Friday, August 6, 2010
One-on-One with Amanda Marino
This is a part of the KWIK-E series at FloTrack.
Villanova Wildcat Amanda Marino, New Jersey native, is coming into this NCAA cross country season as a member of the reigning National Championship team. After leading her squad last fall with a sixth-place finish at the national meet, Marino is pumped to have a strong returning team and a gang of top recruits coming in. In this interview, we talk about everything from MTV's “The Jersey Shore” to theme parks to, oh yeah, running topics, like Villanova's chances at a repeat and the incoming recruits.
Q: You're on your way to the boardwalk, is that the famous Boardwalk from “The Jersey Shore”?
AM: No, that's seaside. We're actually avoiding that one on purpose. I heard it's really, really crowded.
Q: Because of the TV show?
AM: Oh, yeah. Definitely. Apparently at Club Bamboo, there was like a thousand people lined up because they wanted to go in because the Jersey Shore cast was there.
Q: Is this show good for New Jersey or bad for New Jersey in your opinion?
AM: I was reading a newspaper article about it today. A lot of people are saying that it's like a Spring Break kids area. Then a lot of people are like, “well, it's really making New Jersey look terrible.” And people already have a really bad outlook on New Jersey. I think what everyone expects of Jersey is when they go through North Jersey, where all the factories and stuff are. It's definitely NOT what it looks like where I live.
Q: You're from Jackson, where they have Six Flags Great Adventure theme park and the world-record roller coaster “The Kingda Ka”. Have you ever been on this ride?
AM: Yes. I've actually got the front seat before. I worked at Six Flags for two summers in a row. Kingda Ka is totally overrated. It's like five seconds long. You go on it, it goes up and over the loop and then basically you're done. I prefer Nitro to Kingda Ka anyday.
Q: This is a running interview! Your long run today. What did it consist of?
AM: It was just 90 minutes.
Q: What kind of mileage are you running this summer as you're building up to the cross country season?
AM: I'm probably in the 70s. I'd say my highest that I'm going to hit is about 75.
Q: Have you had people to run with?
AM: It's kind of nice, because over here by my house, about three miles away, is this place called the Manasquan Reservoir. And it's a five-mile loop. Pretty much anyone around runs there. A lot of times I'll go there and just see people running. Like this morning, my friend who graduated from a nearby high school, Ray Coles, and another kid who is going into his senior year, his name is Kevin Byrne. They were there and Ray was like, “hey, Amanda, you want to run with us?” We did a lap together, like a five-mile lap. They stopped or something to get water, but I just kept going.
Q: How fast are you going on these?
AM: Today was way, way faster than I wanted to go. I don't know if I want to say how fast it was because it was too fast. Usually I like to stay around seven-minute pace. That's what I like to do. Today I felt really good because the weather has been really, really hot and we finally got a break from it. I think I just went out there and felt really good because the weather was so much nicer.
Q: Are you going into cross country with a lot of individual confidence?
AM: Yeah. I'm trying to not think about the competition right now. I'm trying to have fun with running and stuff. I'm one of those people who can really stress myself out. I kind of need to make an effort to not freak myself out and it's all about fun.
It is all about fun, but I'm going to keep pushing the questions. Are you feeling pressure going into this season to do it again?
Team-wise, I am, just because we won last year. The season went just so perfectly. Last year, being the underdog, it was a lot easier to be the underdog. Now that we won, I think it's going to be a little bit harder to have that in the back of our minds. Our team atmosphere and everything...our coaches, they handle it really well. We joke around all the time, but thinking about it, being by myself right now in the summer, just doing a lot of my training by myself...is a little stressful. I know once I get back there that it's going to be fine.
Q: When do you go back and do have a preseason camp or something like that?
AM: No, we just kind of just go back when school starts. I don't really know why we don't have a preseason camp, but it just works out well that way. We all do our own thing over the summer and reconvene. We start our season a little bit later, like racing-wise. At the beginning of the season we do a lot of workouts and we might go to the first race of the season and just train through it.
Q: Overall, how was your outdoor season? You finished a bit in the back of the 5,000 at NCAAs.
AM: I think I was 11th. I was passed by so many people in the last 200 meters, that I don't even remember what place it was (laughs). The outdoor went surprisingly well based on my indoor season, which I ended up finding out that my iron was very, very low. I came into the outdoor season and coach told me to take a lot of time off after indoor. Then my coach was like, “just focus on getting healthy and we'll start your workouts in a couple of weeks and see how you're doing. We'll see what we need to do from there.” I ended up coming back pretty quickly. I think I was kind of smart about it. I came back really slow. She didn't put any pressure on me to be obligated to run outdoor. It made it better because once outdoor rolled around, I was ready.
Q: What are you doing for non-running stuff this summer?
AM: Well, I decided to skip working at Six Flags this summer because it just wasn't a good job at all. Now I'm working at McDonald's, where I worked in high school.
Q: McDonald's is better than Six Flags?
AM: Yeah. At Six Flags, I was outside for like eight-10 hours. I was one of those people who carried the lemonade trays and the cotton candy at the concerts and push the cart around the park, selling overpriced lemonade and popcorn. It was just not a fun job at all.
Q: Good tips?
AM: Actually we're not allowed to take tips. They place people in the park, they hire people to give us tips and if we take them, we can get fired. So, I decided to go back to my roots and go back to McDonald's. I guess compared to Six Flags, it's a lot more relaxing.
Q: How many NCAA national champions do you think are working at McDonald's?
AM: That's a good question. I've actually thought about that. I'd be surprised if anybody else worked at McDonald's.
Q: Do you see any reason why you can't win another national championship in cross country? What kind of a hit did you take and what recruits are coming in?
AM: On paper, we're even better than last year. We lost Nicole Schappert and Kaitlin Tallman, but we're gaining a bunch of recruits. The one that sticks out the most in my head is Emily Lipari—who is a multiple national champion in track. I think that's going to be a great addition to our team. The thing with running is that you never know what's going to happen. You never know who's going to be hurt, who's going to have low iron, who's going to have this or who's going to have that. You can't take anything for granted. But, if you look at it on paper, there's no way we shouldn't be able to do it again.
Q: I'm a running geek, so this is the kind of stuff I'm into, but when you heard Kendra Schaaf was transferring to UNC from Washington, did it spread like wild fire through your team? Were you texting each other back and forth?
AM: I'm sure when practice starts, it will be one of those things we'll talk about when we're catching up, like, “oh, my gosh. Did you hear Kendra Schaaf transferred from Washington?” But you never know the full story.
Q: I was just making sure it's not just Justin Kopunek and I talking about these things like little “Gossip Girls”.
AM: No! I'm sure the running community is talking about it. That's the girl who got second at nationals. That's a big deal!
Q: With the team you had last year and the season you had, how much did you come together as a close-knit group?
AM: The team dynamic during the cross country season was amazing. I really can't even explain it. You just have to be a part of it to know what it really feels like. When we all came together at nationals after the race and found out that we won, I had a hard time believing it at the time. It just didn't sink in that we were national champions. It's one of those things. You think about it and you think about it and before it happens you think how cool it would be. Then it happens and I just couldn't believe it.
Q: What's the living situation like? Do a lot of your girls live together?
AM: We have apartments and there's four girls to each apartment. We're pretty split in the living arrangements, but we hang out so much outside of where we live that it doesn't really matter.
Q: I'm not asking you to throw dirt here, but who's got a lot of character on your team? I've interviewed Nicole Schappert and Bogdana Mimic before—but it was via email from Croatia, so I think there was still a language barrier.
AM: Interestingly enough, I would say that Bogdana would surprise you the most. On the surface she seems like a quiet, keep-it-to-herself girl, but the stuff she says is outrageous. She does not hold anything back. Gina (Procaccio), our coach, will say something to her and she will blatantly tell her, “no, I don't feel like it!” (Laughs) She's so honest, but it's in a way where it's funny and not mean at all. It's just really funny and you almost expect it from her. I can't explain it. She's so brutally honest. I actually read Bogdana's interview and it doesn't do her any justice.
Q: There was a bit of a language gap I think.
AM: Yeah, because of the language gap, I guess she doesn't realize that it's a different connotation for people whose first language is English, that people hear would never say and it just makes everything funny.
Q: You must be really looking forward to this next season to start?
AM: I'm really excited for Emily Lipari to come. On her recruiting visit, everybody was saying how much we look alike. I guess we're both pretty hyper.
Q: When you do get free time, what are you doing for fun?
AM: This summer has been a lot more relaxed. My dad has a boat, a speed boat. I've gone on that a couple of times. I've gone to the beach a couple of times. Nothing too crazy. I'm one of those people who can never sit still. I don't just stay in my house. I'll go to Target and roam the aisles, just to have something to do. My brother does that too. We're like, “do you want to just go somewhere?” And we go to the mall or something. We'll walk around and act crazy and stupid.
Q: You can't sit still?
AM: I can't sit still at all. My dad tells me all the time that if I didn't run then I'd be so hyper. When I was a kid, I was non-stop hyper. I actually just found old videos of me when I was 10 or 11. I did not stop moving and I did not stop talking. I almost wanted to slap myself in the video. It was so incredibly annoying.
Q: If you could have one meal, prepared by anyone, what would you have and who would make it?
AM: I really love home-cooked meals. I've become more appreciative of them since I started college. I always used to love to go out to restaurants and stuff. Now, I would much rather—for my birthday if I had the choice to go out or eat a home-cooked meal—choose the home-cooked meal. My favorite would have to be this dish that my stepmom makes. It's shrimp, pasta and sun-dried tomatoes. I love seafood and I love Italian food, so it's the perfect combination.
Q: Can you give me a crazy running-related story?
AM: This past season, I was running the 5K at regionals. It was very pushy because it went out so slow. People were just running into each other. I knew something was going to happen. I felt like I was going to fall or something crazy was going to happen. I think with about four laps to go, someone stepped on my shoe and it came half-way off. I was like, “oh, crap!” And I was cursing and I don't know who heard me. It was just out of impulse. My coach made fun of me after because she had told me to always relax no matter what happens.
Q: You've got a pretty bad mouth on you?
AM: (Laughs) Just that time. I don't usually have a bad mouth on me. So, I was running and in my head I was like, “oh, my God! This is going to prevent me from going to Oregon. I can't believe that something stupid like this is going to stop me from going to nationals.” Then I'm thinking if I should take my shoe off or if I should run with it half-on. I decided to keep running with it half-on. I didn't know what else to do. I was so frustrated and so mad. I kept running and it fueled me a little bit and gave me a lot of adrenaline. In the last 100 meters, I was just using all of my energy to secure that spot. My shoe came off and I finished the race with only one shoe. Then I went back after the race finished and went back to get my shoe, but the officials started the next race as I was going back to get my shoe, sitting in lane one. The officials are like, “what are you doing?! Where are you going?!” And I turned around and said, “my shoe is in the middle of lane one.” They looked at me in disbelief and then gave me the thumbs up like, “oh, good job. You cleared the lane for the next race coming up.” That's not even the end of the story. At the end of the race (laughs)—all right, I sound like a lunatic—I looked down at my leg. It was just gushing blood. I must have gotten spiked. It made a really deep gash, where you could see the wall of my muscles or whatever. I ended up having to get stitches and now there's a pretty nasty scar there.
Q: That's gruesome. That's a battle scar.
AM: I'm all about battle scars!