Athlete of the Week: Taryn Surtees

| Sports Reporter
 Junior Taryn Surtees took first at the UAA championship and was named UAA Most Valuable Athlete for the second straight year. (Mary Butkus | WUSTL Photo Services)

Junior Taryn Surtees took first at the UAA championship and was named UAA Most Valuable Athlete for the second straight year. (Mary Butkus | WUSTL Photo Services)

Hometown: Chagrin Falls, Ohio
Major: Spanish/Biology

Taryn Surtees finished first with a 21:07 as the women’s cross country team won the 2009 UAA championship. Surtees earned the UAA Most Valuable Athlete title for the second year in a row and is the Student Life Athlete of the Week.

Student Life: When did you start running?

Taryn Surtees: I started running track in 7th grade. I ran the 800-meter race after finding that hurdles didn’t really work out for me. The year after I started running cross country as a last minute decision to stay in shape for track. However over time I began to appreciate cross country more and more.

SL: Out of three years running for Wash U., you’ve been the UAA most valuable athlete twice. How was it different the second time?

TS: Last year it was a lot more exciting. It was a really big goal of mine. However this year I’m a lot more focused on the team, I was worried more about how the team was performing at conference rather than just myself. It ended up putting a lot less pressure on me, which is when I run the best, so it was probably a big factor in my race time. Being the UAA most valuable athlete was more of a steeping stone to the greater goals I have this year.

SL: What are your personal goals for the season?

TS: I haven’t talked to the coach yet, but I am really hoping to be in the top 10 at nationals. I was hoping for top 5, and that’s still at the back of my mind, but there are a lot of variables and strong runners who are going to be there, so it’s really more realistic to aim for top 10.

SL: Is there a certain time you want to beat?

TS: Well at Oshkosh I got a 34 second personal best of 21:07, so breaking 21 minutes would be awesome. We have regionals at the same course as Oshkosh, so I hope I will do as well as I would like. But I’m definitely more focused on the team doing well. I was more worried about time when I was in track, but in cross country I’m a lot more focused on the team.

SL: How do you balance work, being a pre-med major, and running?

TS: It’s definitely a learning process, and without a doubt something that I’ve learned how to do with time. I used to feel really bad in freshman year when I couldn’t concentrate on my work on the bus because people were talking, but since then I’ve gotten a lot better at managing my time. I know that I won’t have my team forever so Id rather be spending time with them when I can at the meets, rather than worrying about work that I may be missing. We do run at 6:30 in the morning so that requires getting enough sleep, which can be hard when you have an exam the next day. It’s definitely a trade off between work and running, but I’m getting a lot better at balancing it with time.

SL: You’ve got another year after this. Do you think the Wash U girls can win UAAs again? And do you think you could get most valuable athlete again?

TS: I don’t know. Everything depends on being healthy, who’s in the conference, or if some crazy freshman comes out of nowhere, you never really know. A lot of things could happen. I don’t think we’ve ever had a three time champion at the UAAs, so I would love to be the first.

SL: Is there anything you want people to know about cross country that they may not know about?

TS: Yes! Races are six kilometers! So many people come up to me asking what event I run in cross country. Every cross country race is the same distance, 6K!

Cross country competes at the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships on Nov. 14 in Oshkosh, Wis.