Youngquist looks to make Olympic Team
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Information Manager
USA Track & Field
ST. LOUIS – In only the second marathon of her career, Deeja Youngquist will try to qualify for the 2004 USA Olympic Team Saturday at the U.S. Olympic Women’s Marathon Trials in St. Louis.
Sunny skies and temperatures near 40 degrees will greet the 123 competitors when the race begins Saturday at 7 a.m., Central Time. The top three finishers will represent the U.S. at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece in August. Temperatures are expected to reach the lower 50s when the top placers hit the finish line.
Youngquist, 27, of Albuquerque, N.M., enters as one of the favorites to make the Team USA roster. Youngquist made a statement with her initial foray into marathoning with her 10th place finish at the 2003 Chicago Marathon in 2 hours, 29 minutes, 1 second, the third fastest qualifying mark in the field and the third fastest marathon debut in history by an American woman.
Coached by her boyfriend and fellow elite runner Teddy Mitchell, who competed in the 2004 Olympic Men’s Marathon Trials in February, Youngquist was a 10,000 meter specialist before being convinced by Mitchell and others to give the marathon a try.
A former standout at the University of Washington, where she finished third in the 10,000 meters at the Pac-10 Championships each year from 1996-1998, Youngquist is an air traffic controller by trade, who recently took a less stressful position with the Federal Aviation Administration.
Youngquist answered questions following a press conference Friday morning in St. Louis:
Q: Why did you try the marathon last year?
A: My coach thought I was a marathoner from the start, and all my coaches said ‘you’ll be great when you’re older, you’ll be a marathoner.’ I don’t have any speed on the track, I just suck it up. I tried the Chicago Marathon and it felt fine to me, so I’m going to continue with the marathon as my best race.
Q: What was your goal when you entered the 2003 Chicago Marathon?
A: I was shooting for a 1:14:30 for the first half and I was hoping to carry that pace through, or maybe even faster would be great and I was only like three seconds away from that, so I ran even. I feel like a robot, I just do what my coach (Teddy Mitchell) says.
Q: What have you been working on lately in training?
A: I’ve mostly been working on my strength, tempo runs, lots of miles and not as much intensity as I did for Chicago, which makes me a little tired. I did go up to altitude of 10,000 feet for a week in Mexico and then down to sea level for three weeks. So that, I think, is going to help me going into this race.
Q: What is your strategy on Saturday?
A: I think I’m going to see what everybody else is doing and adjust, but if it goes out slow I’m going to just stay up with them, but if it gets to the last six miles I don’t have speed, so I’m not waiting that long. I’ll probably go if nobody else does at about halfway or around there.
Q: What would it mean to you to make the Olympic Team in only the second marathon of your career?
A: That would mean everything to me. That would mean so much and it would be great. I’m shooting maybe for a PR, or maybe top five. This is new to me, but I’m going to shoot for the third spot.
Q: How are your nerves right now?
A: Actually, pretty good. My coach is more nervous than me, and he’s starting to bug me actually (laughter). He just better calm down. I did the preparation and I feel confident.
Q: What was it like to be an air traffic controller?
A: I was doing that before and that’s when I started running in Albuquerque for stress relief, and I continued running. I switched out of that right when I figured out that I could win races, and it was just too stressful and taxing. You train for about four years straight and I was still in the training process, but it was stressful. Now I just do all the odd jobs around the building. Now I’m the “less stress job girl” (laughter). Everyone there is really great and really supportive.
For more information on the 2004 Olympic Women’s Marathon Trials, visit www.usatf.org.