SPARTANBURG, S.C. – With the USC Upstate women's cross country season over, senior Jemeli Sang (Eldoret, Kenya) sat down with UpstateSpartans.com to look back on the exciting 2011 season.
Your freshman year you finished 22nd at the Atlantic Sun Championships. Four years later you are an A-Sun Champion. Can you give us some insight into how you were able to become the top runner in the conference?
To begin with, "success is not how far you get, but the distance you travel from where you started." During my freshman year everything was new (environment, food, people and training). As time went by I was able to adjust as I gained experience and confidence. My coach gave me better racing strategies which, coupled with increased volume of training and produced good results. My positive attitude towards running contributed a lot to the winning. Since my first year I haven't doubted my dreams to win a championship like the conference meet, and even some day win a big race like the Boston Marathon and this contributed a lot to the success at this year's conference championship.
Joan Tangwar, Carolyne Chelulei and you finished first, second and third at the A-Sun Championships. Upstate is the second team to do that in A-Sun history and that dates back to 1992. Can you talk about your race plan and how it played out at the championships?
"Talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships." At the A-Sun Championship, our goals were very clear: help each other as a team and win the conference. Although we didn't win as a team, we managed to show our effort. We have been training together; doing the same workouts, eating the same food and this I believe was one of the factors for the one, two, three finish. Also, we believed in ourselves and our coaches had confidence in us, which is why we went out and did it.
You were named to the academic all-conference team. Can you talk about how you have been able to balance your studies and training?
To me, running and studying are complementary. The same kind of endurance and persistence I apply in the workout is the same that I apply in class. When I am in class I focus on studying hard and when I am in the field it is about running hard. Running is one of the most contributors to my success in class. Being a student-athlete has enabled me to manage my time well and fit both activities into the schedule. The passion I have for my academic career is the driving force.
You finished 16th at the Southeast Region meet this year and earned All-Region honors. This was your first time competing at regionals, can you give us some insight into your race?
Personally, my goal was to finish at least in the top 10 and even earn a spot in this year's NCAA cross country nationals, but it was hard. Those girls were fast. Still, I was happy with my performance. The opportunity to take part in such a competitive race and earn All-Region honors for the first was great.
With the track season quickly approaching what are your goals for the 5,000m and 10,000m this season?
I'm well prepared to run my personal record in both 3,000m and 5,000m during the indoors. I am looking forward for the outdoors. The 10,000m is my favorite race and my goals in this race are to set a new school record, run my personal best, win conference and maybe regionals and qualify for the NCAA National Championships.
What is your best place to run?
My favorite course is at Roger Milliken Park. I love the home course. We get to enjoy a large number of supporters whenever we race there. Our professors, friends and family get to cheer for us. It is interesting.
After graduating do you have any plans to continue racing?
I love running; it's in my heart. I treasure and cherish every moment that I have to put on my training shoes, my running gear and when I have to stand in the start line waiting for the gun to begin the race. I would like to use the opportunity I get and the experience I have gained in the professional world. I have plans to run especially in one of the most famous and competitive half/marathons.