The Cool Down Run

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BY JORDAN IKEDA

Rafu Sports Editor

Shannon Murakami has been the running force behind all things good with the UCLA women's cross-country program this year. (Photos by Isamu Murakami)

Shannon Murakami has been the running force behind all things good with the UCLA women's cross-country program this year. (Photos by Isamu Murakami)

One of the benefits of online is being able to share stories that weren’t able to fit in their entirety in the paper. Here’s the rest of the interesting bits of the interview I did with UCLA’s cross country star, Shannon Murakami that was featured in the Saturday, Dec. 26th issue of the Rafu.

RAFU: So what was the adjustment like coming into UCLA?

SHANNON: Coming out of high school (she went to Saugus), I had been so used to training with coach Rene Paragas, that going under a new coach, Eric Peterson, it was kind of a big adjustment. I think I made the transition as best as I could. Unfortunately, me and my coach didn’t get along very well and he actually left and went to Tulane this past summer. I got a new coach in, Forest Braden, who I absolutely think is great. We get along great. The training is a lot like it was in high school.

RAFU: What was the main difference in the training?

SHANNON: The training is more individually set for each person. He (Braden) sends out weekly training schedules and has meetings with us once a week to make sure we’re on track. We do higher mileage now which is what I used to do in high school. With Eric Peterson, we were always on the track. A lot shorter recovery runs. It was a big change.

RAFU: You also run track, how is this upcoming season looking for you?

SHANNON: My first indoor race is Jan. 28. I start outdoor in March. Our middle Distance coach (4-time Olympian) Johnny Gray  works with the 1500 and 800 girls. They’ve been training hard through cross-country season. I think we’re going to be really strong in the distance area, more so than we have in the past few years.

Shannon at Nationals

Shannon at Nationals

RAFU: What are your races in track?

SHANNON: The mile, the DMR (distance medley relay), hopefully some 5Ks, but definitely the 3K. I’m all across the board.

RAFU: What are your goals for track this upcoming season?

SHANNON: I definitely want to make it to Nationals again. Once you get a taste, you always want more. I definitely enjoyed the success I had this season and definitely want another successful season in track. Hopefully I can PR (personal record). Beat SC in the SC dual, of course. Then go to Nationals.

RAFU: What would your PR be?

SHANNON: In the 5K, I’ve only run it three times, so anything faster than 17:19. But, in the Pac-10 race for cross-country I ended up PR-ing through the 5K even though it’s a 6K race.

RAFU: So, you’re all set for track then?

SHANNON: Yeah, I’m ready to go. I know when I step out on the track and do what I’ve done for the past few years and get it together I can run great. It’s a matter of it all clicking and the stars aligning, but it’s looking pretty good.

RAFU: Your younger sister Amber also runs cross-country. Any advice for her?

SHANNON: Well, she struggled through some injuries during cross-country this season. But my advice is to be patient. Everything happens for a reason. Just to keep her head up. Keep training. Carpe diem. Seize the day. You never know when that moment is going to happen. She definitely works hard on and off the track. I think everything is going to click and she’s going to do really, really well.

RAFU: Most people, when they think about running, conjure up of a whole host of negative thoughts. Why do you like running? I mean, what’s your draw to it?

SHANNON: That’s a good question. A lot of people ask me and I don’t really have an answer. I guess I really like running because it is an escape. It’s the only time where I can take a break from everything and just go run. The thing I think a lot of people, including myself love about running is that you don’t need a field or a ball or other people. You can do it barefoot, in jeans. You don’t need anything. You can just do it. It helps me a lot of ways. If I’m stressed out or I need a break. You can use it recreationally to socialize with your friends. Let’s go on a run. I love the feeling of it. It’s kind of a freedom that you can’t get anywhere else.

RAFU: So I have to ask you about that touchdown at the end of the UCLA/SC game.

SHANNON: I watched it at a friend’s house where the room was divided with a UCLA couch and a USC couch. We were losing and Coach Neuheisel took that timeout to regroup which I think he shouldn’t have done. And then they scored on that fluke pass which was just crazy! But, I mean, SC is good, they’re really good. Credit to them for beating us fair and square. I wish we had played a little bit better, but I don’t know that much about football (laughs).

RAFU: How does UCLA match up with SC in cross-country?

SHANNON: The past two years, we’ve lost to them. This year we beat them which gave us gauntlet points.

RAFU: The gauntlet?

SHANNON: It’s my favorite trophy that we have in our Hall of Fame. In each sport we have a dual meet,  whoever wins gets a certain amount of points towards the gauntlet. At the end of the year, whoever has the most points, the most sports wins, ends up getting this cool trophy that gets traded between the two schools. It’s a medieval glove thing on a weird pedestal. It’s super cool. It’s like my favorite trophy. SC has had it the past two years. Football and basketball are worth 10 points and every other sport is worth five. As long as we do our part, I can’t complain. We did our part to try and get the gauntlet.

RAFU: What would it be like for you to get it?

SHANNON: Oh, I’d be happy. We had it my freshman year, but we lost it, And haven’t won it back yet. It was the first time the trophy stayed with one school. I was pretty crushed that we’ve lost it twice in a row now. But I think we’re going to get it back this year even though we lost in football. We won in women’s soccer and cross-country so we’re making up the points elsewhere. Our women’s water polo team will win because they’ve been the number one in the country for five years running now. So, I’m not worried, when it comes to SC dual meet, I’ll be doing my part to get us points to win the meet.

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