Catching Up With NC State's Ryan Hill
North Carolina State University senior Ryan Hill is off to a fast start this winter. Currently ranked collegiate #2 in the 3,000m with his 7:49.20 performance this past weekend at the Husky Classic, while ranking collegiate #1 over 5,000m for nearly two months with his 13:43.52 victory at the Hoosier Open in early December, Hill is showing he's stepping up his game in his final collegiate season.
After finishing fifth in the 5,000m at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials this past summer, as well as running a 3:56 mile in Ireland, Hill is poised for a big senior season. We caught up with Hill this week as he tunes up for the Millrose Wanamaker Mile, where he chatted about what he learned from the Olympic Trials, what his goals are this season, how he kept focusing during the fall when he wasn't running cross country and much more.
Scott Bush (SB): Congratulations on a big win this past weekend at the Husky Classic. Between your 3k victory and your sub-13:45 performance in December, you have to be feeling good about the start of your 2013 track season, right?
Ryan Hill (RH): I wanted more out of both of those races but I think they will get the job done as far as qualifying for NCAA's. I am much happier with workouts and training than the Husky 3k, but regardless of time I was able to run near the front and finish strong in last 800m, which is something I have to work on. I hope that better performances are in the near future as 2013 is a pivotal year in my running career.
SB: You didn't race this fall. What was it like for you not having the fall season to focus on, having to focus all the way ahead to December?
RH: I had been mentally preparing not to compete with my teammates a few years leading up to this fall but I had no idea how tough it would be to "sit out". I almost had to detach myself from their training and racing to get through it. Fortunately I had a great post-collegiate group of Bobby Mack, Stephen Furst, and Sandy Roberts that I could call my fall teammates. They really helped me find my place in training and racing outside of NCAA competition.
It also helped that I raced in Europe this summer. I was ready for a break and a slow build up before a road race in November and the Hoosier 5k in December. I also assistant coached a high school cross-country team here in Raleigh, which was a really cool experience that allowed me to devote my time to something I cared about.
SB: This is your final track and field season as a member of the Wolfpack. What are your expectations for yourself both for the indoor season and outdoor season?
RH: I expect myself to be in contention for an NCAA championship in some event, whatever that may be. I have always expected myself to compete and train hard but this year has been at another level because the end is near and I really want to leave a mark on the program.
I am also selfishly expecting some attention from agents, sponsors, and post collegiate coaches, as well. I definitely understand that this year is crucial for my value to those with resources.
SB: You finished fifth at the Olympic Trials in the 5k. What did you learn from that race and how's it going to help you this season and into the future?
RH: I really learned that I can compete with the best guys. After the race when I looked at the results I was thinking "I could have been top three if I just had the confidence in myself to make it happen.” No matter what the race, everyone on the line is human and can be beaten so I have to approach these championship events more aggressively. Also, I was starting to lose confidence in my 5k ability, but it was absolutely renewed.
SB: You have a pretty good group of teammates to train with. What has it meant to you to be a part of such a strong team for the past handful of years?
RH: Nothing quite compares to the feeling of accomplishing team goals. For example my proudest moments at NC State have been our 2 ACC cross country championships and our top 10 national performance in 2011. I was just one person on that team; it took 4-6 other guys believing in our success to get those things done. In my opinion, knowing that your friends/teammates are relying on you provides more motivation than personal goals. But outside of athletics, I have had a cast of friends since day 1 which is huge because running gets old, you need people that are just your friends sometimes. I'v always had that at NC State.
SB: A lot of people view you more of a strength runner, but you finished third at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the 1,500m last year and ran a 3:56 mile in Ireland. Will you continue to focus on both the 1,500m and 5,000m this year or do you feel you'll specialize more in one event over the other?
RH: I feel like after every race and workout I convince myself that I am better at the other event. After strength stuff I am sure I am a 5k guy...after speed sessions I feel like a miler. I am through choosing which one I am better at and instead looking at championship fields and deciding which offers me a better chance of winning/succeeding. Last year it was 1500 at NCAA and 5000 at the trials. It will probably be a similar situation this year.
SB: A lot of people talk about the physical side of the sport, but what have you done from a mental standpoint to become a better runner?
RH: I think my inherent personality is relaxed. That feeds into the way I handle competition. Losing is part of the game, I really don’t get scared of racing because I had a bad race. Honestly, I don’t feel I have changed anything mentally since high school, it’s been a physical transformation in most part. I have developed a better understanding for training and its purposes, I know what’s necessary to be good but I am always learning knew stuff.
SB: Car you drive?
RH: 2005 Ford Explorer, the Hill family buys American
SB: Shoes you train in?
RH: Adidas Boston
SB: Favorite band?
RH: Tom Petty and the Hearbreakers
SB: Pre-race meal?
RH: For a P.M. race, foot-long turkey sub with chips and water about 5 hours out
SB: College major?
RH: Sport Management
SB: Favorite workout?
RH: Fast stuff, like 3*(400/200/200) around sub 1500 pace