June 18, 2012
In her mind, Nicole (Edwards) Sifuentes (2005-08) was given the perfect scenario to have the opportunity to compete in the 2012 London Olympic Games. The 10-time All-American graduated from Michigan in 2008, just before the start of the 2008 Beijing Games. She had no intentions of competing in Beijing, knowing that she realistically was not ready. However, with four years to train as a professional athlete, Sifuentes wholeheartedly believed she could fulfill her dream and earn a spot on the Canadian National Team for the 2012 Games in London.
Over the last four years, Sifuentes has enjoyed plenty of success on the national and international scenes as she continues to train with U-M head cross country coach Mike McGuire. In 2010, she signed a sponsorship contract with Saucony. That same year, the Winnipeg, Manitoba, native won the silver medal at the IAAF Continental Cup in Croatia and competed for Canada at the Commonwealth Games in India. To qualify for the Olympics, she needs to have run the 1,500-meter 'A' qualifying standard (4:06.00) in any meet and to finish among the top three at the Canadian Olympic Trials, which will be held June 27-30 in Calgary, Alberta.
What are some of your favorite moments from your career at Michigan?
"My career started off with a bang. I redshirted during cross country my freshman year, so the first time I competed in uniform was indoor track season, and I went to NCAAs for the distance medley relay. I ran the first leg, the 1,200, and we won the national championship. It was a really long time ago, but it was really exciting, especially as a freshman. I was on cloud nine. We also had some good moments with relays later in my career. My junior year, we set two collegiate records at Penn Relays in the 4x800 and 4x1500, so obviously that was really exciting. Another highlight was my junior year (sophomore eligibility) of cross country, I placed 12th at the national cross country meet, and I was blown away. I never would have dreamt that I would finish that high, and our team placed third. We got a team prize and everyone on the team got trophies so we were just trilled."
What have been some of the highlights of your professional career since graduating from Michigan in 2008?
"I qualified for the Commonwealth Games in 2010, and that was a huge goal of mine. That year I had a breakthrough in the 1,500 (4:06.34), which is actually my current personal best. After I ran the qualifying time, I got injured, but luckily I got better in time to compete at the Commonwealth Games in India. I placed fifth there and ran the second-best time of my life, so it was really exciting. That same summer, I was selected to Team Americas for the Continental Cup, which was in Croatia, which is probably one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to. It turned into a really tactical race, and I placed second in a field where I was seeded last. I won a lot of money and my parents had come to watch me race. On a different note, last year I had a pretty disappointing summer and didn't get anywhere near my PB in the 800 or 1,500. I ran poorly at big meets and that in turn didn't help me get into any other good races. At the end of the summer I was feeling really fit and ready to go, but there were no more opportunities to run and I was pretty disappointed. My contract with Saucony was up for renewal at the end of the year and I wasn't sure if they were going to want me back. I felt a lot of uncertainty going into the Olympic year, but I felt that even if I lost my sponsors and no one thought that I can do it, I really thought that I could make it to the Olympics. Saucony took me back and treated me well, and they actually gave me a raise. I wasn't sure what was going to happen, but I felt really strong that no matter what I would get it one more year. That was a turning point for me."
You graduated in 2008, so you've had a long wait to get your shot at the Olympics. Do you find that to be a good or bad thing?
"It was never a goal of mine to make the 2008 Olympics. I knew that it was unrealistic, and it wasn't going to happen. I just wasn't good enough. At that time I thought, '2012 -- that is four years from now, I have enough time, I can do it, I can get better.' I really set my sights on 2012 at the time that the 2008 Olympics were going on. I think the timing was right for me because I knew I couldn't make the 2008 team. I wasn't disappointed that I wasn't on the team because that wasn't my goal. It was just the right time to inspire me and get me motivated to work hard for the next games."
What has it been like continuing to train with Mike McGuire and some of his current elite athletes?
"It's been really great. I have all the tools I need for success here. I didn't want to leave Michigan for a number of reasons, and one of them was that as long as I could continue working with Mike, I wanted to do that. I had a lot of success in college under his guidance. I really believe in his coaching, I trust what he tells me to do, and I've succeeded with that guidance. There was no motivation for me to leave and find a new coach. Also, the training facilities are accessible. As an alum, everyone is friendly and accommodating at the university still. Sometimes the athletic trainers will even help me out still. It's a great place to be -- a great atmosphere, working with Mike is great, and the track is available most of the time. It's a really good situation. I have everything I need here to succeed. I've really enjoyed training here, and I'd like to keep doing it for sure."
What do the next couple of weeks look like for you leading up to the trials?
"The trials for the Canadian Championships are in a couple weeks, so I'll race on the 28th and 29th of June. Before that, I have a couple more races -- I'm going to do an 800 and one last 1,500 in California. That 1,500 will be my chance to qualify for the Olympics. Obviously I'll put everything into that race, and I'm planning to meet the standard there. I believe that I'm ready to go and it's going to be a great opportunity. I'll give it everything in my last 1,500 and then regardless of what happens there, I'll be going to the trials in June."