Steph Reilly is all too familiar with Franklin Park. The PC grad (class of 2001) ran her share of big races there back in her days competing as a Friar. Now, she coaches the Bulldogs of Bryant University. In running around from point to point at the New England’s last weekend, it was hard to not notice all of the competitive post-collegiate runners that were also coaching in some role with teams competing that day. Just to name a few besides Steph:
Eric Ashe - UMass Boston
Katie Matthews - Boston University
Tim Ritchie - Boston College
Eric Blake - Central Connecticut State University
Sam Alexander - CCSU
Those are just the ones that were seen, there were most likely others. It was cool to see so many runners who are typically the subjects of post-race interviews at local road races out there coaching the next generation.
As far as Steph and what she’s doing with her program at Bryant, we had a few questions for her:
Where does New England’s fall on your schedule in terms of importance and focus? It seems a lot of other schools don’t place much importance on it anymore.
New England’s has always been and will remain an important race for us. It is a great regional tradition and we are proud to be a part of it. Although our focus is on our conference Championships, this race comes right in the middle of the season where it gives my athletes the chance to test themselves on a fair course.
How big of a boost is it to see Eimear finish 2nd (highest ever for a Bulldog)? What has her progression been like from frosh to senior seasons?
That was a huge boost for Eimear. I am not surprised though. I always knew she had that kind of ability in her. Eimear has had her fair share of ups and downs when it comes to running. From frosh year to now, she has made significant improvement. As a frosh she came in with injuries, and had lost all belief in her own ability, and that year was a rough one. There was a lot we had to figure out and make right, and piece by piece things started to come together. I was confident in her talent and ability. She has learned so much from her experiences over the last three years that now she is in such a great place with understanding her running. We have made adjustments to her training and each time she has come back stronger.
Next up is the CCSU mini meet, right? Why go to a mini meet so late in the season?
Yes, we do the mini meet eight days before the NEC meet. Think of it like a track race – your goal is a 5000m at the end of a season, and more than likely the week before you will jump in a 1500m to fire the engine, and do a faster race. The same kind of logic applies for this: a 5000m/3000m XC the week before their 8000m/5000m championships. It won’t beat them up, but at the same time it will give them a really good workout.
What exactly is this Bulldog workout that you floated out there to the team?
Haha – The Bulldog Workout is a workout we have been doing every XC season for the last 5 years or so. It is our signature workout, and we typically do it right around the middle of the season after New England’s. It is the men’s little piece of tradition and they look forward to it each year. It involves a combination of track and XC terrain intervals. The details - you might have to ask them.
How confident are you about the conference championships?
I am very confident, and very excited for the conference championships. If you look at our season of racing and training from the summer to now, it has been very consistent. Consistency leads to confidence for us all, and that’s what we take into a meet like the conference championships. The one bad workout or that one bad race you had at some point throughout the season does not define the season. The NEC championship will be a great opportunity to showcase the work we have put in.
Steph had a successful day of coaching on Saturday, then the next day she was competing herself at the Wayland XC Festival (part of the USATF-NE XC Circuit). Although she didn’t win, Steph still ran an 18:14 for the 5k and finished second. We also had a few questions for the Olympian about how she did and what she’s been up to:
You ran the Wayland XC Festival…and lost! What gives?
Cross country has never been my forte for a number of reasons. I am a lot better on the track and the roads. Wayland XC was something for fun, although as you know, runners sometimes have a quirky idea of fun! The only reason I went is because my 7 year old son Marcus ran in the kids 3k race. As a parent, it is a lot of fun watching your kids compete and to try new things. [Note: Marcus came in 46th in the 10 & Under race, running 15:15 for 3k. Not bad for a seven year old. Salazar may be getting a room ready for him in Oregon.]
When last we spoke (at Lone Gull) you were a little uncertain about the near future as far as target races went. Any updates?
Honestly, still no updates and have made no plans. I am enjoying time with family, going to soccer games, movies, and lots of other good stuff. As always, I love working at Bryant and continuing to build our teams. It is an exciting time working with our current students and also Alumni who are getting more connected with our program. Those things keep me very busy, but in the next month I will map out a plan for running goals in 2014.
Were you planning on running at Wayland? Or did you get all amped up for it while watching the college kids run around Franklin Park?
I had no plans to do XC or even Wayland for that matter. Until we noticed the kids races, and thought Marcus would have fun doing it. He loved it, and I enjoyed watching him. In regards to Franklin Park, I always get pumped up watching my Bryant teams race, and they are a big reason why I am still running competitively. They motivate and inspire me daily.
Would you give any thought to really going for it in somethign like the BAA Distance Medley (try to give Kim Smith a run for her money), or does your schedule not leave room for it?
Yes I think I would be interested in doing something like the BAA medley. I think the timing of it would be fine. I would do it as a personal challenge more than anything. I am not at that level to be competitive for top prizes in the medley event. But that is not a deterrent for me. I do something because I want to, and because I enjoy the challenge it offers.
Will you be doing said Bulldog workout with the team?
I didn’t do the workout with them. Much more enjoyable watching them do it.
With only one event to go (the City of Manchester Marathon), Steph has locked up the road racing grand prix title. After her race on Sunday, she also has some cross country points. Not a bad year for the coach.