Quotes from July 9 press conference

July 9, 2012

On the rarity of two athletes from the same collegiate team making the Olympics -- Head Coach Mark Wetmore: “I’ve never seen it before; it’s pretty rare for a single collegiate to make it from a team.  In 2008, there were maybe five collegiates on the 2008 Beijing team.  I’ve never seen two from the same event.” 

On how this was possible -- Head Coach Mark Wetmore:
“A confluence of luck, talent, and environment. Two people, I won’t say equally talented because talent packages can vary greatly but in the end, it adds up to Olympic level talent. When you have that talent at the same school and the same time; it’s pretty rare and of course, Boulder and CU are excellent for a person to become a distance runner.  A lot of things came together for that to happen.  But since it’s that rare, it doesn’t happen that often.  It’s a rare, rare combination.”

On the differences between Shalaya Kipp and Emma Coburn as athletes -- Head Coach Mark Wetmore:
“Despite the fact that they are both Olympians, and at the trials they ran within three seconds of each other, every athlete is a unique talent package and each has to be developed uniquely.  Emma has her strengths in the event which are different from Shalaya’s.  While they do have some similar workouts, they will also have some different workouts  More importantly, different focuses in the workout.  I’ve been quoted as comparing them to different generations of Formula One racing cars.  In the early 90’s, Formula One cars had 12 cylinders and at least 1,000 horsepower engines.  Safety regulations and cost-cutting regulations have dialed that back to V8s and 750 horsepower, but the cars are just as fast with aerodynamic changes.  So, Emma’s impeccable technically and Shalaya has a 1,200 HP engine. There’s a difference, they come in different talent packages and they need different workouts.  While we’re working on Shalaya’s aerodynamics, we’re working on Emma’s horsepower.”

On the longevity of the track season -- Head Coach Mark Wetmore:
“We scaled back the indoor season for Shalaya, she only raced two indoors events...but you’re right it’s a long haul from the beginning of cross country racing to the Olympics, which is 11 months.  What a lot of people don’t get is that distance runners in the NCAA may begin racing in early September and continue mid June and in some cases go beyond.  Managing the momentum of it and the excitement of it is what (Associate Head Coach) Heather (Burroughs) gets paid a lot of money to do.”

On the steeplechase event -- Associate Head Coach Heather Burroughs:
“Well the steeplechase is rarely run in high school.  No one sponsors it.  We rarely get to see steeplechase talent in high school. We look for certain qualities or aspects of their personality that might make them steeple runners.  Jenny was the first CU athlete to gain eligibility to an international team so she’s been an important part of building our steeplechase tradition. But we had several other contenders such as Steve Slattery and Billy Nelson in the past.  We had several individuals over the last 10 years that have done well for us. Many [prospective recruits] have very little familiarity with it.  When we’re talking to them about our current success in steeplechase and some are very intrigued but some are very terrified of it and have no interest in it. A lot happens freshmen year to see if it can be a match for them.”

On expectations for Shalaya Kipp -- Associate Head Coach Heather Burroughs:
“Shalaya ran a 9:35 in the final Olympic trials to make the team.  I think it took about a 9:40 to make the team at the World Championships last year.  An Olympic year brings new motivation and aspirations. On a world level, women are running faster this year.  It’s going to take 10 seconds faster to make the final.  Our goal for Shalaya will be to run a personal best and to make the final.  That would be an enormous achievement for her.  On paper right now, she wouldn’t make the finals.  The goal is to maybe upset those rankings and have her come close or make it.”

On Kipp’s first Olympics -- Associate Head Coach Heather Burroughs:
“Yeah I’d say historically most people have a difficult time in their first World Championships and Olympics.  It’s a whole new level of stress, attention.  Often there are 12 or 15 hour time differences.  So across collegians, it’s difficult to run your best at that meet.  Shalaya would have had a long season of racing that most of competitors wouldn’t have had but we’re careful to make sure [she doesn’t get burned out].”

On her experience with steeplechase  -- Shalaya Kipp:
“When I came to Colorado I didn’t know what the steeplechase was.  I still thought it was a horse event.  But through Jenny [Simpson], I kinda learned what the steeplechase was. I watched Emma do it and then Coach Wetmore approached me about doing it and I tried it out and it turned out to be a pretty good fit.  It’s different than any other race but it’s been really fun.”

On having Emma Coburn as a teammate -- Shalaya Kipp:
“[Having Emma as a teammate] probably helps me the most.  I get to learn so much from Emma; she has the international experience and she tells me the little things I need to know.  In practice, I get to follow her off water jumps, she has beautiful form.  I really benefit from having Emma as a teammate. “

On talk of CU as a steeplechase dynasty -- Shalaya Kipp:
“You start to hear reference CU as a steeplechase dynasty.  Maybe because our coaches are so involved with the steeplechase, maybe CU’s just been lucky I’m not really sure.”

On how she got to where she was today -- Shalaya Kipp:
“There were definitely steps I needed to take to get to this level. Just starting basically from winning my first Pac-12 championship in steeplechase to the NCAA championships; all those races were necessary and now I’m hoping I can get another win and be ready in August.”

On qualifying for the Olympics -- Shalaya Kipp:
“I’d say going into the trials, I tried to think that these weren’t the only trials.  I just wanted to race people and beat people.  Once you cross the finish line and realize whatever thing was going to happen; I was pretty excited. Especially with CU’s history I know a lot of the success here can be given to the coaches.  I know if I went to any other program or school, I would not be trained to go compete on the Olympic team."

On her experience with steeplechase -- Emma Coburn:
“[Shalaya Kipp and I] are a little different.  I had done it a handful of times in high school so I knew it was the only event that I had done well at a national level in high school.  I thought I would do the steeplechase [at CU] but I think Shalaya had a much different story.”

On making the Olympics -- Emma Coburn:
“Well I’ve never been to Las Vegas, but I keep telling people that it feels like I went to Vegas for the weekend in a daze and then I woke up. It’s been a blur so far, I think what people forget is that we have a lot of work ahead of us. We still have races to do and we still have training, it’s not a big celebratory time in our lives.  We’re both really happy and appreciative of the fact that we made it, but it’s still business for us.”

On being able to take a break -- Emma Coburn:
“I think I was just ready to have an emotional break. I got to go home for two days; it was great; I love Crested Butte.  If anyone has been there during the summer, it’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to. I got to do a long run up there; I was kind of hurting up there at about 9,000 feet. But I kind of put my head up and looked around and I couldn’t complain since it was just beautiful.  It was just a nice way to hit the refresh button and get ready to focus towards the summer racing ahead and just start back over.”

On having Shalaya Kipp as a teammate -- Emma Coburn:
“I would probably say the opposite.  I probably benefit more.  Even though I have more steeplechase and international experience from last summer, Shalaya is a very talented, strong runner.  In practice, six other days of the week when we’re not doing steeple workouts, she’s ahead of me or we’re shoulder to shoulder.  We push each other pretty well and we get along really well to it’s nice to have a friend and teammate when you’re on a 15 mile run when you’re in pain.  Even in steeplechase stuff, she’s like a yard behind me so I can’t let up, so that helps me also.”

On the differences between her and Kipp’s qualifying experiences -- Emma Coburn:
“I think we had different experiences, I went in knowing that if I didn’t make the team, it would’ve been a major failure for me personally.  So I went into the trials like it was a business trip and I had a job to do. I got it done and there were very little emotions involved leading up to the race.  That was what was supposed to happen on paper and that’s what I had been working for.  It wasn’t util 30 minutes later; I don’t even know what sparked me off. I just broke down and couldn’t stop sobbing.  Shalaya saw me and thought someone told me someone had just died.  I think [Coach Wetmore] had just asked how I was feeling. That’s how emotional I was and although I think I had a business trip in mind, I had a lot of emotions of being an Olympian get in my head and it got there and it sunk it.  I had an emotional minute there but after that it was okay.”

On the excitement of the Olympics -- Emma Coburn:
“It’s going to be an experience to get to be a part of the Opening Ceremonies.  But what I’ve heard from past Olympians, it’s six hours of standing and you don’t get water.  It’s not torture, but kind of.  Obviously we are both excited for the racing of it. It’s an honor to be an Olympian and it’s something we’re both proud to have on our resumes and in the coming years but we’re mainly just excited to race and trying our best to ignore everything else.  That’s going to be our toughest job I think.”

On her coaches’ expectations for the Olympics -- Emma Coburn:
“We haven’t talked much about it.  It might be a better question for my coaches.  I ran within a second of my PR to get to the final.  If I can run within a second of my PR  I can make the final.   The primary goal is to make the final. A personal best would be nice.  Just race my guts out and see what happens.  If you look at the descending order list of medalists, a medal would be way too far in the distance for that to be a goal of ours.  Finishing better than my 12th place finish last year would be a success for me.”

On possibly winning a medal -- Emma Coburn:
“No, I’m trying to stay focused on what I know what I can achieve.  If either of us were to dream beyond what is attainable, it wouldn’t work out, I think we would both fail.  I think that would be the best way to go into it.”

On there being potentially less pressure -- Emma Coburn:
“I mean, I enjoyed the trials.  I have never had a breakdown from being a favorite.  That doesn’t bother me.  Any time I’ve raced in an international field it’s been nice to sit behind some people and race hard and see what happens.  I’m looking forward to that.  Yeah, the pressure of being looked at and being a favorite doesn’t bother me.”

On whether she sought out advice from former CU Olympians -- Emma Coburn:
“Our coach Billy Nelson was also in the Olympics, we see him every day, we train with him.  He’s probably our go-to for advice.  I think that will be our source for most of our information. I’m sure we will see Jenny there; she’s also supportive of us. I’m sure she’ll have some tips to handle it.  I think Billy Nelson will have it under control.”

This piece originally appered at www.cubuffs.com.