2013 - Miranda Melville - Moving Forward Interview

How did you start race walking?
I started in my high school days it was an event in indoor track and field. NY is one of the only states that does that. Maine is another one. Most kids in high school get a taste for it there and it may look funny to a freshman in high school. They may wonder what they are doing but once you try it you realize how hard it is. I got disqualified in my first race and I decided I was going to show them and I kept with it and really liked it?

Was that your freshman year?

Was it both in winter and spring track?
It was not in spring track. It was only indoors. You could go to State meet for it in indoors, but there was no State meet for outdoor season. There was also no guys’ race walk, it was a female only event. This was in 2004.

When I was home this past holiday, I got to go home and work with the girls that are currently race walking for my high school and they have been saying they may allow the men to compete. Right now however, there aren’t enough guys willing to take it seriously. Some may do it just to make it a joke and try to beat the girls. It’s hard because at that age the guys are immature, but it is serious and I think you could find really good potential there.

When I was a senior in high school (1985) and in NY State, it was the last year that it was an event in track and field. How long did it take you to become a noted walker. When did you do well in counties or go to states.

I was pretty well known by my junior year. I was having some fast 1,500M times around 7:15. I had my school record and everything. I was kind of known because at the State qualifiers I kind of got cheated. The girls had plan, they wanted their school to have the top two spots so from right at the beginning they boxed me in and made me walk out in lane five. Nothing was done about it. When the race was over I found out why. The officials in the race were from their school and they just didn’t care. So even though I had a great race and should have been able to get second place and go, I didn’t. A lot of people started to know me from that race and thought it was unfair. So when it came time for my senior year, I was kind of the favored underdog that everyone wanted to see make it to states.

Did you make it?
Yep I made it. I didn’t perform that well, because it was the biggest meet of my life so far. I was so excited and probably not as focused as I should have been, but I was really glad I went. A few weeks later I went to the Nike Indoor High School Nationals and that went better. I got fifth place in just over 8:00 for the mile.

Then did you go to the University of Wisconsin, Parkside right after that?
Yes. I went to Parkside right after high school. My high school coach and I discussed the possibilities as I was getting interest from some Division III schools for running, but I wanted to keep race walking. We did research to try to find a good coach. We found Coach Mike DeWitt. Even though Parkside did not officially compete in the race walk since they switched from NAIA to Division II NCAA, Coach DeWitt said he would still coach me and give me a scholarship if I ran cross country. They had the program I wanted to study so I said I am just going to go with it and see what happens.

And what were you studying?
Psychology and biology

How did you do as a runner for cross country?
Freshman year I was not that strong. Anyone coming from high school going into college can be in store for a big shock with how much mileage you have to do and all of a sudden you are with these older girls that are so much faster than you , you just kind of realize that you have to up your game a bit. It was a shocker. As the years went by I got stronger and better. However, most of the time I was race walking. Walking for eight or nine months out of the year it was hard to build a strong running foundation when I am using totally different muscles for most of the year. So my running never really improved that much.  But my race walking did.

So obviously you did well in college and started racing internationally while you were at Parkside?

What were your biggest athletic achievements in college??
I was super excited my freshman year to be Junior National champion, won the US vs. Canada, and got US junior race walker of the year. So those were big honors for me. It was really the thing that pushed me to say I want to try to go to the Olympics one day and to really focus on it more. So the next year, I focused on getting faster. By my Senior year I my first 20K and it was out in Eugene, OR in 2009. I walked just under 1:45 and I was ecstatic. It was only my first year doing a 20K and that was my result. I knew there was so much more potential to get faster if I kept working hard.

So let’s move up to graduating college when you were taking aim at making the Olympic team for 2012. You moved to San Diego and started to be coached by Tim Seaman. How different was it to go from a college environment to being coached privately by Tim.
For the majority of my life I had to balance anything I did athletically with going to class so to all of a sudden have race walking be my main priority and pretty much my job was very different. There was a point last year where I was treating it too much like a job and had to find the fun in it again. Once I did, I was enjoying my workouts again. You can’t lose that or you won’t be as motivated.

How different were the training philosophes?
Tim’s philosophy was a lot more laid back. I think that I personally always put a lot of pressure on  myself, even if someone tells me there isn’t, I have standards of my own. I mean, it was great, because Tim didn’t put any pressure on. He is there to motivate you and push you when you need it, but also there to console you when you need it. To remind you why we do what we do and why we love it.

Let’s go ahead to the Olympic Trials. What were your thoughts at the Olympic Trials in 2012 as to your personal goals?
So I set a bunch of personal goals. The very highest was winning the Olympic Trials, which I really felt was a shot in the dark with as strong as Maria and Erin was. I mean, in Eugene you have pretty much perfect weather, so it was perfect for all of us to PR. So even if I PR’d you could assume they might as well. So, I was kind of like with that we’ll set that as a goal and if it happens it happens and if it doesn’t it doesn’t. My next goal was to try to place top three and try to get on the podium. My goal after that was to try and break 1:36 for the 20K and the goal after that was to not get DQ’d.

What was your PR going into the race?
My PR going into the race was 1:37:08.

So 1:36 would have been a significant PR.

If I recall, Teresa Vaill, Maria Michta, and Erin Gray broke out in a lead pack and you lead the 2nd pack with Lauren with the second pack. Correct?

So you came through at 5K, what was your pace then?
At 5K Lauren and I were taking times leading the pack and we were holding a 1:36 pace. We felt we had the strength and training to hold that or just under it. When Teresa fell off and dropped out. I noticed it was just Maria and Erin up there and wondered how long they could keep their pace. I was feeling really good and wanted to wait until 10K to make my move, but I felt if I waited till 10K it would have been too long. So I think I broke around 8K. I was like I am going to break away from this pack and if anyone wants to come with me and help me that great and if not I am going after the top two, because I could potentially make the podium if I catch them.

Did anyone go with you?
It didn’t really seem like it. I was in the front of the pack and when I made the move, it didn’t seem like anyone went with me. I just dropped into a different speed. Maybe they thought I would crash, but I didn’t crash.

As I recall you started reeling in Maria and Erin who were kind of playing a game with the pace and who might make the team since given their times only one spot was available on the Olympic Team. At what point did you realize I could catch the two of them?
I had a lot of people yelling my splits and how far ahead of them they were. As it kept going down I was like I am going to catch them and be a contender in this. This is my dream too and I was going to give it everything on this day.

I think you caught them with 5 or 6 laps to go.

So you caught them and from a spectator’s point of view it looked like you started walking their pace.
I did. I came in with a plan to catch them and go after this, but I never made the plan of what I was actually going to do once I caught them and with Tim being my coach and Maria’s coach he was in an awkward spot of cheering for both of us. He wanted both of us to make the team, but that wasn’t possible on that day. So it put him in a bad place that day. So I was like they fell off pace so they must be getting tired and I wasn’t as tired as them. I probably should have pushed it more. Even if I had pushed it more and ended up in third, I still would have been on the podium and I still would have had a huge PR. So I probably should have pushed it more when I caught them instead of doing what they were doing.

When did you guys start the final push?
At one point I think we had like three laps to go and we lost Erin and it was just the two of us. I think we both knew from doing workouts together that we both had strong finishes with quick feet. The difference was the Maria had a bigger gait than I do. She is a bit more flexible and taller. We started to pick it up a few times. I tried to push past her a few times and she fought back. So I was thinking if I could break her I could get by her, but she didn’t break. So the last two laps we kept picking it up and the last lap we were pretty much sprinting. With 200 meters to go we had to decide who was going to go. The worst thing that could happen was that we both get disqualified in the last 100M. So we are both trying are hardest and as we came around the turn and Maria just took off on me and I just wasn’t capable yet of doing it just yet in my career and she was able to beat me by 3 seconds.

And what was your time?

So an over two minute PR!

So obviously you must have been sad you didn’t make the team, but you have to be ecstatic that your teammate made the team and you raced so well.

Yeah, it was an extreme bittersweet moment. You cross the line and you almost don’t know what to do. You are just kind of “I just raced so well” but you realize that you just missed out on such an opportunity, but the you see your friend and teammate made it who worked hard and dreamed of this too so you kind of have to say to yourself what is done is done and I would never resent Maria for it. She raced so well and raced extremely well at the Olympics and that the right person went. She had a lot of injuries this past year and I feel like that was something that was for her after so many struggles and I am glad that she has that.

Ok, let’s shift to the present. Right now you are recovering from a non race walking injury. Can you describe what happened and why you are starting off slow this year?
I was training on the path where we usually train and a cyclist hit me by accident and fractured four of my ribs and so I have been forced to take 6 weeks off. I just recently saw my doctor and he said I am healing really well and that I should be able to start raace walking and training and getting back in action very soon and he just said that maybe the tissue might hurt a little here and there but that I should be ok. I am pretty excited to start training again.

So are you looking at the Pan Am Cup this year?
I am. I definitely will be at trails and ready to compete there. It will depend, I just lost 6 weeks of training and it will come down to see how strong I feel that day. Tim and I aren’t making any guarantees that day we’ll wait until Nationals, they’ll be the main focus for right now. We kind of think that maybe possibly I can do something for Indoor Nationals, but it will depend on how it goes.

So the goal has to be an A standard for 2016 with you Erin, Maria and anyone else who is up at that level.
Yes, that’s the big goal for all of us!

Yes, then we send three women instead of one which makes the race a lot easier than worrying about one and done.


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