Stevens: Lobo Sarah Waldron Eyes All-American Finish And Maybe More!
June 5, 2012
New Mexico Lobos Track & Field - At NCAA Outdoor Championships
When/Where: Wednesday-Saturday, Des Moines, Iowa
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
If you wanted to poke some fun at Lobo Sarah Waldron when she talks about her improved ability to "manage" the various injuries that plague runners, you might ask her if she has perfected her technique in opening a can of beans.
You might recall that this talented Lobo almost missed an NCAA Mountain Region run in November after slicing her thumb while attacking a can of beans. She had surgery on a tendon and a few days later had a thumbs-up effort in running to a 13th place finish to help New Mexico secure that regional cross country crown.
"I've always been one of those people, who have a fairly high pain threshold," said Waldron, who is competing Thursday in the 10,000-meter run at the NCAA Outdoor Championships being held at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. "I've always been able to push my body to the limit."
The injury to the thumb was a fluke and not in the below-the-waist areas of the body that usually remind blue-ribbon runners of the pounding and the aches that come with long-distance running at a high level.
Waldron has had her share of bumps, bruises, sore feet and even tendonitis, but the aches during her spring season at New Mexico have been minimal and she has performed at an exceptional level.
She has set a New Mexico and Mountain West standard at 10,000 meters and carries the No. 4-ranked time of 33:54.56 into this week's nationals. Her school mark at that distance is 32:36.07. The runner to beat in Des Moines likely is Aliphine Tuliamuk of Wichita State (33:31.54).
"If I can win the race, it would be nice," said Waldron. "If I can make All-American, that would be nice, too. I just want to go out and give it my best. It all comes down to the day of the race and where you finish at the end of the day. I know I'll go out there and give it my best shot."
Said Lobo Coach Joe Franklin: "Sarah is a really focused athlete, like all elite runners. She is running well right now. Runners always shoot to be in the top eight and to be top eight in nationals is a tremendous accomplishment."
Waldron is only the fifth Lobo to compete at 10,000 meters at the NCAA finals and could be the school's second All-American at that distance (top eight). She also owns the school mark at 5,000 meters. To help reduce the pounding to feet and legs, Waldron has turned more to cross training and the use of an elliptical machine.
"This year has been a major breakthrough for me," said the Lobo senior from Puddleston, England, who was First Team All-American indoors at 5,000 meters. "I've been competing and training since January, but mentally I'm still hungry. It's a long season but you have to be able to compete until June. I'm proud that I've been able to keep going.
"It definitely helps to be healthy. I've had some problem with my feet, but I have gotten better at managing my injuries and knowing when enough is enough. I'm better at listening to my body when it tells me enough is enough and I have Joe (Franklin) and other people telling me when enough is enough."
Waldron was recruited to New Mexico from England, but Coach Franklin had to work to convince this talented runner to give it a go in America.
"I am close to my family and I was nervous to go that far way," said Waldron, in her second season at UNM. "Joe convinced me that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I decided to give it a go."
Waldron said coming to America has worked out nicely. She has blossomed in Franklin's low-key, work-hard environment. She has benefited from the high-altitude training of Albuquerque and has been pushed by a lot of other talented Lobo runners.
"The running (on a college team) is so much different," said Waldron. "You are around a lot of talented and competitive girls and we are always out there competing among ourselves, trying to beat each other.
"The first year was kind of a struggle. I was nowhere near my best and I didn't' run as well as I would have liked. And I was going through a bit of homesickness. I do miss the green fields back home, I have to say. But this season has been far more satisfying."
The satisfaction that has come from her senior season as a Lobo has Waldron excited about continuing her running career back home. She wants to compete in the 2012 European Championships and take a shot at the Olympics.
"This is my last national championship as a Lobo, which is kind of sad, but it's not the end of my running career," said Waldron, who said her drift into athletics first came from watching her older brother compete.
"I have been running since I was nine and I still feel I have a lot to accomplish. I know there is more to come."
As a Lobo, that "more to come" beckons and teases in Des Moines, Iowa. At the end of the day on Thursday, Waldron plans to be an All-American - and maybe more.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former award-winning Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at email@example.com.