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 The first year after of high school can be filled with new challenges, unexpected success, surprising disappointment, homesickness, bad dining hall food, new friends and late nights.  Knowing the adjustment isn't always easy, we've asked ESPN RISE intern Hilary May, herself a high school standout at Corona del Mar CA and a collegiate runner at Harvard, to contact some of last year's top prep track and field athletes and find out how things are going...one year out.

                                                           Kristin Sutherland

""College training is harder than it was in high school, but it is not impossible."

Upon graduation from Carl Sanburg High School in spring 2008, Kristin Sutherland was a two-time Illinois State Champion and had dominated her region in cross-country.  Ever since she was a little girl Kristin wanted to attend the University of Illinois, and last fall she made the two-hour drive south from Orland Park to the University of Illinois to start her freshman year.

Now, Kristin has just completed her freshman year for the Fightin' Illini and Dyestat catches up with her to see how her first year turned out.

How are you? Are you happy? Do you like Illinois and the running program?

For the most part I would say that I am well, and happy. I have a lot more free time now that it is summer, but during the school year I am pretty busy. I just started back up training and will train for the rest of the summer. I love Illinois, it is a great school and I really like and enjoy being a part of the running program.  

Complete this sentence: My freshman year was...


Have your goals changed after one year of college?

No, I think that for the most part my goals are the same, which are basically to just get better each season.

How rigorous is college training versus high school training? What are the major differences and similarities?

College training is harder than it was in high school, but it is not impossible. The biggest difference is the mileage; in general, we run a lot more in college than I did in high school. In high school we used to have workouts 3 days in a row which could be really hard on your body and in college our workouts are much better spaced out.

Academically, how hard did you find Illinois? How hard is it to balance schoolwork with running? What was your favorite class? What do you want to major in?

I do not think that classes are that much harder, it is just more on your own (you decide what you want and need to do yourself). It can get hard to balance school and running, especially around finals time, however there are a lot of services available to help students when they need more help and our coach is very understanding. My favorite class was Atmosphere 120, just because I had a really good professor, who made every class really fun. As of right now I am going to major in accounting. 

Is there time to party at Illinois? How do you balance your social life with academics and athletics?

Athletes in general have much less of a social life than your average college student, however when we are not traveling we usually hang out at someone's apartment for fun.

Do you go to football games?

I only went to two football games as I was not around for the others. They were fun, but I am not a huge football fan so I preferred the other sporting events more.  

What is your typical Saturday night like?

If we were not traveling, then either hanging out with my friends in their apartments or doing homework with my roommates.

What is your typical Monday night like?

Probably just doing homework and trying to get to bed early.

If you could do it all over again, knowing what you know now, would you still choose Illinois?

Yes, I would definitely choose Illinois again and am very glad that I choose it. I have wanted to attend Illinois since I was little. It is a great school and has one of the best business schools in the country; in addition, their running program is very good.

What are Illinois track athletes like? Are they different from other Illinois students? Are they different from your high school teammates?

I do not think that the athletes are much different than the other students. However, college athletes are a lot more disciplined and committed than high school athletes are. I think that I fit in with them.  

What is the team dynamic like?

I think that we have a great team dynamic. Everyone supports and believes in each other and gets along really well.

What was your first race for Illinois like?

My first race was a cross country race at Illinois State. It went really well; I won, which really helped boost my self-confidence. It felt really cool to race for Illinois.

Are you happy that you stayed in-state for college? Was the transition still a major adjustment?

I am glad that I stayed in-state. I think that the transition is still major but not as bad as it would have been if I went somewhere out of state. Ultimately I was more concerned with the school and not whether it was in-state or out-of-state.

You ran in many championship races in cross country this year - Big 10 Championships, NCAA Midwest Regionals, NCAA Championships - what were those race experiences like? What was your first NCAA Championship meet like?

The experiences were really cool; they were like nothing I had ever experienced in high school. The races went well for the most part. I scored at Indoor Big Ten Championships, which was really exciting. And I was All-Regional in the cross country regional meet. My first NCAA Championship meet was very intimidating, but it was a good experience for me to have and to be able to learn from. I also really like the cross country course in Terre Haute. I really do not remember all the details from Nationals, except it was very cold out. I was really excited because two of my teammates were All-Americans which was really exciting.   

What do you think of the Big 10 Conference?

I think that for distance runners, the Big Ten Conference is very competitive, however I also think that it is a good thing as with more competition we will become better runners. It was very exciting to score [at the Big Ten Championships] and be in the top 20 and I hope to just improve that in the future.  

What is your relationship like with Coach Jeremy Rasmussen? Is it much different than the coaching you had in high school?

I really like Coach Rasmussen, he is a great distance coach. He has a very good coaching style and is always trying to do things to make everyone a better runner. It is different than high school as I did not have much coaching direction in high school, I was mostly just told to run. We also have an assistant coach, Jackie Kropp, who helps a lot and is really great too.

After a successful cross country season, you were able to maintain your success on the track. What did you think of your indoor season?

I think that my cross country season was better than my track season, but that could be because I have a lot more cross country experience as I only ran track one year in high school. I think that my Indoor season was better than my Outdoor season. I ran the provisional time at the Big Ten meet. The race was really exciting because I led the first half of it. And the 25 laps actually goes by a lot faster than you think it would because each lap is so short. However, I did really like running at Notre Dame's indoor track as it was 300m long.  

Did you live with your teammates or with non-track athletes this year?

I did not room with teammates or athletes for that matter. I had 5 other roommates and we all got along for the most part. I liked having different roommates just so that I could meet more people, but I will be living with 3 other girls on my team next year and am really looking forward to it. My living situation was great though as I had my own room and my dorm was basically an apartment.  

What was the biggest shock about your freshman year?

That it was a lot easier of an adjustment than I thought it would be.

What was the biggest disappointment?

Probably just having bad races or not doing well on a test, nothing very major.

What was the best part?

Just the whole experience and being on your own.

What are you most looking forward to?

Living in an apartment with a lot of my teammates.

What is your favorite college meet?

I really liked Notre Dame for both cross country and track, and Pre-Nationals.

What are your summer plans?

To relax and see old friends from high school and of course, run.

After college I see myself...

...living in Chicago. 


High School:

16:38 - 3 mile, 10:31 - 3200

Notable High School Achievements: Cross Country: Illinois State Champion; 3 Time All-State Honors; 4 Time Conference Honors; 3 Time All-Regional and All-Sectional; 2 Time Regional Champion. Track: Illinois State Champion, 3200m. 


Cross Country: 5k - 17:26; 6k - 21:04; Track: 5k - 16:42

Notable College Freshman Achievements: All-Region Cross Country Honors; Illinois "Best Newcomer" Award Winner; Big Ten Indoor Championship Scorer (5k); NCAA Regional Qualifier Outdoor (5k).

Photos: headshot - fightingillini.com; high school, illinoispreptoptimes; college, submitted by Kristin Sutherland