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Interval Session #72 - Emily Sisson

By Dave Devine - October 2, 2008

Five years ago, when the Cornhusker Flyers youth track club needed an extra girl for their 4x800 relay, one of the runners asked a soccer-playing friend named Emily Sisson if she'd be willing to fill in.  It's fair to say no one involved understood what they were launching with that last-minute request.  Just over a year later, as an eighth grader, Sisson won the women's 3k at the 2006 Kansas Relays.  Her freshman year, running cross country for Marian NE, Sisson surpassed the substantial expectations swirling around her by winning the Nebraska Class A state title, taking the Foot Locker Midwest Regional in 17:13, just five seconds off Melody Fairchild's meet record on the Wisconsin-Parkside course, and finishing third at Foot Locker Nationals against 39 of the country's best.  Her outstanding freshman track season was capped by a 16:48.67 win in the women's 5k at the US Junior Nationals and a trip to the Pan Am Games in São Paulo, Brazil, where she repped the US nicely by taking bronze in 17:47.81.

At the start of her sophomore year, Sisson transferred to Millard North NE, relieving a lengthy daily commute to Marian which had been difficult on her family.  While the school changed, the success continued.  Sisson again qualified for Foot Locker Nationals, where she shook off a nagging injury to finish 23rd.  In the spring she was fourth in the 2008 Arcadia 3200, running 10:21.71 behind an epic duel between Jordan Hasay and Christine Babcock.  After an outdoor state meet in which she claimed four golds-- 800, 1600, 3200 and a leg on the winning 4x8-- she doubled the 3k and 5k at USATF Junior Nationals and took fourth in both events.

The 2008 cross country season opens with Emily again switching schools-- this time to Parkway Central in Missouri-- after a family move during the summer.  Once again, she's picked up where she left off, winning the Rimrock Farm Invitational in Kansas last weekend with a sizzling 14:29 4k.

DyeStat senior editor Dave Devine catches up with Emily in her new Missouri stomping grounds.
1) First of all, congratulations on your win last weekend at the Rim Rock Farm Invitational. Can you talk about that race, in terms of getting your junior year underway at a new school in a new state, and how it felt to win your first big invite of the year? Do you have to get a feel for your competition all over again, and figure out where the challenges will come from?

Thank you, at Rim Rock I ran it just like any other race. I ran a bit conservatively, and after the first mile I felt good so I made a move. It was a fun meet and I was glad to do it with my teammates. I am really enjoying it at Parkway Central so far, and I am looking forward to running more races against the competition here.

2) Your own teammate, Diane Robison, was runner-up in that race at Rim Rock. Are the two of you training partners in practice? Has it been good to have a teammate who's fairly close in ability, one whom you know will be running close to you at meets?

Diane is an awesome person and runner. She is really a great person to practice with, because we both push each other.

3) Parkway Central MO is the third school you've attended in your three-year high school career. I know in each case the transfers haven't been athletically motivated, but simply a consequence of realities connected with your family. Can you briefly describe what led to the move from Marian NE to Millard North NE, and then to Parkway Central MO this year? Has any one transition been more difficult than another?

Both of the transfers were family decisions, but I would probably say the move to Millard North was a bit easier just because I knew many people there. I was a bit nervous coming here, because I didn't know anyone, but everyone here has been great and I am really enjoying it. Through it all, I have met a lot of really awesome people and I am happy with how it has all worked out!

4) Are there things you specifically miss about Nebraska, now that you're living in Missouri? What about things that you like about Missouri? How does the running environment compare between the two?

I haven't been here that long, so it's a bit hard to say the differences in the environment. I definitely miss my friends and my teammates the most, but I have met a lot of great people here, too. All of my teammates are so nice and I have enjoyed running with them!

5) I read that you got your start in running as a seventh grader, when a friend asked you to run a leg on a 4x800 relay for the Cornhusker Flyers age group team, and that eventually you gave up nine years of soccer to devote yourself to running full-time. What was it about running that pulled you in, and how difficult was it to leave soccer behind to pursue running year-round?

Soccer was so much fun, and I'm glad I did it. I'm not exactly sure what it was about running that pulled me in, but I remember just wanting to get better at it. I realized that I really enjoyed running a lot. It was difficult to leave my friends on the team, but I still talk to some of them.

6) When you were a freshman you placed 3rd at Foot Locker Nationals, and then placed 23rd last year. With the passage of some time to gain perspective on the two races, are you able to identify any differences in how those two days went for you. Did you simply have an amazing day one year and a less successful day the next? Was your training different in ninth grade versus your preparation in tenth? And what sorts of things are you doing this year in hopes of returning to San Diego again? Have you added anything new or altered your training in any way?

I was very happy with how my freshman year at Foot Locker went. The biggest difference in the two years was that my training went exactly as planned when I was a freshman. Last year I was just really thrilled to make it back again. I had been dealing with a nagging injury that season, and my training didn't go as I had hoped. Foot Locker is an amazing experience, and I feel really fortunate to have raced there. I would love to make it back again.

7) Running has opened some interesting doors for you in a relatively short period of time. You got to represent the US in Brazil at the Pan Am Games, you were selected for Sports Illustrated Faces in the Crowd, you've traveled to meets like Arcadia in California and twice to Foot Locker Nationals. What's the coolest thing you've done, or best place you've been, in connection with running, and what's one event or place you'd love to make it to in the future?

I am really thankful for all of these amazing opportunities. I'd have to say that two of the coolest places are San Diego and Sao Paulo. I love Foot Locker, and being able to represent the U.S. on the junior team was amazing. I would love to make it back again to Foot Locker and another U.S. team.

8) Besides running, what other things do you like to do in your free time (if you have any)? Are there other passions which don't involve racing spikes and logging miles?

In my free time I really like just hanging out with my friends and going to our high school football games. I also love to read, especially all of Nicholas Sparks' books.

Photos: (top, 2007 Foot Locker Nationals) Vic Sailer - photorun.net; (bottom, 2008 USATF Jt Nats) John Nepolitan

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