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NXN Interview: Chris Solinsky

11/20/2008 - 17:15

SolinskyUSindoor08.jpg November 20, 2008 by Larry Eder. Chris Solinsky is one of the new professional athletes in the U.S. His gutty run in the U.S. Olympic Trials at 5,000 meters, while it garnered him fifth in the Trials, it also garnered him the respect of US distance fans. Runner-up at 3,000m at the 2008 AT&T USA Indoor Championships; 2006 & 2007 NCAA Outdoor 5,000m champion A five-time NCAA champion, Solinsky enjoyed a banner season in 2007 when he set personal bests in the 1,500m, 3,000m and 5,000m. Won Wisconsin high school cross country state titles as as sophomore, junior and senior . . . Solinsky was the 2002 Foot Locker Cross Country champion while attending high school in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. He won the race by 20seconds, tying the largest margin of victory in race history ... Wisconsin HS state champion in the 3,200 as a sophomore, junior and senior, breaking the state record as a junior in 8:58.39 ... won state title in 1,600 meters as both a junior and senior other SPASH graduates include Olympians Suzy Hamilton and Curt Clausen A history major while at Wisconsin.

1. What was your first experience in track or cross country?
In elementary school we had an annual district track meet at the end of the year, and one of the events was "cross country ." (which consisted of starting on the track, running around the soccer and baseball fields and then finishing on the track in front of all of the other elementary school kids from all the schools.) In 5th grade I decided to run it just because I had always done well in the PE mile, I ended up placing 3rd and I was ticked off because I have always been really competitive. The next year I convinced a teacher at my school to start a running club after school and a few nights a week toward the end of the year we would run a mile, running a few times around the school block. That year I was able to beat the defending champ and got my time down to 6:00. I felt like I had won a huge title after that race and it was awesome finishing first in front of all the other kids.

2.What was training like in high school?
I was fortunate to have two great coaches Donn Benhke and Pat Leahy. In Cross Country Donn would have us focus on doing high mileage (60-80), so we would be quite strong for XC. In track Pat would have us focus on doing more speed work, which really helped me to develop fully as a runner, as I had the best of both worlds. I would often as well do tempo runs on my own during the offseason to increase my strength for the coming season.

3.Tell us about your college coach? how did college differ from high school?
Jerry Schumacher combined both Donn's coaching strategies and Pat's coaching strategies into one coach. Our program was strength based, but when it was time for speed training we would hit that hard as well. The difference between high school and college was that my tempo runs went from 4-5 miles to 10-12 miles and I went from running 5:00 pace for the tempos to 4:50-4:40 pace by the end. Additionally, I went from training alone to training with a group of guys that pushed me everyday.
There was someone ready to run hard everyday, so it took my training to a new level.

4. When did you make a commitment to running?
I would say that I made the commitment to running after my sophomore year in high school. I went to what is now the Nike Outdoor Nationals when it was held in Raleigh, North Carolina. I ran the mile and 2-mile there and my highest placing was 16th. That was kind of a wake up call for me and I decided that I really wanted to train my hardest and see just how far I could push my body. I made it my mission to not only make Foot Locker, but to win it. Things kind of just took off from there.

5. What was college training like?
College training was a lot like high school training for me just more intense and higher mileage. I made quite the jump my freshman year because I upped my mileage and intensity quite a bit from high school and saw immediate results. I was lucky that I had a good base from high school so that I could step in right away and contribute to the team. It made such a huge difference being able to train with the quality of guys we had at Wisconsin. Having success and good chemistry with a team makes quite a difference with enjoying training.

6. What is difference between college and being a professional athlete?
Well the best part is not having to worry about studying and exams. Now I have more time to dedicate to my training. In college I did whatever I had time for, now I can devote much more time to the little things. Additionally, my diet has improved drastically, in college I just tried to fill my stomach, I would eat frozen pizza 2-3 times a week and fill the rest of the week with PB&J. Now I actually am able to afford healthier foods and have time to cook real meals. I have found that I love to cook, and I'm actually pretty good at it. Plus it does not hurt to get paid for something I've always loved to do.

7. Tell us about your experience in the Olympic Trials?
Well I wish I had a great storybook story about my experience in the Olympic Trials, but unfortunately, they did not go as I had hoped. I was more on top of my running than I had ever been previously in my career and was full of confidence and hope entering this meet. I was able to navigate the rounds easily and set myself up for a great final. I made the mistake of thinking that what I did in college would work in the Olympic Trials Final. Boy was I wrong, and what a bad time to learn that lesson. I took the lead with a K to go and began to run 58, and 59 for the next two quarters. Unfortunately, 4 guys were able to stick with me and with 150 meters I had nothing left to fight off challengers and I was passed by them all. I ran my last 200 in 31, I was able to make everyone hurt because everyone except Bernard Lagat was only able to run 29 or slower, I just did not have anything left to do the same.

8. Tell us about your high school experiences in cross country? How was it in College and then open?
My experiences in cross country varied in high school and college, because I had a fairly successful team in high school, but we were never invited to the big national meets. This meant that I had to travel alone a lot during high school. In college I was on arguably one of the best teams in the country as we never finished lower than second at the NCAA meet. I valued being on a successful team far more than traveling and going to meets alone. Accomplishing goals with a team is far more satisfying than achieving my own individual goals while having a team that is disappointed and wanting more with our goals .

9. How are you with speaking young athletes on your experiences? What was biggest mistake in high school sports?
I really enjoy speaking with younger athletes about what I have learned throughout my career. I love to give back to the running community. I have always said I want to make a long lasting impact on the running world whether it is through my legs or through someone else's legs. I would say that the biggest mistake in high school sports, specific to running, would be that coaches are too afraid to allow their kids to train hard because of the fear of having their athletes "burn out." Burn out only happens when the athlete losses interest, if the athlete trains hard they will not burn out physically, just mentally, in fact that athlete will accomplish a lot and have a great base for the future. Coaches are too focused on "saving" their athletes for college when what they should be worried about preparing them for college and beyond.

10. What keeps you sane during training? Fave music? Fave books?
I would say that training with my training partners and friends is what keeps me sane during training. Also, I am a very goal oriented person and I focus and think about what I want to accomplish the upcoming season and it is always enough to keep me pushing when I am tired or otherwise not wanting to run. I actually like every kind of music, but especially rap and R&B, I know not common for a kid from central Wisconsin, but it gets me fired up to run and race. My favorite book in the "16th Round" by Reuben "Hurricane" Carter. It is a great book that is about a heavy weight champion boxer wrongfully accused of a murder because of his skin color. It is a true story. I really enjoy it because I am a Civil Rights History major.

11. Finally, tell us about your training group? Do you run together every day? Do you run on your own at all anymore?
The training group we have consists of 7 people, all of whom have reached a high level in our sport and are all working together to reach even higher heights. Our group includes, Matt Tegenkamp, Simon Bairu, Jonathon Riley, Tim Nelson, Evan Jager, and Dan Lincoln, and of course myself. We run together whenever it works out which is quite often. We do training camps where we run together virtually every run, but there are times that you need to get out and run on your own. I have never been one to run alone as I like the company of others on my runs, though there are times that I need to get out and run alone and let off some steam when I get stressed or upset about something. I call these venting runs.

12. One more finally, do you have a fave quote, a fave song, that gives you inspiration? If not, that is fine, just thought of this one during some insomnia.
Well I have a few quotes that I think of when I am training, racing, or just need motivation. The one that I am using for this training period and upcoming season is kind of corny, but my dad told me it when I was a junior in high school and trying to defend my state cross country title from the year before. "A hungry dog hunts harder." There is always someone out there that wants it just as much if not more than you, and if you are at the top it can be easy to get complacent, so always remember there is someone out there trying to take you down. This year I am the one who is hungry and I am looking to make a big splash and create some noise this year. Another quote that I have always liked is "Weakness is not my strength." In terms of the song, I have always liked Nelly's "No.1" it has been on my warmup mix since I was a sophomore in high school.

Check out Chris in this video

2008: 5th at Olympic Trials (13:32.17)...4th in two mile at Nike Prefontaine Classic (8:15.77)ŠRunner-up at NCAA Indoors 3,000m (8:03.80).
2007: NCAA 5,000m champ (13:35.12)Š7th at USA Outdoor Champs (13:39.83)Š1st at Oordegem (3:37.27PR)Š3rd at Sheffield (7:36.90PR)Š4th at Heusden (13:12.24PR)Šbests of 3:37.27PR, 7:36.90PR, 13:12.24PR
2006: NCAA Outdoor 1,500m champ (14:11.71)Š12th at USA Outdoor Champs (13:47.24)Šranked #10 in U.S. at 5,000m by T&FNsbests of 13:27.94, 7:54.73i.
2005: 10th at USA Outdoors (13:37.35) 8th at NCAA Outdoors (13:51.36) bests of 13:37.35, 7:53.14.
2004: dnf at NCAA OutdoorsŠbest of 13:42.44.



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