a bit of everything.

26. What is your strength?

I think it's got to be my aerobic fitness because I do so much mileage. I think my cardiovascular system is pretty good. The only bit that gives out in a race is my legs. I just have to work on my strength. I've worked hard in the weight room this year and changed my weight workout a lot. I think that's really helping me.

27. In races, when it comes down to having to go, do you have confidence in your speed?

No. Not at all. I don't feel I have much of a kick at all. If anyone had told me that I was going to win that prenationals race by kicking at the end, I would have laughed in their face because I just have no kick. I think I can sustain a fast pace for quite a long time. If I start going with a kilometer to go and keep building up, I can get rid of people. If I try to switch it on with 100 meters to go, I'd be nowhere.

28. Is that something typical of Scotlanders?

I don't know [laughing].

29. Is that something that you are working on and has it improved with your weight work?

I think so. Yeah.

30. What kind of 1500 meter speed do you have?

Slow. My mile PR is like 5:01. I ran 5:04 at the end of a mile repeat workout. I just can't seem to run any faster. That was last season so maybe if I try it, I'd do a bit better. I just don't have that kind of pace.

31. What are your chances for nationals?

I have no idea. I don't even want to think about it.

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