Athlete Spotlight: Emily Sisson

Photo by Paul Everett of


Emily Sisson returns to San Diego this weekend for her fourth consecutive Foot Locker Nationals berth as she looks to wrap up her fantastic high school career with a strong showing in her final race at Balboa Park. After a sensational third place debut as a freshmen, Sisson had struggled in her last two trips to Foot Locker finals finishing outside of the top 20. Overcoming a diagnosis of Graves disease (overactivity of the thyroid gland) last year, Sisson has bounced back to top form as shown with her Nike Outdoor Nationals 5K victory last June and strong cross country this season fall including most recently a runner-up finish at the Foot Locker Midwest Regional. She joins an elite and small club of four-time Foot Locker Finalist, but looks to do more than just appear in a fourth straight meet. She wants to compete with the best and become an All-American once again.


Interview with Emily Sisson


MileSplit US: Congratulations on qualifying for a 4th straight Foot Locker National championships and joining a very small group of 4-time qualifiers. What does it mean to have known that every fall in high school, you have been able to qualify for such an elite event?


Sisson: It means a lot to me to have qualified for 4 Foot Locker National Championships.  It is something I have always wanted to do ever since making it my freshman year.  I was blown away by the experience three years ago.  Meeting elite athletes, racing against the top runners in the nation, and staying at the Hotel Del has made each Foot Locker experience truly special.  Foot Locker does a great job putting on this meet, and I am so thankful for getting the opportunity to compete in it!


(Photo right by Margot Kelly of


MileSplit US: Did you feel extra pressure heading into the race in Kenosha, Wisconsin knowing you were attempting to become a four-time qualifier or did the experience of having qualified three times before make you more at ease?


Sisson: I was actually more nervous than I expected heading into Kenosha this year!  I think this was just something I had wanted so bad that I let it get to me a bit.  I did feel comfortable, though, knowing how familiar I was with the course.  The course in Kenosha is honestly one of my favorite places to race.  I love competing there, and I am definitely going to miss running at it next year!



MileSplit US: Your best race at Foot Locker Nationals was definitely your freshmen race with a 3rd place, while your past two appearances have not gone as well. After not faring well in the last two national races, how much are you wanting to finish out on strong with another high finish as a senior and race close to your top form as a freshmen?


Sisson: For various reasons, I haven't been able to compete at my best at Foot Locker the past couple of years.  I definitely want to finish strong for my senior year, but I have decided that no matter what I am going to enjoy this experience and make the most of it because it's my last Foot Locker!


(Photo left by John Herzog for


MileSplit US: The Midwest region is always a very tough region for girls, yet you certainly held your own challenging the #1 ranked runner in the country and top returnee from last year's Foot Locker Nationals race in Megan Goethals. Also Katie Flood, who you defeated at the regional race, last week won Nike Cross Nationals. Did being able to challenge Goethals in the regional and seeing Flood win NXN give you more confidence in how well you could possible do this weekend?


Sisson: I think this just shows how strong our region is.  We have a great group of runners in the Midwest, and I am looking forward to hanging out and running with these girls!  Our region has always been a really fun and talented group of runners.



MileSplit US: The Midwest region girls are the defending region team champions from last year's national race. How do you feel about the region's chances of repeating as champions with the qualifiers they bring into this year's race?


Sisson: I am very excited to see how our region competes this year!  We always have a strong group of girls which makes the experience that much more exciting.  At nationals, anything can happen with so many talented runners, but I feel our region is strong and will compete well against the others.


(Photo right by John Herzog for

MileSplit US: What place would you be happy with finishing in this weekend?


Sisson: I would like to be an All-American again.  That was so cool my freshman year, and I would love to finish my senior year strong.


MileSplit US: Last outdoor track season was great season for you with a great showing at your state meet, sub 4:50 1600, and winning the Nike Outdoor 5K in a 16:34 PR. How huge was that great finish to the track season as a springboard into what has been a strong senior season of cross country?


Sisson: Winning the Nike Outdoor 5K was huge for me.  I was really happy with how the race went, and I think it helped give me confidence heading into my senior cross country season.


MileSplit US: For the second straight year you are joined at Foot Locker Nationals by teammate Diane Robinson. How much better is the Foot Locker experience when you have a teammate to share the time in San Diego with?


Sisson: Last year was so much fun with Diane.  I am so glad that we both made it back this year!  Diane is an awesome runner and person who makes Foot Locker even more fun.  This year will be exciting because we have two sets of teammates coming from the Midwest region with Ashlie and Katie.


(Photo left by John Olson of

MileSplit US: The adversity you had to deal with last year was much tougher than the typical high school runner when you learned you had Graves Disease. Despite the setbacks at the time, do you think that it might have made you a stronger runner and tougher competitor?


Sisson: I feel that I have definitely come back stronger since being diagnosed with Graves.  I felt very frustrated at first, but with my family's support I feel that I was able to get through the toughest parts and come back a stronger person.  I cannot thank them enough for helping me get through it!