This past weekend, the cross country team traveled to Fort Hays, Kan., where big things happened in the Sunflower State. According to Assistant Coach Alex Nichols, “Leah Wessler led the team for the fourth time this season and finished 18th in a tough Division II field. Her time [17:39] moved her to the number two all-time 5K position, just five seconds off the school record that was set by Gretchen Grindle when she placed 27th at Nationals in 1999.”
Considering Wessler’s unbelievable performance, I figured it would be interesting to showcase who Wessler truly is, both on and off the track.
Q: What did you have for breakfast that morning?
A: I had an English muffin, coffee, yogurt, some oatmeal, and a little bit of eggs. It was a very classic continental breakfast.
Q: What were your pre-race thoughts?
A: Freshman and sophomore year this course was super fun and fast, but junior year no one ran well and the times were slow, so I was worried about that. Also, I was stressed because it was our only chance to run a 5K this season, so it was the only chance to PR [Personal Record] in the 5K. Those two things were in my mind.
Q: What were you thinking about while you were running?
A: I have to remind myself to stay relaxed constantly during the first half of the race. When it gets really hard (this is kind of cheesy), when I’m in a lot of pain, I try to run 10 strides for each teammate. It’s something else to focus on and, also, it’s easier to run when you’re doing it for your teammates and not just for yourself.
Q: Post-race thoughts?
A: I was very surprised. The coaches were predicting I’d run around 18:16, so [my time] was way faster than I thought it would be. It was really exciting and a huge, huge surprise.
Q: What was your celebratory meal?
A: I ate a bunch of chicken tenders and fries that I dipped in a huge chocolate milkshake.
Q: Favorite workout recently?
A: As soon as October rolls around, our coach calls it “hammer time.” The first workout of “hammer time” is always much harder than other workouts and it gets us in a new, elevated mindset for the season. Our first “hammer time” workout was really good across the board—everyone ran so fast and it gave us all an incredible burst of energy.
Q: Coolest place you’ve worked out recently?
A: Last semester I was on this tiny island in the Caribbean, so all my workouts were along the ocean. Not many people run on the island so I got a lot of stares.
Q: Favorite show at the moment?
A: Stranger Things.
Q: What gets you pumped before races?
A: Right before the race, when the team huddles up, we talk about our goals for the race and then we do a silly cheer.
Q: What’s the coolest thing you’ve learned this block?
A: I’m in Stem Cell Biology and one really interesting thing I’ve learned recently is that scientists are figuring out a way to cure anemia with stem cells. So that’s really cool.
Q: If you were given $5,000 and the ability to take Block 3 off, where would you go and what would you do?
A: Wow. I really miss scuba diving, so I’d probably want to go to the red sea and scuba dive.