Daniel Lincoln of Arkansas

  Trackshark.com Lincoln won the 3000 meter steeplechase at the 2002 NCAA Championships (Alex Moore)

Dan Lincoln's has been running faster than last year. He had a twenty second PR at the Chile Pepper Invitational two weeks ago. The defending champ finished sixth, though, and was somewhat disappointed in his performance. Lincoln has used the last few weeks to work out the kinks as he readies himself for the SEC Championships on Monday. Speaking by phone Wednesday afternoon, Lincoln spoke of the upcoming championships, his rise to the top, his team's chances at an NCAA title and his sensational run at the 2002 NCAA steeple last spring.

1. How do you feel going into the SEC Cross Country Championships?

I'm pretty confident team wise. I think we have the strongest team going in. That's what is important to us right now. Get another conference for coach and for our program. Individually, I'm feeling pretty confident. I didn't have the greatest race at Chile Pepper a couple of weeks ago. I didn't feel real relaxed. I had a hard time from the gun. I've worked on some things and I feel like I'm getting in better shape. I'm looking forward to this race to see what I can do. The competition is definitely there. It will be a good chance to give it another go.

2. You won Chile Pepper last year and this year you ran a personal best.

Yes, I ran twenty seconds faster and that only got me sixth. That's how it goes, I guess.

3. What do you look for in your cross country season?

It's definitely preparation for track. I think it's really important to take it seriously and put in a lot of hard work during xc. It builds your strength. That's the kind of the runner I am. On the track, I count on my strength. Any speed I get, I call it "strength speed," is from cross country. I may not be able to run a 46 quarter or anything, but I have to be sure to run the fastest last quarter. Cross country is really important because it builds the entire base you need for the year.

4. What do you think the correlation between cross country and the steeplechase?

You're racing so that the last man standing gets it. Whoever has the most endurance and keeps their nose to the grindstone the longest gets the win usually. Cross country and the steeple are strength events. You are just trying to be the strongest guy out there.

5. Do you think the steeple requires strength or speed?

Definitely strength.

6. Even with the world record being 7:53?

7:53 is only 62's or something like that. In a flat 3k, 7:53 won't get you much. That's why the steeple requires "strength speed." You get so strong, the barriers don't slow you down much or take much out of you. You can keep a normal pace up. 62's for a 3k shouldn't be out of the question. In the steeple, you just want to be strong enough to carry on a normal pace.

7. Do you expect to be as successful in cross country as you are in the steeple?

Yes. I've always expected to be good in this sport that I'm putting my time in to. I think it's important for a lot of reasons to be good in more than one event. Cross country is a good foundation for any event. I definitely want to be good in xc so I can be a versatile runner and achieve what I want on the track.

8. You went out in 2:42 in the steeple last year at nationals for the first kilo and ran really quick. Can you go over the steeple race?

There was that guy from SMU who liked to take it out real quick. I think we went out in 60-61 or 62 and I noticed that the other competitors weren't committing to the front. I just felt that there was an opportunity to take the race right there. I had five meters and kept the hammer down a little bit and extended it out more. Next thing I knew, Coach was yelling that I had forty meters. That felt pretty good. It seemed like going out too hard, you might die, but I was in pretty good shape. There was a rush of being out in front at nationals. That kept my legs under me. It was really quite a fun race. I enjoyed being out there in the front. It's always nice when you get away early and you can relax and loosen up and enjoy a win like that.

I got kind of nervous being up front initially. I didn't know what was going on behind me so I kept looking back over my shoulder. Most of the last lap, my coach was yelling at me from the stands " Don't look back?" I thought he said "Take a look back." I looked again really nervously because I thought someone was coming up on me. Nobody was. All that looking over my shoulder cost me. It got my concentration off. My actual physical movement slowed my race down. I ran a kind of slow last lap. I was a bit disappointed with that. I felt I could have run a little bit faster. It was ok and I eased up. I also had the 5k the following night so it all worked out. I felt like I could have gone a little bit faster.

  Trackshark.com Lincoln also placed third in the 5000 meters at the NCAA Championships (Alex Moore)

9. Was the 5,000 meters in the back of your mind?

Well, I tried not to put it there, but it had to be. I knew going in that I was going to have three races. I tried to tell myself to concentrate on the steeple and whatever I finished in the 5k would be a bonus. I think it worked out like that pretty much.

10. How did you feel in the 5,000 meters?

I didn't know whether my legs would wake up or not. They were kind of dead after the two steeplechases. I was kind of worried, but I tripled at conference. After doing that I was pretty confident just doing two steeples and a 5k. I just went into it with confidence and stuck with the pack. I told myself to just not let go for anything. The pace was slow. That's what I would have done if the pace had been a lot faster. I think some guys were having issues with the heat and the humidity. I'm not quite sure why it was so slow. It was weird. All those talented runners in the race and trying to win it and the wining time was 13:57. It was fine with me. I could sit in slow and was ready to go out fast too.

11. You are modest about your SEC performance. You won three events.

Well, yeah. I dodged a bullet with Kimani not running the 5k. Who knows what would have happened. But I got three trophies [laughing].

12. Can you talk about your high school running?

Sure. The first time I had a race on the track was in my senior year. I got started pretty late. I ran cross country in tenth grade and one or two races in my junior year, but it was my senior year when I really got with it and started training every day. It was modest mileage, but good enough to call it serious. I was running forty to fifty miles a week [laughing]. Not much. I started training and caught a bug and started loving it. I really wasn't that impressive. I grew up in Arkansas so the running scene wasn't that impressive as some other states. I ran a 4:16 1600. In the 3200, I could get away with running 9:30. I never ran faster than that. I ran on the 4 x 800 relay a lot. I ran a couple of opens and ran 1:55 or so.

They'd even stick me on the 4 x 4. That was always fun. I would get away with pretty mediocre times, but it was enough. 50 point splits was enough. That was my high school. I didn't know if I would run in college. I asked the the guy who was helping me out with my training if it was a good idea and he encouraged me to. I had academic scholarship to U of A. I came into coach's office and said " Hey, you might not know me, but I'm going to come to school up here and wondered if I could run on the team." He said " I do know you and it's fine." So I was flattered and he was pleased that it was easy to get another guy on the team. I came up here and I started training. It took me a couple of years to get with the 80 miles a week and the intense training. After a couple of years, the training paid off. I'm just a product of Coach McDonnell. That's the whole story [laughing].

13. What kind of advice would you give a kid who wants to run and be on the team? There are a lot of guys who run 9:30 and are in the same situation you were.

When I got up here, the mentality was to forget about splits and how fast your intervals are. They told me not to worry about time or anything. They just said to try to get up with the guys you are training with. So, it's real easy coming out of high school and running faster than you did in your high school races in workouts. You can't help but get a little intimidated. I think it's best that you put yourself in there and do the training. Get in there with the guys you are going to race against later. It's sort of automatically ups your standards. All of the sudden you turn around and you are running miles in 4:20's. You forget that you never ran mile repeats or you only ran a mile a little bit faster than that. I think it's important to forget what you think you can do and see what you can do.

14. Do you feel you've had to make sacrifices in your life to be a good runner? Have you immersed yourself in running?

I think I'm to the point that I feel like I would be making sacrifices in my life if I were to take anything away from running, if that makes any sense. Yeah, I think I am immersed in my running. I have other stuff going on, but it's sort of secondary to the running. I've already graduated and I'm in graduate school. They keep me pretty busy. You might say that I've made a sacrifice. I'm not doing as well in grad school as I could because of running. I just feel I have to have my running be the best it can be. I don't want to encourage people to do the same. I think education is important. You have to think of what you are going to do when the running is gone. As an undergrad, I tried to stay strong in classes as best as I could.

Grad school is a different level. With the teaching that I do, I have to take it easy or I wouldn't have any time. At the program here at Arkansas, they work really hard to put education first. I think that's important. I think you can do both simultaneously and it works really well. I have a good degree from Arkansas. I want to be a doctor eventually. The academic program here got me into med school and the athletic program got me a national championship. I'm just happy as can be. I don't think I've missed a step in anything.

15. Can you give some insight into the training regimen at Arkansas? Maybe outline your training.

The nature of the team here is even when we are not doing workouts, there will be a couple of hard distance runs of eight or ten miles during the week. We get into pretty good shape with our base work the first few weeks of school. We start doing intervals kind of later. October or whatever. We just do good strength workouts. Longer intervals, steady states, and tempos runs at or below five minute pace for eight miles or whatever. In our longer intervals we do miles, miles and a half, and sometimes two miles. We just keep doing strength stuff. I don't know if I could outline the training. You probably would have to talk to coach. I just sort of show up and do what he tells me. I try not to make a study out of it. Not that I would, but I don't want to question it at all. I just go with what coach tells me.

16. What sort of mileage do you do?

We're usually up around eighty to eighty-five.

17. What do you do during the summer?

After every season, we take a three week break. What we mean by a break is jogging four miles two or three times a week. We take it real easy. We just try to keep the ligaments and tendons in check so that it doesn't hurt so bad when you come back and get injured right away. Then we come back and we start off gradually building up to fifty or sixty and by the time school gets started we're at seventy. Then, we add morning runs and get up to eighty or eighty-five. We do four morning runs a week. So the summer is real relaxed training after the seasons over and it's intended to get us ready to get in shape.

18. The NCAA team championship was really close last year. It looks like it will be close this year. What do you think your chances are for the team title?

I'm pretty confident. Last year, it was real close. I think we were within like thirty to thirty-five points or something like that. I think we struggled on our fifth man. He was back in seventieth or something like that. If we fix that problem with the fifth man, we are back in business. We have all the same guys from last year. We're all going to do the same or better. I think we have solved our problem on the fifth man. We have Wes Alkin who ran 14:07 last year. He's there for us. We also have Chris Mulvaney who was second in the 1500 at NCAA's and he's doing pretty well in xc. I think he's going to come around in time for the NCAA. I think it's best when we have two guys running for the fifth spot. It usually makes for a better score in the end. I think we've fixed that problem and we'll be right there in contention.

Alistair, Silverus, Jason, are talented runners with big hearts. There going to go out and do it. I just need to do my job and get a guy filling in fifth and we should have a very good shot. There's some rumor that Ritzenhein is running again. With a stress fracture, if he does run, he'll be behind. A stress fracture in the femur doesn't sound too promising. Colorado is sort of in dire straits. Stanford is pretty good, but I'd pick us.

19. Arkansas seems to just show up and run. You guys are sort of quiet about it. Can you go through the dynamics of your team and the preparation leading into these big meets?

I agree with you. It's a little strange that we are so quiet coming up to a big race. I think everybody sort of gets themselves into the mind set of preparing to subject themselves to pain. They're all willing to do that. All the preparation is on an individual basis. Everyone does their own thing. We just do all our own things together. That's the same sort of idea as the sport is laid out. It's a team of individual efforts. You don't have to run plays like in basketball or football. We just have to all go out there and put it all out and that's the team. Every guy has their own thought processes and so they all go through those before the race. As far as the team dynamic, we just all sort of respect each other's individual preparation. Part of our preparation is that we have confidence in our teammates. We know they are going to give as much effort as ourselves. It's hard to describe our team dynamic. It's just sort of a group of individuals.