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Interval Session #122 - Amanda Winslow

By Dave Devine - May 21, 2009

After her freshman year of high school, when Amanda Winslow transferred from tiny Keystone High in Lagrange OH to the much larger school of Collins Hill in Suwanee GA, it's likely neither she nor Collins Hill coach Andrew Hudson had any real idea of what they were getting themselves into.  Sure, Winslow had ninth grade PRs of 2:25, 5:02, 11:31, and 18:47 for 5k, but could either of them have forseen the success, both individually and as a team, that would emerge over the next three years?  In her first track season for Collins Hill, as a sophomore, she finished 3rd in the 800 and runner-up in the 1600 at the Georgia State Meet, and it's been one triumph and trophy after another in the years since.

Last fall, she was the individual titlist at the NXN Southeast Regional meet, and led her Collins Hill team to a berth in the 2008 NXN Finals.  There, she was 13th overall and the team was 9th.  According to Coach Hudson, in her time at Collins Hill, she has won 6 County, 6 region, and 6 state individual titles, and helped the team to win 2 state titles in Cross Country and 2 in Track.  She is a 2-time All-American at Nike Outdoor Nationals (1600, DMR) and this season alone, has had a hand in four different US#1 marks on the TFX rankings (4x1600m, DMR, and 2 Mile have since been surpassed), where she currently sits at US#1 in the 1600 after a great 2-day distance double at the Georgia 5A State Meet, with a state meet record 4:44.97 1600 Friday and a 10:42.70 3200 Thursday.

DyeStat senior editor Dave Devine caught up with the Georgia star in the week after her state meet triumph.
1) First of all, congratulations on your great double at the Georgia State Meet, with a US#1 and state record 4:44.97 1600 Friday and a 10:42.70 3200 Thursday.  Can you take us back through the meet, touching on your hopes for the weekend, how you felt about your preparation, and what you were thinking after seeing the 4:44 and knowing you'd set the state record?

Thank you. Well, to be honest, before the meet deep-down I knew the mile would be my main focus.  The week before I had run a 10:29 (3200), and it was really a perfect, memorable race for me to finish up my last home meet at Collins Hill. I was pretty satisfied with that 3200, and the spark for another crazy two mile just didn't seem to be there. I didn't really race from my heart that night and it wasn't until the last 400 I really gave a push.  As soon as I finished, I knew I had  too much left, so I re-collected myself and just knew I wasn't going to let my mile be that way.  I made a definite decision that in the mile it was all out or nothing. I went back to the hotel and changed my facebook status to: "Amanda is no longer afraid...ready for that mile...I will run fast or die tonight on that track. There is no other option." There really wasn't an option, this being my last time wearing the big "CH." 

A part of me just knew something big was going to happen. There was a big rainbow in the sky, and I was like, "Wow it's a sign from God!" I just went out on that track under the lights and did exactly what I'd been training to do. It was one of those few races where I really feel like I gave almost everything.  When I saw 4:44 I was quite shocked. I was on 4:48 pace most of my race and didn't realize I could still get a 4:44 by the finish. I looked up, smiled, and prayed to thank God for the race. It was really the highlight of my senior season to wear my team uniform that last time in such a memorable race. My mile was what I like to call a Double PR; not just a personal record, but a perfect race.

2) You ran Nike Outdoor Nationals last year, placing fourth in the mile.  Now that the Georgia State Meet is concluded, what are the post-season plans for this year?  With the distance depth your team has, will you be putting in some relay efforts as well?  I know a lot of seniors find it hard to stay motivated into the summer after graduation-- how are you feeling about continuing to race?

I'm really excited for Nike Outdoor Nationals again. I'm more excited than I've ever been about putting in the extra work this summer.  We've got SMR and DMR relays still training, and I plan to run the two mile myself.  This year will be exciting because we've all been expecting this extra month of training from day one, unlike last year when our training was geared more to peaking in early May.

3) Rewinding a bit to the path which led you to those Georgia state titles in the first place-- and to Georgia in general-- I understand you moved from a small school in Ohio to Collins Hill after your freshman year of high school.  Now, with some perspective on that experience, can you discuss what the transition was like?  Did you find it hard to adjust?  Miss certain things about Ohio?  Were you pleased with what you found once you moved to Georgia?  How did that all play out?

The transition went a lot easier than I ever imagined it would. I really felt it was something that was just meant to be, and accepted the move, and made the best of it. I didn't just move to Collins Hill because of their program, like it may have seemed at first. I've never lived anywhere else and my father's job brought us here and fate just led me to the best distance running program in the state of Georgia. I've been pretty blessed, and wouldn't take it back for anything. Although at times I'll miss running out on snowy golf courses in 15 degrees, and miss my old team and coach, but in reality there are so many more opportunities here that I've never had before, and for that I am very grateful.

4) I imagine one of the benefits of moving from a small team where you were the main standout to a program like Collins Hill, where you've been surrounded by other talented girls, has been the team aspect of running.  That's probably more evident in cross country than track, where you all were enormously successful, finishing ninth as a team at NXN after you were the Southeast individual titlist.  Can you look back to the fall for a moment, and describe how it felt to qualify for NXN Finals with your team, maybe some of the highlights of that trip to Portland, and the pluses and minuses of going after a team competition like NXN versus individual laurels at Foot Locker?

I'm going to have to make a comparison here to college, somewhere I haven't even been, but I've heard a lot about. In college, it seems the hardest thing for some girls is getting used to that idea of running with other girls, rather than coaches, guys, or your dog or something. Coming to Collins Hill has really prepared me well to understand that transition from individualism to team efforts.  Until I moved here, I never really valued the idea of a team effort like I do now. My goal since freshman year was nothing but Foot Locker, Foot Locker, Foot Locker! Then, coming here, everything changed.  I had to choose one race over the other, and it was obvious that I would choose NXN.  It's incredibly special to have the opportunity to share a trip to Nationals with 7 other girls. When I look back at all the workouts the girls and I have been through, the trips we went on, every one of them deserved that chance to run in Portland, so I never once regretted my decision for doing NXN over Foot Locker this year. Sure, I wonder what I could have done at Foot Locker. Honestly, I probably would have been more focused, and liked the course more than Portland Meadows, which I hate, but that wasn't what it was about for me. To have your sister and best friends there is a once in a life time opportunity. As for the race itself, I was a little worn out by December, but I felt I made the most of an awesome experience.  Meeting other elite athletes, while also chilling with my best friends in Portland was really the cherry on top of a great season.

5) Speaking of the Collins Hill girls team, I have to ask you about this nickname I saw in a newspaper article about your team's sixth-straight Georgia 5A state XC title: Huddie's Hotties?  I'm guessing "Huddie's" refers to Coach Andrew Hudson, but what was the origin of the nickname?  And can you say a few words about Coach Hudson's role in your training?  Maybe some things you've learned from him and how he's balanced your individual needs as a national elite runner with the needs of a highly successful team?

Well, the biggest thing we stress here at Collins Hill is probably "TRADITION." I don't even know when the "Hotties" thing started, long before I came along, but it's one of the many traditions that continues each year, with the top seven state team girls wearing shorts that spell HOTTIES on them. Coach Hudson, or Huddy to all of us, has been an amazing coach for me. I've learned a lot from him, too much to tell. We work together on everything, keeping a close eye on how I feel and react to the training. I like to get involved, challenge him a little as a coach, only to make him better, until he will stop me and remind me who's in charge.  I think the biggest key is good communication. The reason Coach Hudson has been so successful is because of his personalized approach to training. He'll spend time with me tweaking my training to fit my needs, as well as all of the other team members and their own specific needs. After all, no one training program works on everyone.

6) I know you have a younger sister, Vicky, on the Collins Hill team too.  Is running something that was a part of your family prior to your involvement, or are you the first to kind of get the ball rolling in this sport?  How did you initially get involved in running, and have you found that you and Vicky are able to train to together, or is it more a case of her working to get to the level you've already reached?

Although my dad has run a few road races, I really was the first one to run competitively in my family.  My parents weren't the ones to get me involved in running really, it was my own decision in middle school, and they've just supported me immensely the whole way.  I started running when I injured myself playing basketball, and track was the only sport still left in the spring that I had a chance in.  I suppose it worked out well. I've always loved to run, I had no idea it would get me this far. My sister Vicky started running Freshman year after a lot of my convincing her she would like it.  It wasn't until after the first year that she really got into it. I took her on a few runs in Ohio last summer that really opened her eyes to "serious" training. Since then she's been hooked.  I don't know if it was her All-American 4x8 experience at NON, or her early success in cross country, but sometime around then she really began to blossom into quite the accomplished, dedicated runner herself.

7) I hear you are quite a "student of the sport," but I'm wondering what form that takes?  Are you someone who reads books to find out the latest training approaches, or spends a lot of time on the internet checking out results from around the country?  Are there particular resources or people you've found to be especially informative when it comes to deepening your knowledge of the sport?  And how do you balance all the running and commitment to that part of your life with the demands of the classroom, where I hear you're also quite the student?

I don't read training books.  Well, I might have read one or two, and at some point I may read more, but really most of what I've learned comes from experience. I love running for the learning experience that comes along. Just from being on two different high school teams, there are things on both sides I can see that are more or less beneficial in training.  Mainly, it's been my two coaches, Jeff Holzhauer and Andrew Hudson, that have taught me what  I know, and some internet research in my free time. Basically, if there's something I'm not sure about, I'll either experiment or research it to find out. Whether its the best amount of rest to take after certain intervals, or the ways to treat certain injuries, if I want to know, I'll find out.  I'll go all out and type up packets of information to hand out to the team each season on racing strategies, eating habits and injury concerns. I plan on coaching someday, so everything I learn now, I know will help me in the future.

8) Next year you're heading to one of the best track programs in the country, becoming a Florida State Seminole.  Can you discuss how the recruiting process was for you, what other schools you may have considered, and what in particular drew you to Tallahassee?  What things are you looking forward to as you transition to collegiate competition next fall?

The recruiting process was a bit overwhelming at first, especially because I'm not the best decision-maker, but now that it's through, I can breathe easy because I have no doubt I've made the perfect decision.  It was all about what fit me. My geographical preference, the coaches I felt comfortable with, the team I felt comfortable with, the training that built off of what I was already doing, the size of school I wanted. There were a lot of people persuading me to go different ways, and finally I just had to ignore it all and think about where would be best for Amanda Winslow.  

For me, Florida State had everything just right. I've enjoyed speaking with Coach Harvey, and spending time with the team. Coming from a small school in Ohio, I know I prefer big schools over small ones. I've also learned to love the warm weather here, so Florida will just be one step warmer. It's really the perfect place for me, because it's just a bigger school, better team, more southern, slighltly warmer, slightly harder training team and school compared to Collins Hill, where I am now.  Coach Harvey was the one who really made me confident that this was the place I belonged, after also having visited Colorado, Georgetown, and Wisconsin.  From Ohio, to Georgia, to Florida...what's next, I don't know, but for now I'm looking toward an exciting 4 years of hard work, sweat, pain, guts, incredible competition, and victory to come!

Photos: (top to bottom) Pat Davey,
Matt Wojciechowski, Walter Pinion, Matt Wojciechowski

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