Oct. 16, 2008
By: Keenan Bowen, EWU Sports Information
Senior Amber Nickelson is leading the Eastern Washington University women’s cross country team in many different ways this season. Not only is the four-year letter winner from Lake Stevens, Wash., leading on the course but also during practices. She is one of only two seniors on a 11-person roster -- seven of whom are freshmen.
Nickelson has also been getting it done in the classroom, posting Big Sky Conference All-Academic honors the last two seasons.
Nickelson finished 10th on the 5,000-meter course at the Montana Invitational on Oct. 4 with a time of 18:52, surpassing the time of 19:04 she ran on the same course last year during the Big Sky Conference Championships. She was 10th out of 69 runners in Missoula this season, and was 26th at last year’s BSC Championships.
Next up for Nickelson and the Eagles is the sixth annual EWU Cross Country Invitational this Saturday (Oct. 18) beginning at 10 a.m. at the EWU Sports and Recreation Center. It will be the last meet for both the women’s and men’s squads before the Big Sky Conference Championships on Nov. 1 in Portland, Ore.
Q: The sixth annual EWU Cross Country Invitational is this weekend in Cheney. What is it like to run a meet at your own University?
A: "Our home course is a little bit of a slower course just because of the huge hill and the large gaps. It’s great to have people cheering and we all look forward to this meet because our family and friends can watch us."
Q: You finished 10th at the Montana Invitational on Oct. 4. How did you feel about your run and how did your time compare to your personal record?
A: "On that course last year I ended up running 19:04 and that was the best time for me all year. I beat that time this year with an 18:52 on the same course, so that was really exciting and it was a personal goal of mine. It was a great race and it rained a lot. The team really did well and it was a big step forward for a lot of our athletes."
Q: The EWU women placed a best-ever fourth last year at the Big Sky Conference Championships. Is the goal this year to place even higher?
A: "This year we have an extremely young team. We aren’t really worried about placing but just improving from week to week. They are definitely putting in the effort and are walking away from practice better. Right now we are just growing, and definitely in the next couple years or so they are going to be right there at the top."
Q: What goals do you have for the rest of the year?
A: "Since it’s my fifth year I would really like to go to regionals. I’d have to place in the top ten at the Big Sky Conference Championships. I also have my eyes on the school record for the steeplechase, but that wouldn’t be until track season. Goals for my teammates would be to see them running faster times -- they are definitely putting in the work."
Q: What is your pre-race ritual?
A: "We always run the course through before the race but never cross the finish line. I always eat junk food for breakfast -- that is something coach doesn’t like too much. Other than that, I just walk through the course in my head imagining every possible scenario. You just have to mentally prepare yourself."
Q: What is your best EWU Cross Country memory?
A: "I’m a senior and a lot of my memories were with most of the seniors that graduated last year, but definitely just getting through really hard workouts with my teammates. To see everyone come together and support each other is the best. One workout I’ll remember the most was doing 24 quarter-mile sprints. It was really windy with freezing rain. Kiri Garruto and I were the only ones out on the track and I just about cried because we were just so cold. Having that companionship and the whole team as a family is something you can’t find anywhere else."
Q: What is the best and worst thing about being a Division I student-athlete?
A: "There is definitely a great field of athletes to race against. It was a hard transition to get used to coming from high school. But you yield great race times and the competition is fun. You do struggle to get everything into the day between classes, practices, weight room – it takes a lot of commitment. It’s hard to balance priorities, but when it comes down to it you know what you want."