Lodi High long-distance standout Cassidy Daley recently qualified for her third state meet in her career and for the second time in the state cross country championships being held at Woodward Park in Fresno on Saturday.
Daley recently placed fourth in Division I at the Sac-Joaqin Section Masters Championships at Willow Hill in Folsom with a time of 18 minutes, 50 seconds on the three-mile course to advance to the state meet.
A sophomore, Daley, who placed 19th in the 3200 at the state track and field championships as a freshman in addition to last year's state cross country meet, will also compete in the Junior Olympics regional qualifier in Folsom the day after the state meet.
News-Sentinel sports writer Richard Banas II did an interview with Daley as she prepared for the state meet.
Q: This is your second time running at the state cross country championships. How have your goals changed from when you were a freshman up until now?
A: When I was a freshman my goal was just to make it to state; it was all just an experience last year. As for this year, I have goals to do well at state and improve my personal records .
Q: What improvements have you made in your times since last season?
A: My best time last year was 19:41 at sections. At every meet this year I improved my times from the last year and I'm really proud of that. Currently my best time for a 5K is 18:37 at the Clovis Invite, which was held at the state course. I bettered my time by over two minutes from state. My three-mile personal record is 18:15 at Mt. Sac, the toughest course in the world; I was 5th. My freshman year at Mt. Sac I was 53rd and my time was 21:39. I bettered my time by 3:26. I am really proud of that. Next year I want to take 1st at Mt. Sac.
Q: Last season, you were happy just to be there and finish in the top 120. How do you see yourself finishing this season?
A: This season I feel like I want to be top 30.
Q: You are by now quite familiar with Woodward Park and the course. How can you take advantage of that in order to improve your times?
A: After running the Clovis Invite this year at Woodward Park, I learned the course better and it was a lot easier compared to state last year. I know the spots where I need to push myself and speed up.
Q: Tell me how you have been training for the state meet? What is a normal training day for you?
A: I have been doing speed workouts twice a week. This week consists of Monday on the track at 600, 400, 300 and 200 meters of speed; Tuesday, an easy run of four miles; Wednesday, a little less speed; Thursday and Friday, easy mileage (three miles) leading up to Saturday's race.
Q: You have been training with (teammate) Brenley Noori and (coach and former Lodi runner) Jeff Merrill. How have they helped you in your preparations?
A: Brenley is my running buddy. We have done all the workouts together this season so she is training me as she trains for the Junior Olympics. She helps pace me and makes the practices fun. Jeff Merrill and Leah Rosenfield are new coaches and they are both great. They make the workouts and know so much about running. They have both helped me with my physical and mental competition.
Q: The day after the state meet, you will also run in the Junior Olympics qualifier in Folsom. In essence, you are actually preparing for two races this weekend, not just one. How will this affect you physically?
A: As of right now I am focusing on one race at a time. I am hoping to give it my all at state. Of course I will be tired on Sunday but I am still very excited for Junior Olympics. I will do some recovery exercises Saturday night and will do my best in that race also. I will definitely be sore but I can run through that.
Q: What kind of running strategy for the state meet have you and Coach Greg Wright devised?
A: To get up in the pack at the start so I don't get stuck behind all the girls. Just stay up there with the top 20-30 pack and see what happens from there.
Q: Talk about the mental part of cross country running. What goes through your mind as you are out there on the course? What are you thinking?
A: When I am running I just think about almost being done, when I get to eat after, or I sing songs in my head. I always try to stay positive and keep telling myself "I can do it." One of my favorite quotes is "The only way to succeed is to give it all you've got."
Q: What day will you be leaving for Fresno? Will you be missing the Lodi-Pleasant Grove football game this week? How do you feel about that?
A: I will be leaving Friday morning and will go to the course Friday to warm up on it and then we will stay in a hotel. Yes I will have to miss the football game but hopefully they will win so I can go to the next game.
Q: Is your ultimate goal to compete in the Junior Olympics or even the Olympics? What are your dreams.
A: Well I did Junior Olympics for cross country and track last year and it was a great experience. I hope to travel all over the U.S. for races in the future. My dream as of now is to get a scholarship to a Division I college and run in a great program.
Contact reporter Richard Banas II at firstname.lastname@example.org.