SDSU Cross Country News Conference Quotes

Sept. 11, 2012


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Head coach Shelia Burrell

Opening statement:

This is my fourth season here as head coach at San Diego State, taking over three years ago. This year has been a good year for us. We had a very good recruiting class coming in. I came here after being at Georgetown having made two Olympic teams. I was in Sydney and in Athens and won five National Championships. Coming here to San Diego State and being able to take this program from where it was to the direction we're going, this year's cross country meet, probably with the recruiting class that we have, is going to be one of our better seasons and better meets this year. What we try to do and want to do is we have something called a community 5K. San Diego is a great running community. I know we all love football, but it's also a very good running community. So being able to bring the community, the San Diego State community and the San Diego running community at large to Balboa Park for our cross country meet this year for a 5K race is just as exciting for us at this year's Aztec Invitational. We have a couple of seniors on the team, two of which have been All-Mountain West academically and All-Mountain West athletically. We have several freshmen on the team this year from the local California area, Northern California, Southern California, a kid from Oregon. So we have a girl on the team, Chelsea Kruthers, who is number four in the state this year for California. We did a really good job recruiting for our cross country team. This might be the best distance class that we've had here since I've been coaching. When I look back over the last 16 years, it's probably the best class we've had since about 20 years for San Diego State on the distance side. In track and field, we do a really good job in being ranked No. 10 in the country last year and having a national champion. What we're doing with the cross country program is now we're able to move that forward. We've moved our track and field program forward pretty far in the last three years. Now our cross country team can use that attention and begin to develop some athletes and develop a conference presence and then a national presence in the distances.

Q. Where did the idea come to pair the community event with the invitational?

I'm from San Diego. Before I left to go to Georgetown, I lived in the Olympic Training Center for three and a half years down in Chula Vista. I left and then I came back. The collegiate community knows about running and San Diego State, but being able to have a presence outside of just our local area was really important because it's very hard for a sport like cross country and track and field to get any recognition. We have the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon here. We have the Carlsbad Marathon here. We have a lot of runners in San Diego. To just be able to pull them and get people connected to the program makes it a much better experience for everybody. It's fun.

Q. Can you talk about the development of the team since you've taken over?

The biggest change that I've seen when I came here to San Diego State that I wanted to do is to change the culture. That's the same with a lot of really good coaches. I've been around some high level people in the sport, and I've had the opportunity to compete at a high level. I know that what makes a team or a program and institution successful has a lot to do with cultivating a culture of excellence and a culture of success. That comes from two things. It's talent and it's a mindset. So with the development of this program, we're good coaches. If you're a good coach, coaching is the easiest part of your job. The hardest part of your job is developing a mindset for success and excellence in a group of athletes to be able to trust you and to follow you to the championship. Because if you can't get these kids to be willing to believe they can do something they've never done before, it's going to be very difficult. When Whitney Ashley won the National Championship this past year at NCAAs, she was the first athlete to finish. Once Whitney won, everyone's attitude changed immediately. I came back to campus. The people that didn't make nationals were out there working on their own. It's cultivating a mindset, with talent, and an attitude about excellence and success in getting kids to believe they can do things they've never done before.

Q. How much did you enjoy the Olympics?

I wish I was in London. I've been to two Olympic Games. I went to Athens, and I went to Sydney. Athens was okay. Sydney was a blast. I watched London, and I thought, `that's one big party.' All my friends were there and I looking on Facebook and getting messages. I'm thinking I wish I had gone just to watch so I could just be part of the party. It was a good thing and a bad thing. I heard reports that it was too much fun on one end. On the other end, it was a little too much fun. Less focus than we've had before in the past, but it was cool. I would say that the two Olympics between Athens and Sydney, that Sydney Australia was by far very well organized and a lot of fun to be at.

Q. Would you expect a lot of kids to be motivated? Do you see a cycle when the Olympics happen as well as the U.S. women did particularly in track? Would you expect to see that flow to you?

I'll say that I've got, on my team now and recruiting-wise where we're leaning, at least four kids on my team right now that should be trying to make a team in 2016. I plan on being in Rio, not as a spectator, but as a coach. That's what we have now. Who knows what's going to happen in the next couple of years as the age gets younger and younger. When I was competing, I was at the high end. I was in my 30's in my second Olympic games. These kids are all really young. I have about four girls on my team right now that two of them, three of them for sure we should make Rio. We should be at the Olympic trials. We should be one of the top three candidates at the Olympic trials trying to make the team. That's what we're set up to do. That's what we plan to do. That's what our goal is. So for us in the United States, track and field is every four years for the common person. It's not like we have world championships. We have different championships each year, but the general public only pays attention to a sport like track and field at the Olympic Games. So it's four years in between, you guys are all excited. It's track and field. We've got to watch Usain Bolt, etc. In between that though, there are a lot of steps that go along and a lot of planning that goes through that. So this next Olympic Games in Rio is where, for me at San Diego State, understanding that I'm a college coach that has been fortunate enough to bring resources and relationships and understanding of what it takes to make a team and to compete at a high level. So that in turn means I'm going out and recruiting athletes and I'm attracting people who have those same goals and have those same aspirations which helps our program. That's part of what's helped us move forward so quickly. It's a mentality. To have a mindset and mentality that matches mine. So I'm recruiting and trying to find the same people with the same mentality that I have toward winning and trying to achieve on the highest level.

Q. How much does your success in track and field impact your recruiting and cross country?

Coming into San Diego, a lot of distance coaches really weren't too receptive to San Diego State. Recruiting, I went out and put out the Olive tree, went out and introduced myself, talked to people. So what I did is I got smart, and I hired a distance coach that's just like them. Because the adage is that what do I know about distance races? I'm a sprint coach, I'm a multi, I'm this and that. I can't relate, and they were right. I coached our cross country team for two years. When I first got here, I was the distance coach and we got better, which tells you that if we got better when I was coaching them, we had some improvements on the team when I was coaching them. I think that says something. But now that we have a very qualified and accomplished distance coach who has coached at the USA world junior championships, who has coached at the USA championships, who has taken high school level athletes and developed them to a high level on a junior level. Now that Coach Mike Dunne is with us, it's made a huge difference, a huge difference. Our recruiting this last year, I would say, was primarily due to his presence.

Q. So you have four girls possibly going to the Olympics? Any names?

No, I'll say this. We've done a really good job internationally as well, so a couple of those girls aren't even American. They'll end up making their National Team and Olympic team whether it be a World Championship team. A couple of those girls aren't Americans. Whitney Ashley has a shot. She just graduated. She has a shot in 2016. She'll be training at the Olympic training center this year. So she transitioned from here to the Olympic training center to continue training to try to make a world championship team. It's also a good draw for track and field athletes and people in the surrounding communities that we have a really strong relationship and partnership with the OTC, and it makes it an easy transition for elite athletes to transition on to that level. So I don't want to give any names. It would be putting too much pressure on anybody.

Q. Coach, how do you recruit at the international level? What is the process for that?

We go. I'll send my assistant to some national high school meets internationally. Through my relationships prior to coming to San Diego State, we look at lists and we follow what's going on internationally. Track and Field is an international sport. Sometimes we look out and somebody calls, hey, I heard about you. We're interested. Can you tell me more? Other times it's, Shelia, there is this kid in Canada. I think you should call her, she'd be great for you. It's about relationship building.

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