Track & Field Press Conference Quotes

March 24, 2014

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An interview with:

Shelia Burrell

Shelia Burrell: You guys ready? I've got my stop watch. Anybody want to ask about my basketball bracket first?

Q. How does your basketball bracket look?
Shelia Burrell: I don't have a bracket, but I have some opinions. I think the SDSU will play well against Arizona just because we almost beat them. We didn't lose by very much the first game we played them, so I was kind of hoping we played Arizona in the next round. Then I saw Arizona play last night and they played really, really well, so we'll see.
I'm pulling for the Aztecs though. But I was hoping we played Arizona, but after they played last night they looked really tough. Gonzaga made them look really good, that's for sure. But they played really tough last night, so I'm hoping the Aztecs can come out and increase their intensity and play at a pretty high level.
So we have coming up, you guys probably don't follow track and field very much, but there may be an opportunity this weekend. We have a big Aztec Invitational on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We currently are coming off a pretty successful indoor season. Shanieka Thomas who is our senior this year, won the NCAA national title in the triple jump. That's now three national titles in a row for the track and field program. So as of now, SDSU, the track team, has probably won a national title every year for the past three years, the first one being the first in 30 years for any Aztec, individual or team. So that's pretty impressive for us.
We finished again top 25 in the country. Finished 20th in the country coming off the indoor championship back in New Mexico, and getting ready for the outdoor season. I think going into outdoor we have a good chance of being, again, top 15 is the goal to finish for the outdoor season. This past indoor was the highest finish that an SDSU track and field ever finished at the National Championship.
Going into outdoor now, we have on campus right now actually The University of Oregon, who won the NCAA indoor and outdoor men's and women's titles a couple weeks ago here for Aztec invitational. So we're we have the No. 1 team in the country, USC here this weekend, BYU, a conference rival in UNLV will be here, a lot of the cold weather schools and local California schools will be here, so it will be a great opportunity to get some of you guys to come out and watch the meet and be able to see some really high level track and field in a very relaxed setting.
We run a heptathlon, decathlon, a distance carnival which is a distance event that's held Friday night. The cool thing about this weekend is that we make sure with SDSU with me coming on as a head coach to be able to get the community involved is we bring in lots of different competitive, I guess, teasers. We have something called the Flash 100, which is the world's fastest master.
So anybody in this room that's 40 and above, if you're fast and you want to win some money, there is prize money involved, it's $500 for first place, $300 for second, and $100 for third. We're setting up a foot race for the world's fastest men's 40 and above, that will be on Saturday afternoon. It's our second year running that event.
It's an international event. We have a guy from Jamaica coming. We had a guy from Japan that was coming, but he ended up pulling his hamstring so he couldn't come. So we make it an international event. We invite the top fastest guys in that Masters 40 and above, and they come out to race and try to win a little prize money and come out to the sunshine and be in San Diego.
So it's a fun weekend for us. It's a busy we can weekend for us, but we've got some fun teams here, it will be a light atmosphere and you get to come out and watch the Aztecs.
Our girls are really good this year. We're senior-heavy, but our underclassmen are really improving. And I think once Shanieka graduates and Allison Reaser, who is probably one of the most accomplished multi eventers in the country, definitely at San Diego State, come out and watch us compete, and there are going to be some interesting stuff to see. Several national champions will be running this weekend at our track.

Q. How does your team in all kinds of events, how do they handle the tradition from indoor to outdoor? Do you think we're better suited?
Shelia Burrell: We're a much better outdoor team, obviously. We feel like University of New Mexico is our home track because we're there so often because it's the closest indoor track and the best indoor track on the west coast, and the closest one to us. So we're there all the time. It's not much of a transition for us going from indoor to outdoor because we train outdoor all the time. So it's more of a transition for us to go from outdoor to compete indoor.

Q. How big is the difference in competing indoor and outdoor?
Shelia Burrell: Well, first of all there is a track size difference. The indoor track is 200 meters banked, depending on what track you go to, and the outdoor track is 400 meters. So one lap around is half the size on an indoor track. The longest race they run in terms of a sprint on a straightaway is the 60 meters, whereas outdoors we run 100 meters. So there is a significant difference. Indoor there is no wind. You'll see somebody run really fast.
You'll see some fast times this weekend and some of them may be wind assisted. Hopefully the weather cooperates for us, but there is a big difference between indoor and outdoor. How you prepare for it, how you run the race and what your strategy is.

Q. Coach, with regard to Shanieka, do you think she'll make the Olympics?
Shelia Burrell: I think Shanieka Thomas is still yet she's 6-foot-1, she says she's 6'1" or 5'11". She's 6'1", and she's a lot stronger, and we've got her faster this year. Shanieka probably you may not understand these terms, but is probably a 15 meter triple jumper, which right now her best is 46-feet, 5-inches outdoor, which is the sixth best time all-time NCAA. She's the sixth best jumper all time of NCAA history. As she continues to get better and develop, as she transitions from college to the elite ranks, I'm absolutely positive she'll be in the Olympic Games. Whitney Ashley is another athlete for us who is now at the Olympic training center who should be an Olympian as well.

Q. That was her PR, right, the jump?
Shelia Burrell: This past weekend? No, it was her season best. She actually won. I think Shanieka, fortunately this year, won the meet on her first jump and then had her best jump on the last jump. So she's head and shoulders above a lot of the competition right now in the NCAA. So as we talk about training and preparing, we're preparing for the next level of competition once she graduates.

Q. Did you personally recruit her? Did you always kind of see this future for her?
Shelia Burrell: Well, my former assistant, actually, we go to Jamaica to recruit. My former assistant saw her. Shanieka, by the way, wasn't the best athlete coming out of Jamaica the year we recruited her. They have something called Boys and Girls Champs in Jamaica. If you're a track and field fan, it's like you've gone to heaven. It's like the mecca of track and field. You get there and you're so excited.
To young kids in that country track and field is like football or basketball here. So the stadium is packed. You see all these kids in the warm up area sleeping in houses on top of each other because of the opportunity to go and compete at the boys and girls championship, an opportunity to get a scholarship or an opportunity to be Usain Bolt.
So when you go to Jamaica to recruit it's like the Olympics for high school kids, and Shanieka was probably fourth at that championship, and not really highly recruited. My assistant coach saw something in her and said, `Shelia, we've got to get this girl because she doesn't know what she's doing, and she's this tall,' and so forth. So we recruited her and got her here and since then she's developed and blossomed. She was a high jumper coming out of high school. We converted her full time to a triple jumper.

Q. What did you see in her? What was that spark?
Shelia Burrell: She had long legs. The biggest thing was she just didn't know you could sense she didn't know what she was doing in the jump itself, but she just was able to naturally do some things that you can't teach or you can't coach. It was primarily that she was running down the runway as my former coach was relaying it to me. It was Shelia, she's running down the run way and she doesn't look like much, but I'm telling you, she's got it. She's good. So we took a chance and recruited her, and it worked out for us.

Q. Because she's raw?
Shelia Burrell: Just raw. Shanieka's fast as well. If she ran the 400, she'd be an elite 400-meter runner. That's how good she is, and she never ran before she got to college. She didn't run events. She just jumped. But she'd be an elite 400 meter runner here for us.

Q. You're not going to do that to her?
Shelia Burrell: She's our fastest 4x400 leg right now.

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