American Milers Club Interview with Australian Olympian Genevieve LaCaze
Genevieve LaCaze completed a nearly perfect senior season at University of Florida in 2012. She improved her personal bests across the board, became a national force in the steeplechase, and finished second at NCAA Championships.
LaCaze, from Australia, needed to hit the Olympic "A" Standard of 9:43.00 in order to qualify for the 2012 London Olympic Games. Unfortunately, Athletics Australia's deadline to hit qualifying marks was June 11th, just two days after the NCAA Final. LaCaze ran 9:50.25 at the NCAA Final, and as the June 11th deadline past, she hadn't acheived the standard.
It looked as though LaCaze would miss her dream of competing in the Olympics while athletes in different countries were just then hitting their peak and earning their spots well after that date.
LaCaze, as well as her coach and agent decided to take a chance and go after the standard anyways. They targeted the June 13th American Milers Club Meet as their shot and went for it, just four days after her personal best and 2nd place finish at NCAA's.
LaCaze raced with passion and heart. As she will talk about in the interview below, she hit her splits perfect and was able to not only win, but run a big personal best and go under the "A" standard, finishing in 9:41.15. LaCaze filed a petition with the committee and after a few stressful days, she was ultimately granted her chance to compete. LaCaze talks below about the experience and what competing at the American Milers Club did for her.
1. Can you start by telling us a little about your senior season, finishing second at NCAA's in the steeplechase, and when you thought qualifying for the Olympics might be a real possibility for you?
My senior year at the University of Florida was not much short of a dream. I started my indoor season rather flat and never really hit anywhere that I expected in all my indoor competitions. When Coach Spangler and I sat down and sorted out what we needed to do, the results were almost immediate. I began to race faster, stronger and gained more confidence every time I took the track. I continued to drop my PBs each competition. The NCAA Outdoor Championships was something I had built up in my head for a while. It was the marking of the last competition I would do as a student-athlete and my last opportunity to qualify for the Olympics as the deadline for Australia was 2 days after NCAAs. I felt strong and had a great weekend but just fell short of the win and also fell short of the A qualifier. I felt pretty down and disappointed because I thought I was walking away from unfinished business of not qualifying.
2. You obviously did accomplish a lot your senior season and as you mentioned, had not yet got the Olympic "A" standard prior to the AMC race. What made you and your coach decide to come to Indy to try to achieve that goal?
As I said, I was really disappointed. I just felt that I had achieved so much in such little time and that I wasn't done yet. I was actually approached by my agent today (Total Sport US) where Stephen Haas offered me another opportunity to run and go for the qualifier one last time. I was over the moon and told my coach and we both agreed we had nothing to lose.
3. How distracting and hard to stay motivated was it trying to go after the Olympic "A" while knowing that you might still not be allowed to compete for Team Australia?
I honestly tried not to think of it that way. I just put in my head that if I got the A standard they would want to take me and I had nothing to lose but everything to gain. I knew that a B standard wouldn't be enough so going into that race I had marked on my hand with a pen every split I had to hit each lap to stay on pace.
4. Can you tell us a little about how your steeple race at the AMC meet panned out and what it was like to get your "A" standard?
Firstly it couldn't have been a more perfect night. The race was late, there was no wind, there was a pacer in the race and enough of a crowd to keep me motivated. It was a great field of girls all trying for a similar mark so I also had a lot of competition behind me to keep up the pace. I hit every split exactly how I had planned which was a really good feeling as I got so deep into the race. When I came around for my last lap I looked at the clock and was more than confident I had done it, as long as I didn't fall on a barrier. When I crossed the line in 9.41 I was overwhelmed with happiness but also relieved. I couldn't believe I had actually got it so my dad dialed someone from Athletics Australia about the news and that's when the protesting began.
5. Were you close at any times to giving up hope that the Australian Olympic Committee might not let you compete?
I was pretty disheartened when I woke up the next morning to people texting me the official statement released by Athletics Australia that they were not going to consider me in the team. At one point I almost accepted that it was all too good to be true however my agent, family and friends were so supportive and assured me there was no way they could knock me back.. and we found the light at the end of the tunnel when I was eventually selected to compete at the London Olympic Games.
6. How was the Olympic experience? Being still at a young age with plenty of room yet to improve, how has it motivated you to take the next step?
The London experience will never be able to be put in words. It was beyond what I could of even dreamed of. I met such amazing people and mixed with the worlds best athletes then got to compete on the worlds largest stage. Any dream I had became reality. It has now allowed me to set higher and more ambitious goals. It opened my eyes to see the potential in this sport and just how far you can go. I strongly believe if you really want something you will work till you get it. After experiencing London and seeing the best of the best, I now have a new goal to where I see myself in years from now and I will work till I get there.
7. How is your current training going and what are your plans for outdoors this season?
Training so far is going great. I am on my way back to the US now after coming back to Australia for the National Championship and World Selection Trials. I had two great races here in Australia and will look to do the A qualifier in the next month or so. I am going to be doing a few fast, packed races to compete against America's finest female elite steeplechase athletes.
8. Can we expect to see you at the AMC series again in the future?
Definitely! This race is the reason I got to fulfill a life long dream! I will definitely be back!