All Photos by Don Rich
US# 3 Aisling Cuffe (NY) may be small in size, and gentle in demeanor, but she sure packs an aggressive punch on the cross country course. Cuffe was undefeated on the year, winning a NY state championship, a Federation championship, and the Foot Locker Northeast championship. The last was her most impressive, taking down a 28 year old mark held by 1982 Foot Locker National Champion Christine Curtin and becoming the first harrier ever under the 18:00 barrier on the course. And she did it solo into a 50mph headwind on the finishing straight. Cuffe will be looking to mix it up with Goethals and Sveinsson up front in San Diego.
Interview with Aisling Cuffe
MileSplit US: First off, congratulations on your Northeast victory. You were 12th last year. What did you do over the summer to catapult yourself to the position of a top competitor?
Aisling Cuffe: Over the summer, I took one week off. Right after that week, I started training with my coaches for the Pan Am games in Trinidad. They were careful not to push me too hard over the summer, so I wouldn't be dead for cross country, yet ready to race in early August. This was definitively a big advantage for me coming into this season, because right when the cross country races started in September, I was already fit and ready to go. Not to mention that my race in Trinidad was a 5k, so all throughout the summer I was doing 5k workouts. I took a little time off after Pan Ams, but I never really lost that 5k conditioning. So instead of spending August and the beginning of September getting into shape, I could move ahead with more cross country style training.
MileSplit US: You were undefeated on the season, was that a goal of yours going in?
Aisling Cuffe: This was a goal. Last cross country season, I had really wanted to be undefeated (not thinking that I had a chance to qualify for meets like the state meet and Footlocker), but this dream was over when I finished second at the state meet. This year, I wanted to win states, and the Foot Locker NE regional, so therefore I wanted to be undefeated. And I am very happy that I could accomplish this. Each goal that i set out for myself and reach is a confidence booster.
MileSplit US: What did the Sunken Meadow course record mean to you?
Aisling Cuffe: Getting this record meant a lot to me. Last year, this course was the New York state meet course, and there had been a lot of talk about whether or not this meet would set a new course record. I had hoped that I could get it, but I fell 13 seconds short (not to mention that I didn't win). This showed me just how hard this course really was, as no one had ever broken 18 minutes on it. So once I heard that the NE regional would be held there, I was very excited. I knew that this was just another opprotunity for me to chase that record. I had been thinking about it all season, so when I actually accomplished this I was very happy, especially since the athlete who held it before me was very successful. I had missed a couple of course records this year by small margins, so I was happy that I didn't miss another one.
MileSplit US: The old record was held by the 1982 Foot Locker Champion Christine Curtin. A nice twist of fate there. How do you view your chances of winning the 2009 edition of this event.
Aisling Cuffe: The fact that the record I broke had been held by a great runner helps my confidence a lot. I feel that my chances coming into the meet are good. Last year when I was in the race, I remember listening to the announcer as Jordan Hasay was passing Ashley Brasovan in the final stretch of the race, and I never forgot the excitement that I felt. I knew, starting from last year, that I really wanted to win Foot Locker. Before the race last year, I had wanted to win, but during the race, I had felt a little out of place, almost like I wan't good enough to be there. But my progress from that point to now has shown me that I do belong there, and I won't be racing scared like I was last year. All this season, I have had Foot Locker in my mind. I can't wait for Saturday morning. I feel really good and ready to go, and I can't wait to show people how hard I have been working all season long.
MileSplit US: Looking back on your season to date, what is most special to you about that season?
Aisling Cuffe: What is most special to me has probably been watching a lot of supporters come almost out of nowhere. As each week progressed, more and more people began coming up and congratulating me on my races. On road runs, more and more people have been honking their horns, or frantically waving out the window. As of this week, two local businesses have signs up that are wishing me good luck for the remainder of my season. At a local fun run, a few elementary school kids asked me to sign the back of their ribbons. A lot of my teachers are planning on watching my Foot Locker race online. The local paper is recording every race I run. All this support makes me feel really happy to be living in my town. I just feel so thankful for everything that everyone is doing for me. Its nice to know that no matter where I go for a race, my community is rooting for me. This feeling that I have rivals any victory so far this season.
MileSplit US: What did you most enjoy about your first trip to San Diego last year?
Aisling Cuffe: I enjoyed just about everything. I remembered first getting off of the plane in San Diego, and seeing real palm trees for the first time. I asked a person if they were real (because I really wasn't sure) and all he did was look at me funny. At the hotel, everything was perfect. The hotel was really old style and elegant, which made you feel important just by walking into the lobby. The athlete's room had just about every gaming system you could want. The rooms were great. Everyone was really nice. The Foot Locker chaperones were very good at making sure everything was just right. The view of the beach and the Pacific ocean was amazing. Everything about this trip kind of flooded me all at once. It was kind of like a paradise. This was really hard to decide on, but what was probably my favorite moment was getting the uniform. Just this peice of clothing really told me that I was actually at Foot Locker Finals. Its something that I will have for the rest of my life. It reminds me of my experience in San Diego, and that is something I will never want to forget.
MileSplit US: What are you looking forward to this time, outside of the racing?
Aisling Cuffe: Outside of racing, I am most looking forward to meeting new people, especially my Northeast teammates. This aspect of the trip is really nice, because these girls are the same people that I will probably be racing in indoor and outdoor track at big meets. It's cool to be able to get to see how other elite athletes act when you aren't racing each other. Plus, you can learn a new thing from just about anybody. I am also looking forward to getting the uniform once again. I am dying with curiosity to find out what they look like or what color they will be. And seeing as my county just got hit with two snow showers in the past 5 days, I can't forget to mention that I am really looking forward to the climate change.