Up Close & Personal with Gina Valenti

We meet up with another junior on the women's cross country team as we interview Gina Valenti in our Up Close series. Hailing from Washington, North Carolina, she graduated from Washington High School where she was a four-time MVP for cross country and track. At Lees-McRae Valenti is pursuing a degree in athletic training. Join us as we get to know her.

1. What made you decide to come to Lees-McRae College? I liked how everyone was so nice and helpful when I came to visit. The classes are small, the school offered what I needed for my education, and it felt like it was the right place to be.

2. What are you most looking forward to this season? I am looking forward to helping create a new team as we will have so many new people joining this year. I would like to go to nationals again, and I would like to put to good use my summer training better than before.

3. Tell us about the toughest race you ever competed in and what made it so tough. There have been times when I couldn't see straight, or I had a massive cramp, or something along those lines, but never have I actually been bent double in a race until this summer in "The Bear". This five mile race goes up to the top of Grandfather Mountain, and while it was fun, it hurt. Because of the grade of the hills during a good portion of the race, I couldn't use all of my muscles to push forward, so naturally the ones used the most deteriorated first. And it didn't let up. Still, I will go back again next year, and take that mountain.

4. What do you do to prepare yourself for your cross country races? I have found that separating myself from everyone for a few minutes before the race helps greatly so that I can focus on the task at hand. It also keeps me calm because there isn't the anxious buzz coming from all the athletes to make me nervous. I also like to watch Ocean's 13 while eating pinto beans and cornbread the day of or before the race (depending on the race time). This has always worked, and we all have our superstitions, so I will continue to do this.

5. Who has had the biggest impact on your running career? Why does it have to be one person? My dad has made the biggest impact because, as with anything I was interested in, he fed my fire and ran with it. He never pushed me to start running, and he did more for me than most parents would do by coming to all my meets, riding the bike with me at 10 p.m. in the summer, and countless other things that helped me become who I am. He also ran for only three years, and yet made it to the Olympic trials in the 800, so I thought that was pretty awesome and that it might be fun to try.

6. What is your favorite part about being a member of the Bobcat cross country team? The family we have created, the support, and the fact that we can spend so much time together and still get along in the end, pursuing our goals as indiviuals and as a team, and pushing each other to give it our all.

7. What personal and team goals have you set for this season? My personal goals are to run like never before by staying calm and determined. My team goals are for us to become even closer, for us all to put in 110% everyday, and of course race in Nationals again this year. Not just the girls, but also the guys to race at Nationals.

8. What is the biggest mental challenge you face in running? My biggest mental challenge is staying deadset on beating my PR. I sometimes just enjoy racing and being with the people, and so I may not pace myself like I should, thus causing my times to slip.

9. Where is your favorite place to run and why? My favorite place to run is at Turkey Pen near Asheville. There are streams to cross several times with water that comes up to your waist, not to mention other obstacles, and it is enveloped in trees the whole time. This is true cross country running.

10. What is your idea of a perfect afternoon? My perfect afternoon is with the weather sunny, the temperature 70, and the chance to do whatever I want, whether it is swimming, hiking, painting pottery, or just sitting around.

11. If you could try something new today what would you try and why? I would try figure skating. I love to skate, and I would love to learn how to jump and move as figure skaters do.

12. Describe your favorite dessert. Ha ha, anything with chocolate, hands down!! Perhaps raspberry sauce on a milk and white chocolate mousse.