The second edition of Friday Focus features Michigan's Audrey Belf. The US #6 senior from Birmingham Seaholm won the 5k Junior National title this summer and remains undefeated this season. As the post-season heats up look for Belf to challenge for some Michigan state records and compete for another national title.
Considering you raced into July with Junior Nationals, what did summer training look like for you before and after that race and where are you at in your training at this point in the season?
Prior to Junior Nationals, I was running about 66 miles and having 2 track workouts a week. The workouts were mostly 200s and 400s. The week of the meet, I took my mileage down a bit. Right after nationals, I took a week off. I was very eager to get running again; the week felt like months! After my break, I started to build my mileage back up. I hit 70 miles right at the end of the summer and have been holding steady at 66.
You had a tough race at last fall at the Footlocker Midwest Regional getting 22nd. What was that ride home like knowing your season came to a halting stop?
Honestly, I was crushed. With the support of my coaches and family I shook it off and started training with a more focused and determined mindset than ever.
Did that fuel your fire to have a stellar rest of your junior year?
Absolutely! When a race does not go the way I want, I use it to motivate me. I feel that some of my greatest accomplishments have stemmed from past failures.
Your junior year culminated with a junior national championship title in the 5k. Share with us what that experience was like and what it meant to be crowned a national champion.
Entering that race, I had made a goal to stay with the front pack and finish strong, I never imagined I would win in such an experienced field. Upon crossing the finish line, the whole race still felt surreal. I was ecstatic; it’s still hard for me to believe. The race has propelled my confidence in my abilities to entirely new levels.
You are undefeated this season. Does that build your confidence entering the post-season, starting this weekend with your league championship?
Yes, I want to continue my streak for the rest of my high school season. I would like to improve upon some of my times and racing tactics prior to the national meets.
Not many Michigan teams shoot for NXN. Is there a thought to do that considering how good your team is shaping up to be this year? (Birmingham Seaholm US #15)
Yes, we plan on competing at the NXN Midwest Regional!
Are your plans to shoot for Footlockers again? If so, do you feel like you need to redeem yourself after the rough performance at FL Midwest last year?
I will most definitely be back at Footlocker Midwest. This year, I am an entirely new runner. I am more confident in both my training and abilities and feel like I have so much more left in me. I WILL redeem myself come November!
What’s the goal for the state meet both individually and as a team?
Our entire team has been very focused, driven, and determined to win the State title. It would be awesome to be part of a state championship team again. Personally, I want to defend my title and ultimately break the state record.
When you graduate and look back on your high school running career what do you want to say you have accomplished? Time goals? National accolades?
For cross country, I want to break the 17 minute barrier, qualify for Foot Locker and NXN! At the national meets it is my goal to finish in the top 5! For track, I am shooting for breaking 10 minutes in the 3200 and going under 4:40 in the 1600.
Fellow Michigander, Grant Fisher etched himself as the best runner in the nation as a junior with accolades such as a Footlocker title and a Dream Mile win (4:02). Do you see yourself as the female counterpart to Grant Fisher?
Grant is an incredible runner with outstanding accomplishments! I do not think anyone can rival his junior year successes. Grant is an individual I look up to and strive to accomplish some of what he has.
Does watching his success motivate you to achieve the same level of greatness?
Definitely! Seeing him win all of these races makes me hungry to accomplish the same.
You follow a line of great female runners from Michigan such as Meghan Goethals, Erin Finn, the Meier twins, Shannon Osika … how do you respond knowing not only is your name right up with some of the best runners to go through the state of Michigan, but you are beating some of their times and edging closer to some state records?
As a freshman, I never imagined I would achieve half of what I have accomplished. I remember watching Erin race and saying to myself "I hope I will be close enough to her to see her finish." I can't believe that I am now at the same level. Michigan is a state full of talented distance runners and I am honored to be placed in that category. Erin has been a tremendous role model for me and provided me with wonderful advice.
Michigan State and the University of Michigan are ranked #1 and #2 in the nation respectively, and you live fairly close to East Lansing and Ann Arbor. Is there a desire to be a part of one of these great squads when you graduate, considering their success and knowing so many girls from those teams?
I am still in the process of deciding my college, but they are both wonderful schools with great programs and teams.
From a fan perspective, Wolverines or Spartans?
Neutral! My mom is a Wolverine and my dad is a Spartan.
Describe your most memorable/funny/shocking/scary training run.
I would have to say entering a trail while on vacation and coming face to face with a stubborn buck. After finally getting him to go away, I proceeded with my run. When I finished, he was right there waiting for me!
Describe your fondest race memory.
Finishing 3rd place at New Balance Indoor Nationals in 2013 and setting the National Sophomore record. This was my first national race. I had no idea what to expect nor did I even think I would place. I believe this race was a breakthrough for my running career. It proved to me that, with hard work and determination, I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to. I enter races thinking "why not me, I know I have trained harder than all of my competitors."
Describe some of your favorite things to do, not involving running.
I love to bake, shop, and hang out with friends.
Describe your worst habit.
My worst habit is my occasional perfectionism. It is both an asset and a fault.
Describe your most embarrassing moment as an athlete.
During a race in Ohio I completely missed the entrance to the trail. All of the people watching saw me do it. I had to backtrack and was passed. I did end up winning the race with some extra work and a whole lot of embarrassment.
Describe the perfect post-race meal in detail.
A big bowl of Cocoa Krispies and a cold glass of chocolate milk.
Who most inspires you to be the best runner you can be?
My advisor Pat Davey. He fills me with complete and utter confidence in both my abilities and training. Without him, I would not be where I am today.
If you had to listen to one song in your head every time you ran for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Anything by John Mayer.
Do you have any odd pre-race or pre-run rituals? Describe them.
I always wear the same socks and hair ribbon. I am not superstitious, but I can't bring myself to break from tradition. I also like to eat the same type of pasta the night before.