SPARTANBURG, S.C. – With the USC Upstate women's cross country season over, senior Joan Tangwar (Eldoret, Kenya) sat down with UpstateSpartans.com to look back on the exciting 2011 season.
Your freshman year you finished 34th at the Atlantic Sun Championships. Four years later you finished second. Can you give us some insight into how you were able to become one of the top runners in the conference?
I struggled with injuries during my freshman year. Even though the injuries were frustrating, they gave me patience to strategize and focus on the years ahead. I believe that success comes through hard work, determination, persistence and perseverance. In light of this, I worked very hard progressively through my training regimen, while observing diet and rest. A combination of these factors made the difference for all these years. Ultimately, experience through races prepared me to be confident, to set high standards and to be a high achiever.
Jemeli Sang, 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 how you felt when you finished the race with your two teammates?
The 1-2-3 Upstate medal sweep at the A-Sun Conference Championship was indeed a fulfillment of Upstate's return to supremacy and the transformation phase of our program. Words are never enough to express such an excitement and joy at the finish-line. It was truly an emotional and touching moment and indeed a dream come true. All the years we had been training together, encouraging each other and pushing one another had finally yielded success first hand. We were able to push ourselves to the limit in an effort to achieve the 1-2-3 feat. After all we had been prepared to focus to cross the line first especially at the championships. Importantly, it was wonderful to repeat the history setting of 1992! Personally, this will remain a memorable accomplishment of my lifetime.
What is your favorite cross country course that you have run on since you have been here at Upstate and why?
My favorite course is at Roger Milliken Research Park. The course is termed tough, hard and dreadful from its onside and outlook. Interestingly, this course has given me a lot of experience due to its unique design and the rolling and undulating hills. Moreover, if you look at my progression here at Upstate, you will realize that I have improved in all races, which have factored in my performance throughout my entire collegiate athletic career. In fact, I do most of my workouts on the course itself and thus help in terms of race strategies.
You finished 15th 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?
First of all I want to thank the university for making everything that was required in meeting the NCAA standards and to allow us to compete at the regional and national level. Yes, I was grateful to have finished 15th overall! My goal at the regional was to do my best and possibly win the race. Because we were competing against big teams and all time champions, I wanted to stay close upfront, study, strategize and strike a powerful finish. Given the fact that it was a 6K race, I wanted to relax and be patient until the end. In sum, I was satisfied with my achievement at the regional championships and wish the best to my team next year.
With the track season quickly approaching what are your goals for this indoor and outdoor season?
May goals are to improve and run fast times this year. In other words, I am aiming to establish new records and meet NCAA qualifying times. Given the experience gained for that the last three years, I feel that track season will offer yet another opportunity to redeem myself with these goals. Even though, track is different from cross country, I believe we will come out victorious at the championships that lie ahead.
You will graduate this summer; what are your plans after you graduate? Do you have any plans for running after college?
Frist of all, I look forward to my graduation this coming summer. I know that without education, I wouldn't have had a chance to compete at Upstate. Secondly, I plan to transit to professional athletics after college. I believe collegiate athletics have prepared me well for the future and to be one of the best athletes of my time. My focus now is to complete collegiate athletics in style and prepare entry into pro-athletics.
Who are some of the runners you have looked up to over the course of your college career?
The two individuals that I look up to are Sally Kipyego, the NCAA Champion, and Vivian Cheruiyot. Sally Kipyego, the three-time NCAA D-I individual champion, is one of the most iconic athletes and decorated distance runners of the all-time at the collegiate level. Her personal story is similar to mine in some way. Vivian, a double champion, on the other hand is an inspiration to young female runners. With her leadership and passion in motivating countless other young female runners to pursue their own dreams, Vivian has an adorable personality that I humbly admire.