Emma Walter, a cross country walk-on, is unbeaten so far this track season
Junior Emma Walter, by all accounts, is having an outstanding season. She’s raced in two meets in the 2021 outdoor track season and won both of them. Almost even more impressive is the fact that she has run a personal best at both competition opportunities she has had. At the Wash. U. Quad, she took a commanding victory over seven other Wash. U. women to win the 1500 by six seconds. The very next weekend, she raced in the North Central College’s First Chance Quad to win the 5000 meter race in 17:52, winning in over 23 seconds. Student Life caught up with Walter after the first meet of the season to check in about her track season, goals and favorite ice cream.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Student Life: So how long have you been running for?
Emma Walter: I’ve been running since seventh grade. So 10 years now.
SL: And was it something you were introduced to by your parents or something? Or did you want it to just do yourself?
EW: In seventh grade, we were allowed to sign up for sports. So in middle school, me and a bunch of friends were like, oh, let’s run cross country. I had no clue what it was, but it just clicked, and I liked it.
SL: Were you immediately good at it? Or was it something that took a bit of time?
EW: It definitely took a little bit of getting into shape and stuff.
SL: And did you always know you wanted to run in college? Or is that something that kind of popped up at the end?
EW: I didn’t even think about running in college while I was applying to schools. And then after my senior track season, I was already coming to Wash. U. [and] I just reached out to the coach and ended up deciding to run here, so it was kind of a last minute decision!
SL: Very impressive. Coming back to your performance this weekend, you haven’t run a track season since, what, freshman year? So was your win in the 1500 something you were expecting based on your fitness?
EW: Not really, because I haven’t really been training [for] 1500 stuff. I’ve been doing more 5k. So I was just going out there as more of a training race, and then just ended up feeling good.
SL: Do you feel like you’re a different athlete now than you were back when you were running as a freshman?
EW: I think so. I think part of it is just getting older, and then also having so long without races and stuff. I think I was able to really figure out training that works for me, and learning how to like running without the pressure or excitement of having races. And just learning how to like the process of training.
SL: Did actually racing feel similar to the time trials you’ve been doing? I’m sure actually putting on your uniform was nice.
EW: Putting on the uniform was really fun. And then having people around the track that were our teammates and having a real starting gun definitely made it feel like a race environment. So that was really fun compared to the time trial.
SL: For sure. And [do you] have any pre-race traditions or superstitions that you got to do for the first time?
EW: I always enjoy warming up with teammates, and we always huddle with the coach. So that was nice to get that back, especially because we haven’t been doing that during time trials.
SL: And it’s so nice that you finally had that experience. Looking back, what’s been your favorite memory of Wash. U. track or cross country?
EW: I think one of my favorite memories is every year for cross country nationals. Everyone who’s not running in the race dresses up and travels to the meet. We just run back and forth across the course. So it’s always really exciting to watch your teammates do really well, and then just having fun with everyone on the team.
SL: There seems like there’s such a good community in cross country. And hopefully it’ll happen next fall! Short-term, what are your goals for the rest of the season?
EW: I’m excited this weekend, when I’m going to race the 5k for the first time in my collegiate career. So that’s kind of exciting—I’d like to get under 18 minutes for that and then just see where that goes through the rest of the season. (Walter ended up winning her first 5000 meter race, crossing the line in 17:52)
SL: And there are a lot of girls in the 1500 and 5k who you can train with and do workouts with when things get tougher?
EW: Yeah, definitely! We’re running in like smaller pods right now. So we just run with the same people—for example, our roommates—but it’s still super nice to have people at workouts because we all push each other.
SL: Yeah. And I know you don’t get that much interaction with the underclassmen, but they had some strong performances over the weekend. So is it fun to watch them spike up, put on the uniform for the first time?
EW: Yeah, it’s super fun. And having more of these meets, we get to interact with them a lot more than we do just under normal practice circumstances. So that’s been awesome this week and coming up next week, just having gotten to hang out with the freshmen and sophomores.
SL: So what’s your absolute favorite place to run in St. Louis?
EW: Definitely Forest Park, specifically that outer loop; we call it the park loop.
SL: And what about something that you do after a good race?
EW: I like celebrating some ice cream with friends, specifically the chocolate coconut from Clementine’s.
SL: Okay, my last question for you is what’s something that you’re going to do after the whole world hypothetically gets vaccinated and you can do whatever you want?
EW: Hopefully travel again and go to concerts—that’d be nice. I was going to go to a concert for Milky Chance this summer, and then obviously that didn’t happen, so that would be one that I’d want to go back to.
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