Interview: Tara Enebak

With dominant performances in the 6A cross country championship and the 6A 3200m in indoors, it does not seem as though you are having any trouble with the competition in the longer events this year. With outdoor coming, do you think you will concentrate harder on shorter 1600m race to try for the 16/32 double, or go ahead and focus on your long distance strength to establish a stout personal best time in the 3200m?

Since my strength is in the longer distance, I want to work harder on the 1600m while still improving in the 3200m. So I know that I have my work cut out for me, but I'm confident that I'm able to train for both. Plus, I enjoy both races and my coaches are confident in my ability to lead my team in both events. For the past two years, my coaches have been trying to get me stronger in the shorter distance, so I'm very happy with how it's all going right now.

While you are doing so well in 6A, your strongest competition in the 3200m run is competing in the smaller divisions. Have you made a goal to try to compete with Griffith, Lenn, Mulkin, and Bryant, or are you most concerned with other 6A runners like Laurel Pritchard and Emry McKay?

This year we aren't traveling very much due to the increased cost of traveling, so I won't be able to directly compete with girls in other divisions, let alone in 6A. However, I do pay attention to what everyone is running, and it gives me times to try and shoot for.

What exactly are your goal times for the outdoor season?

My major goals this year are to break two big time barriers: 5:00 min in the 1600m and 11:00 min in the 3200m. Other than those two large leaps, I hope to just keep improving upon my P.R.'s.

With second-place finishes in the 3200m at both of your last two state track meets, how important will getting the win be for you?

Obviously, it is something that I was thinking about as soon as I had cooled down from last year's race, adding another state title is something that I want to do, but then again it's also about running a strong time. For instance, I was ecstatic about my win at the cross country championship, but wasn't thrilled at all about my time.

Enebak already had a large lead at the half point of her state cross race.

Also last year, you were one of three women in the 6A 1600m race to run 5:10. (5:10.00, 5:10.03, 5:10.82) Though both of the other women graduated, Elizabeth Wancowitz has been running well (5:12.11 indoors), as has Pritchard (5:15). Do you expect another fast down-to-the-wire race this year?

How could you not expect another exciting race? Both Elizabeth and Laurel ran amazing races at indoor and I'm sure that there will also be other girls up in the mix come outdoor state and I plan on being up in the mix.

Other than the state meet, what dates are you looking forward to as important races this spring?

I've been invited down to the Meet of Champions again this year. Except instead of running the 3200m like I have in the past, I think that they want me to run the 1600m. I'm not quite sure if they expect me to run both, though.

How would you describe your racing style?

I'm a very goal oriented runner and I don't get caught up in the excitement at the start of the race, this sometimes puts me at the back of the pack, which tends to scare both my coaches and parents.

When you started your varsity career at Auburn, the men's team was a very strong distance program, one that has since sent several athletes into NCAA Division I competition. Meanwhile, you have been the only distance threat on a sprint-oriented women's team. What have you gained from the older guys you ran with, and what differences do you feel at practice now that the distance men are all graduated?

Since I've been at the high school, the men's team was the strongest when I was a freshmen, so I wasn't by any means running the workouts with them. On the "easy" days I would sometimes run with them, but then at the end of the run I would often be bent over trying to catch my breath. Being able to be around Ryan Thompson, Kevin McDonough, and Clay Askew, pretty much everyday, even though I wasn't always up there in the mix of things during a workout, was a very positive influence on me and I learned a lot from being around them. Everything from good routes to run and superstitions about what will help my running, like giving up carbonated beverages. Ultimately, I think watching them continue their running career into college, got me thinking about how far I wanted to carry my own running and how much I was willing to work. At practice now, I usually run all my workouts with the guys, the only difference is that I have developed enough that I can hit pace, while the younger guys haven't quite learned the trick. Also my coach, Amanda Wright, ran in high school and college and even had the 800m Record for Auburn, so I'm lucky to have her as a training partner for the repeats on the track.

What is one of your favorite workouts?

For cross country my favorite workout is Old Mill. We run up this steep, steady hill which is close to 800m long and then loop back down to the base. The hardest part is at the top, where it is the steepest, plus once at the top we stride it out for another 200m.

If you could go back to any point in your career and do one thing differently, what would it be?

The summer before my sophomore year, I ran over 300 miles and was only drinking sports drinks, plus at that point in time I wasn't taking a multi-vitamin. As a result, I got a stress fracture and was out for most of the season. It was a rough and very long nine weeks for me as I was limited to the pool and bike. Luckily, I was given the o.k. to start running with 3 weeks left in the season and managed to finish 3rd at the cross country championship. So if I could, I would have taken better care to get enough calcium and Vitamin D that summer.

Where are you in the process of selecting a college? Will collegiate running be a factor in your final decision?

I am definitely going to run in college, I just haven't figured out where yet. I know that I want to continue running and it will be a factor in my decision, but as my dad says, "There is no NFL for runners," so even more important than the running is making sure I go where I can get a good degree.

Who were the biggest influences to getting you into track, and to what or whom do you attribute any part of your success?

I joined Rec Track in 5th grade and have been running ever since, although it wasn't until I was a freshman in high school that it became a big priority and full time commitment. Both of my parents ran track in high school, so I guess it's in the blood, but seriously, they are very supportive. They help out at home meets, come to the away meets, and this past cross country season they drove the team to every cross country meet.

Have you found it difficult to earn due recognition as a championship-caliber athlete as a female?

I don't feel like I've experienced any undue recognition as a female, but several of my non-runner friends, especially those that play football or basketball will be the first to tell you that I've found it difficult to earn recognition because I'm a runner, a long distance runner at that. But that is something that I've accepted, if you will, that I just live in a state and especially a town where people live, eat and breath football and basketball.

Do you remember what your better tests were in the presidential tests back in grade school? do you remember any of your times or marks from those?

I remember that I never got the presidential certificate, because I couldn't do any pull-ups. But that is something that I'm trying to work on and as of now I can do ten cheater-pull-ups.

What is the greatest thrill from running that you experience regularly?

I just love running. I mean not everyday am I jumping out of bed eager for a morning run, or even a workout after school, but it takes an "off day" every now and then to make those great days even better.

What has been the single high point of your career?

It is very difficult to say what has been the single high point of my career. But I think that it would probably be the 2002 Indoor Track Championship, where I ran two incredible P.R.'s and walked away from the weekend with my first two state titles.

Thanks for your time, Tara!