June 10, 2014
Senior Alex Leptich discusses the thrill of qualifying for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 3,000m steeplechase, competing in Track Town USA and her summer plans before returning to U-M for a fifth year of cross country.
On running a PR at regionals to qualify for the NCAA Championships ... "I didn't necessarily expect to PR, but I knew I wanted to go to nationals and that was the only thing on my mind. Me taking first in my heat was me making sure that was happening. Taking off with three laps to go -- I wanted to make sure my spot was secure. I didn't know what time I was running, but running a PR at that time and knowing that I'm getting faster and getting better going into nationals is great. I need to break that 10-minute mark to make finals I'm sure and I'm prepared to do that. For me it's not ever about time, it's just more of a confidence boost knowing that my training is behind me and I'm preforming within that race and with my times. I'm going to have to do something I've never done before -- I'm going to have to do it tomorrow and again on Friday."
On what it means to make it to nationals as a senior ... "I think every person wants to go out on top. It is a little bittersweet knowing that this is what I missed out on in previous years, but it's so cool to be here. The goals for our entire team are set so much higher -- they're not just dreams like they used to be. My freshman year I always wanted to go to nationals and this year, everything that we set our minds to is realistic. To be at this level and to run my last steeplechase race here -- what more could I want. I'm ecstatic and excited to not just be here but to do something with this opportunity. I want to be an All-American more than anything -- I'm not just going to say I went to nationals, I want to compete."
On competing in TrackTown USA ... "This is my second time being here. My first time was for the PanAm qualifier my freshman year. The feeling this time is definitely a little different than it was then -- I was pretty intimidated, but now I'm just going to feed off of the environment. It's so cool and we're all so excited. Especially as a distance runner, being at Hayward Field just adds to the excitement. I'm at nationals, as a senior, in Hayward Field, running my event -- it's perfect."
On sharing this experience with four other teammates ... "There are a lot of other teams that have one person coming and that must be so hard. I know we could have brought more, but to bring five girls shows that there are more people on your team that want the same thing you do and that's what makes a great team. To have our goals set so high and to make it here -- that's what is driving our team. Part of it is coaching and recruiting, but it's also our goals and how we work with each other that is improving the program so much. When you bring people in like Erin Finn that has very high goals that are realistic, that just drives everybody else. It's cool to be surrounded by other people that want the same things you do and understand that were all here to do the same thing -- we're not just here to be at nationals, we're here to be All-Americans."
On what makes her successful in the steeplechase and why she loves it ... "I'd like to say I'm a durable athlete, but to an extent I'm not -- I think I'm more durable mentally. It's a pain in the race that I've felt before, but to get your body over those last couple hurdles in a race, it takes something else. I think having the fight that I do and liking to finish hard definitely helps me -- I like to say I have a long, hard kick, which gives me an advantage. But the biggest thing is that it's fun for me. I like the 5K and the 1,500m, but there's something about the steeplechase that I really, really enjoy. I don't like just running in circles -- I'm a versatile athlete and it's fun to have obstacles in my way. It's fun to have advantages at the water pit. I like using the obstacles to my advantage and that's what drives me in the race."
On summer training and preparing for her last season of eligibility in cross country ... "For summer training, it's not only my job to make sure everyone is out there training, but that they're doing it the right way. I think I've done it the wrong way a couple times and I think that's what has taken a couple season away from me. It's a long, hard grind to make it through three seasons that you have to be careful with. Most girls are sticking around this summer so it will be really easy to watch out for each other and get people together to make sure everyone is training. We're ranked really high in cross country and in a way that doesn't mean anything, but to an extent it does. We got fourth at nationals and we have everybody returning and not everyone was healthy -- so what else could we ask for -- this is it. The summer will be very important and I hope everyone will do it the right way."
On her summer plans and preparing for life after graduation ... "I have a position at the cardiovascular center at U-M. I will be a nurse technician there on the fifth floor. I'm using that position as experience for an accelerated nursing program in the future. I've started looking at schools, but applications aren't due for a while. I want to do the accelerated nursing program and then hopefully get a master's. Majoring in movement science has been great. There are a lot of different ways we can go with that, but my heart fell in the medical field."
Previous Spotlight: Danielle Pfeifer