HANOVER, N.H. - With the NCAA Track & Field Championship Meet in Des Moines coming up on a week away, Dartmouth sophomore Abbey D'Agostino (Topsfield, Mass.) is preparing for another shot at the women's individual title in the 5,000 meters.
D'Agostino qualified for the championship meet by winning her heat in the 5K last weekend in Jacksonville at the East Regional, hosted by North Florida. The Big Green's second-year harrier ran a 16:15.11 to automatically earn her place at Drake next weekend.
Dartmouth will also send senior Alexi Pappas (Alameda, Calif.) to the Hawkeye State to compete for a national title. Pappas will run in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at Drake, an event she has dominated all year for the Green and White.
D'Agostino finished third at the 2011 NCAA Championship meet in the 5K, but hopes that she can do even better this time around.
Explain the feeling you had in Jacksonville, knowing that you were headed back to Iowa?
It was so exciting! I was definitely nervous for this one because you can have a pretty good feeling about how the race was going to go out, but there's always a sense of uncertainty. You have to qualify.
The temperatures were very high too, which was something we really haven't had to deal with yet this season. It being that hot made the conditions for us very unfamiliar as the air felt really heavy that day.
By the end of the race, though, it was a great feeling to be able to break away, knowing that you were going to Nationals.
What's different this year than last year?
The experience. There is not the nerves and anxiety that comes from the higher expectations you have from this kind of event. I know what to expect going out there this year. I know the routine of what I need to do, where last year I was completely new to the whole thing. I am comfortable with all those aspects that last year gave me that feeling of nervousness.
There is a little bit more pressure this year, but getting to experience and go through everything with Lex (Alexi Pappas) has made it so much more fun. It's nice to know that you have someone there for you who is going through the same thing you are.
In terms of motivating you, who have been the most influential individuals from this past season?
Of course I would have to say the team first. When it gets really hard in races, workouts or if it's just been a bad day, I think about the team and know that we are really all in this together and that's my first motivation.
There aren't a lot of athletes who understand what it's like to have to focus for three seasons. It's hard to have the mentality it takes to win for three straight seasons of competition and when you realize that you're not the only one going through that mental toughness in hard times it really helps. It's a powerful feeling.
Mark Coogan has always believed in us and he is so genuinely happy to see us do well and compete hard. His honesty with us really makes a huge difference too.
And then there is my family. I think my parents have been at all but one meet (the Mt. Sac Relays in California). I feel spoiled sometimes because, even though this is new for them, they have grown to love the sport and love watching not only me, but also the entire team compete.
Whenever I talk to my mom on the phone I feel like half the conversation is about my running. When I talk to other people, they ask about school and other things, but it shows how fortunate I am to have my family so behind what I am doing here with this team.
You've been going to meets all year long with a team, but now you will be headed to Drake with just Lexi, is that a strange feeling and does it change preparations in any way?
Going with just Lex definitely changes the experience. Finishing up with finals and getting all that settled, she has been a great source of encouragement. We work well together in terms of keeping things in perspective, making sure we are getting our sleep and doing all the right things.
It's nice to have someone there to hold you accountable and have that person be someone who understands what you're going through. We have our goals that we've been working towards and there is always something in the future that has been guiding our lifestyle. That guiding force is now upon us as we head out to this meet. To have her be there, going through that with me, has been incredible.
There are many people who have you slated finishing very high at this meet, but what are your expectations for yourself?
I just want to know that I finished with nothing left. Last year, the strategy was just to stay at the front and see what I could do. I was up there, navigating that new territory and wasn't really focusing on my own toughness when I knew it was going to be a hard race.
Now, it's no longer seeing what I can do. I know what I am capable of and it's just the process of acting on it to make sure that I follow through on everything we've worked on.
I want to be the last one to kick it into gear and that should put me in a good place to be successful.
NOTE: The NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championship will take place at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa, June 6-9. Please check back in the coming days for a complete listing of events.