Gall, Overton, Siefker Set to Make Impact at NCAA Championships
June 1, 2006
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana seniors Kelly Siefker (3000m steeplechase) and Larra Overton (1500m) and junior Jessica Gall (10000m) will each make their second straight appearance at the NCAA Track and Field Championships June 7-10 in Sacramento. Not only is the trio making its second appearance at the NCAA Track Championship, but they have a combined eight NCAA Cross Country Championships appearances between them. Thus, IU assistant track and head cross country coach Judy Wilson knows that her runners are not just "happy to be here."
"The key thing for Jess will be patience early in the race (10k). She ran 16:15 in the 5k after running the 10k two days before at the Big Ten, so I'm pretty confident that she can handle picking up the pace during the second 5k of the race," Wilson said. "For Larra and Kelly, the trials will have to be 'shooting for a personal record' to make the final. They are both so ready for that. They haven't had THE race yet. That's why it was so important for them as athletes that they got into NCAAs because they feel like they have more left and they didn't want it to end at regionals."
Indeed, the NCAA meet is the ultimate reward for three student-athletes who epitomize perseverance.
Siefker was a soccer player and track athlete (1600m and 3200m) at Vandalia-Butler High School in Dayton, Ohio. Wilson figured that her athleticism and conditioning would translate well to cross country and track in college, and her premonition became reality.
"Kelly has matured in so many ways this past year. From day one, she has been very tenacious and competitive," Wilson said. She really did not have a `distance' background coming out of high school, so she had to learn a great deal her freshman year with regard to training, the importance of rest, etc. She's always been a fighter."
Gall and Overton both battled injuries throughout their college career and have earned the respect throughout the Big Ten and nationally.
"Larra has one of the most optimistic outlooks of anyone I know," Wilson said. "As a sophomore, she runs 2:10 at the outdoor Big Ten for fourth in the 800m. Then as a junior, she has knee surgery and there was talk that she might not be able to run like she had before. So then she went out and ran 2:07 and 4:24 and qualified for NCAAs in the 1500. Larra is someone you want on your team with because she'll charge the hill with all she's got."
Despite the loss of Siefker and Overton to graduation, Wilson is excited to have Gall and Lindsay Hattendorf back for veteran leadership next season.
"Lindsay Hattendorf just missed this meet by two spots in both the 5k and 10k. She has really developed this year, but I know 'H' will get there next year," Wilson said. "Jess is our one distance runner who came out of high school with national meet experience. She ran at the Foot Locker Final in cross country and got a taste for that Big meet atmosphere. We had to straighten out some allergies and asthma with Jess over these last fours years, and I am really glad we get another year to get serious. She is just getting going, having run 16:03 indoors last year, and then having to redshirt outdoors, we had unfinished business. This year started a little slower for her, and indoors was disappointing, but I knew she would make this meet. She is tenacious, smart and very stubborn."
Wilson can point to Overton, Siefker and Gall as having the type of resilience needed to succeed in NCAA track and cross country.
"I do think it helps to have been in the NCAA meet before so that you are somewhat familiar with what's going on. But at the end of the day, the race is the same, it's a 1500, a steeple, a 10k," Wilson said. "Yes, it's the national meet, but with these three, they aren't freaked out by that. They've been in this for four or five years now and they have learned to handle so much since they came here."
While it will be a challenge to replace these athletes lost to graduation, Wilson knows that the tone has been set in recruiting.
"Over the last eight years, we have seen a steady improvement with the distance group as a whole. I think the keys have been trying to recruit higher level athletes, avoiding injuries and having a developmental approach over their whole college career," Wilson said. "I don't want to take a freshman and have them work themselves into the ground the first year. I would rather low ball them a little in terms of mileage and other aspects of training, and then increase every year after that. Sometimes, you just don't avoid injuries, so that might halt your plan. We've had people set the bar on reaching NCAAs, and now the younger people on the team see that and want to get there as well."
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