VIDEO: Getting to know a women’s cross country transfer star as the Bears win their seventh straight conference title

and | Senior Sports Editor and Staff Reporter

The No. 5 Washington University women’s cross country team won the University Athletic Association championship Saturday, overcoming a muddy course to capture their seventh straight tite. In the days leading up to the championship, Student Life interviewed graduate student Kiera Olson, who has been one of several key scorers for the Bears this fall, to discuss the season, her transition to WashU and keeping up with the kids. 

Video filmed and edited by Staff Reporter Jamie Nicholson. Interview by Senior Sports Editor Grady Nance.

This interview has been edited slightly for clarity and length

Student Life: To start off, what got you into cross country?

Kiera Olson: I started running when I was really young because I have a twin brother, and we had to run the annual mile in gym class and I was very competitive, so I just wanted to beat my brother. So I started just running with my dad when I was young, and I found out that I really liked running. When I went to junior high, I decided to join cross country because I was really bad at any sports that involved a ball, and so I just kept running and I found friends right away. It was a very strong running community immediately, so I’ve stuck with it ever since just mainly for the people. Plus, I really like to run. 

SL: Did you beat your brother?

KO: I did right away, and then he got competitive back and now he’s a lot faster than me. 

SL: So you competed at Case Western for four years, graduated, and now you’re here at WashU. What made you want to come to WashU?

KO: Yeah, so due to the fact that Case Western is in the UAA, that’s how I initially heard about WashU. So when I was looking to apply to [physical therapy] schools, I was trying to keep in mind that academics are more important than athletics, but I really wanted to run. So I applied to a bunch of division three schools, a lot of them within the UAA specifically, just because I was really drawn to the fact that all the UAA schools are known for their academics and for their research, but they still seem to be able to produce such strong athletic teams, too. So I liked the balance of the two and still being strong contenders in both.

SL: Is it weird jumping from one team for four years to a new team in your fifth year?

KO: Yes, but I would say I was really nervous coming in about being able to fit in on the team just because I had four years of relationships at Case Western that were wonderful. But as soon as I came here, everyone was so welcoming and so inclusive right away, and it really made me feel like a member of the team immediately and not some fifth year student. I’ve been really grateful to [head coach Jeff] Stiles and to everyone on the team for just making me feel so welcome and making it feel just like I’ve been here forever, even though it’s only been a couple months. I feel like I’ve been a part of this team for a long time. I think it’ll hit this weekend though, we have our conference meets and we’ll race against Case Western again, but I’m excited to just have all of my favorite people in one spot. The Case Western teammates and the WashU teammates.

[How WashU’s cross country teams go quietly under the radar]

SL: You have the UAA Championships coming up. You’ve been doing really well for the entire season so far. How do you guys feel going into that?

KO: Yeah, we’re really excited. This will be a really good opportunity to race some of the best teams in the nation since we have such a strong conference, and hopefully everyone’s feeling healthy again. We were missing a couple people in the last meet who have been some top scorers, so it’ll be exciting to have everyone back again and have us all running together. But we’re really excited. 

SL: Are there any differences that you’ve noticed between Case Western and WashU?

KO: Yeah, I would say that I definitely had the strong team component at Case Western, but I feel like we’re more a pack here at WashU for sure, which has certainly been strong. It’s been very good for me mentally. 

SL: Which is better: Cleveland or St. Louis?

KO: I like both cities, I feel like they are pretty equivalent. I come from a very small town, so when I first moved to Cleveland, I was really overwhelmed by the sheer number of people and just stimuli that were in the area. Coming here to St. Louis has been less of an initial shock just because I lived in Cleveland for a little bit. But I would say that St. Louis seems to have the largest number of good restaurants per capita of places that I’ve lived. It seems like there’s all these fun little neighborhoods between the Central West End and Tower Grove and everything around here. And so I’ve really been enjoying all the good food that’s here. 

SL: Have you tried Imo’s yet?

KO: I haven’t had Imo’s yet! One of the girls on the team is a St. Louisan, and so she told me that we have to try it, but I’ve heard mixed reviews.

SL: I’d vote against it. So you’re obviously really busy, you have PT school and you’re running every day. What are you doing in your very little free time?

KO: I also do some research at the PT school, which has been very fun. It’s exciting to get involved with that, so that takes up most of the rest of my free time. But it’s been a good balance between running and school and just having that designated break time from studies with the running, but yeah, I would say most of the rest of my time goes towards research. I’m also part of Bear Cubs, which a lot of the cross country team helps with. We get to help children and we run track workouts with them, and that’s been a really fun experience. 

SL: Do you guys do long distance or sprints with them?

KO: We mostly run sprints, so just a lap, then we’ll play games, then we’ll make them run another lap around the track, and so on. It gets tiring! Some of some of the kids, oh, they’re so fast. And I feel like I really go into it thinking like “this won’t be so bad,” but then some of the kids take off running and then I feel like I can’t keep up with them running around the track. 

SL: And then we always like to finish our interviews with the same question: Would you rather adopt a child every time you hear “Bohemian Rhapsody” or have fish for hands? I want to clarify that you have to adopt the child when he’s a baby and raise them until they’re 18. 

KO: I feel like I would take the kids. I don’t really like fish. Maybe if it was something other than fish, but yeah, the kids. Fish isn’t really very appealing. 

StudLife’s Athlete of the Week ‘Would You Rather Tracker?’: Bohemian Rhapsody: 3 – Fish: 0

More athletes of the week from the StudLife sports desk:

How WU’s quarterback went from never playing in college to leading a team that’s 4-2

From pole vaulting to speaking Norwegian, Ariana Miles does it all

Why Sergio Rivas, who leads men’s soccer with four goals in three games, says he peaked in middle school


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