Sarah Oliver

Part 1

GTD: Sarah, when we talked in December, 2014, you were coming off the xc season in your junior year at Marblehead HS, and you described how you handled injury issues. It's now late January in your senior year. Can you give us an update?

Sarah: Last winter I took all of December to recover, both mentally and physically. I pool ran nearly every day after school, and often I was able to convince some friends to join me! I actually enjoyed operating on my own schedule for a while rather than the strict training regimen of the team.

Come January, I was more prepared than ever to really focus and push myself in training. My outdoor track season began in January, and carried me all the way to the state meet in June. I had no idea I would make it so far after such a long injury! I believe that Coach Braz's support and coaching during my recovery time was key to my successful return.

I was able to stay healthy and continued to improve until mid-October, when I began to experience shin pain again. This time, I wasn't quite able to outrun it. My season was cut short by a stress fracture in my right tibia. This injury has been incredibly taxing on my mental fortitude. I admit, there were some days where I struggled to maintain my normally inherent optimism.

The stresses of senior year and college applications were building up, making it even more difficult to face this injury with a positive attitude. However, if there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that I always can, and will, rebound. Over the summer, coach Pete told me something I've never forgotten: "never be afraid of becoming too strong." When my physical therapist told me that my injuries were a result of muscle imbalances, I immediately turned to strength training as a way to combat this injury and relieve some of the stress it inevitably caused.

Now, I'm stronger than I ever have been before, and I'm slowly starting to run again! I don't know if I'll be able to PR this spring season, but right now my focus is getting 100% healthy for college running.

GTD: Many runners do something other than run. For example, they may have a summer job or other important commitment. Since the GTD xc conditioning program starts at 8am for 3 days each week, it can be difficult to train and work. How did you manage it? What were you heading off to after each xc session?

Sarah: Over the summer I worked at a biotech startup called Cellanyx, located in Beverly. Four days a week I worked from morning to afternoon doing prostate cancer research, cell culture, and immunofluorescence on real cell lines. Though this work was incredibly rewarding, it made training difficult.

Luckily I was able to work with Coach Braz to ensure that I completed the onsite workouts on time, and any core/strength/stretching that I missed I could complete at a more convenient time.

It's easy to slack off or make excuses when you get busy-I admit I'm guilty of doing it myself! But if you're able to make time for work, you can make time for training. It's all about priorities. For me, I value running just as much as anything else. Even though it was sometimes easy to say, "I don't have time for core or stretching," I did it anyway because I knew it would help me reach my goals. Coach Braz and all the other coaches onsite were there to remind us not to lose sight of these goals and values.

GTD: One of the keys to successful running, and especially finding the edge that produces your best results, is nutrition. What you eat. And drink. Tell us how your nutritional plan affects your running.

Sarah: I'm actually glad you asked this! Over the past few years, my diet has slowly shifted away from meat and animal products, and more towards a vegetarian diet.

In October, I decided to go completely vegan. There are many misconceptions about veganism, especially in regards to vegan athletes. I'm often asked, "how do you get protein?" Or "what do you eat?" My favorite is, "can you eat bread?" Yes, I can eat bread. I could go on and on about all the different food options I have, because in reality, veganism is not limiting at all! In fact, my diet has become more varied because of it.

Making the switch to veganism can be difficult for those unaccustomed to a plant-based diet or to mindful eating in general, so it's always best to do your homework first. Even I went to a nutritionist to ensure I was getting all the nutrients I needed to perform at a high level! I'm happy to say that ever since I made the switch to 100% animal free, I feel healthier than ever. I have more energy, healthier skin and hair, and I'm even putting on muscle! I'm excited to see how my vegan diet will aid my running career as I start to really train again.

GTD: XC is an individual and a team sport. An important benefit of the GTD xc program is the opportunity to train with competitive runners who are not on your team. Can you explain how this improves individual as well as team competitiveness?

Sarah: No matter how great the love for running, everyone has days where they feel unmotivated or tired. Training with other elite runners at GTD over the summer provides a team when there is none. Every year, I find myself wishing that this could be my team year-round! At GTD, I am surrounded by other runners who value the sport just as much as I do. Their competitive spirit and talent pushes me not only through the day's workout, but during the regular season as well.

However, the greater benefit of this camp is possibly the resulting friendship I now have with other competitive runners. When you're around likeminded athletes 3-4 days a week, experiencing the same workouts and laughing about the same jokes, bonding is inevitable. I consider my summer running "teammates" to be some of my closest friends. During the school year we get busy, and rarely see each other except for the occasional meets. But once camp begins again, we start exactly where we left off, just enjoying the training process and motivating each other. I respect these girls, and consider it an honor to be able to train with them, if only for a few weeks. Their smiles and accomplishments remind me every day why I love this sport.

Part 2

GTD: In your shortened xc season, were there any highlights?

Sarah: I ran my 5k PR on October 17th at the Brown Invitational xc meet, in 18:58. It was the first (and only) time I've broken 19 minutes. It was also my last race before my shin injury.

GTD: You won the NEC championship in 2014. Other racing accomplishments?

Sarah: I was voted a Salem News All Star for the past 2 years of cross country and track. Ever since I received my team's coaches award my freshman year of xc, I have been motivated to uphold that honor. Even though I've never been captain, I feel like it's my job to encourage my teammates and to offer whatever help and advice I can.

In track last year I PRed in the 2 mile at the D3 eastern state meet with a time of 11:24, finishing 6th. That qualified me for all states, and 3 days later I returned with an 11:29 2 mile and a 12th place finish.

GTD: What about school?

Sarah: On the academic side, I've been a member of National Honor Society since spring of my junior year, and I carry a 4.4 GPA. I'm incredibly passionate about health, biology, and the body, so I'm currently taking three science classes (even though I'm not required to take any). I have been a high honor student every year of high school, and I also received the Dartmouth Book Award last spring for my academic achievements.

GTD: What do you do in your "down time"?

Sarah: In addition to school and running, for over a year I have been volunteering every weekend at the Northeast Animal Shelter, the largest no-kill shelter on the north shore. Not many teenagers could say that they enjoy waking up at 6am on Sunday mornings, but I happily sacrifice the extra sleep for my shelter puppies! It's by far one of my favorite activities each week.

I work at a yoga studio, and have been practicing yoga for over 5 years. Not only is my body more flexible, I'm also a lot more patient and mindful because of it! I plan to be a certified yoga teacher one day, too.

GTD: Any progress on solving world hunger and curing the common cold?

Sarah: I have yet to solve world hunger or cure the common cold, but I do intend to alter current climate trends. I initially went vegan because of the incredible environmental costs of eating meat. I want my career path to make a positive contribution to our country's energy use and sustainability.

GTD: College plans?

Sarah: This fall I will be attending Tufts University (Go Jumbos!) and hope to study biology, environmental science, and/or entrepreneurial leadership.

Sarah with two of her summer team training partners, Tia Patterson and Steph Casaletto

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Nadja Ueckert-LaPlante, Ipswich HS, Dec. 2017
Marissa Farago, Triton HS, Apr. 2017
Anthony Pizzo, AIC, Dec. 2016
Matt Loehle, UConn, Dec. 2016
Emily DeMarco, Ipswich HS, Apr. 2016
Sarah Oliver, Marblehead HS, Jan. 2016
AJ Ernst, Marblehead HS, Dec. 2015
Abby Walsh, Beverly HS, Dec. 2015
Sydney Packard, Bishop Fenwick HS, Dec. 2015
Griffin Barriss, Melrose HS, Dec. 2015
Tia Patterson, Boston College, Dec. 2015
Thomas Mackin, Lynn Classical HS, Dec. 2015
Riley Dowd, Stonehill College, Nov. 2015
Emily Weigand, American University, Nov. 2015
Connor Wolff, Stonehill College, Nov. 2015
Lexi Buonfiglio, Stonehill College, Nov. 2015
Victoria Holleran, St John, Peabody, Mar. 2015
Abby Walsh, Beverly HS, Dec. 2014
Riley Dowd, Peabody HS, Dec. 2014
Sarah Oliver, Marblehead HS, Dec. 2014
Tia Patterson, Lynnfield HS, Nov. 2014
Emily Horgan, Univ. of Vermont, Nov. 2014
Arianna Maida, Bishop Fenwick HS, Sep. 2014