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AAU Alum Sheffey paces University of Tennessee in XC opener

September 15, 2011
AAU Athletics

Originally published at http://www.utladyvols.com

Written by: Eric Trainer

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Brittany Sheffey is a senior cross country runner from Bellport, N.Y., who turned in a fourth-place finish in a personal-best time of 14:11.83 at the 4K Belmont-VU Opener on Sept. 2. It marked the first time in her collegiate career that she had paced Tennessee, but it was the 19th-straight meet during her career that she factored into the Big Orange’s scoring total.

On Saturday, she will lead the Lady Volunteers into battle vs. Kentucky at the Tennessee Invitational in Maryville. Race time for the UT women is 9:45 a.m. Eastern time on the 5000-meter trail at Lambert Acres Golf Club. For directions to the course and other information, please go to Tennessee Invitational website.

Here are Sheffey’s responses to “Twenty Questions” from UTLadyVols.com:

1. How old were you when you decided that you wanted to run competitively?

BS: “When I was 12, I was in the seventh grade, and I started to run cross country. I really liked it, and I was doing pretty well at it and got moved up to high school track. I liked the feeling of doing well. I liked being on the team, inspiring people and having them inspire and motivate you. I just liked the whole team aspect.”

Editor’s Note: After running middle school cross country as a seventh-grader, Sheffey ran high school track since there was no middle school indoor track available at Bellport Middle School. From that point on, she competed for the Bellport High School team.

2. Who were some of the people who encouraged you to pursue running?

BS: “I was first motivated by some teachers I had. My middle school teacher I ran cross country with for the first time was Miss Roth. She moved me up to high school track, so from that point on my coach was Mr. Schoppman. My family and my friends also influenced and encouraged me, too.”

3. Do you have any pre-race superstitions or rituals?

BS: “I try to pray a lot to relax myself. I am one who goes to Dr. Joe Whitney (UT’s director of mental training), and I use some of the things he has taught me to relax myself. I also listen to music.”

4. What is your pre-race go-to musical artist or group?

BS: “I really like R&B music to relax me. I like some “Florida” music that I’ve actually gotten from Brittany Jones (track & field teammate), so I listen to some of that. It’s more the beats. I’m a beat type person when it comes to music. I also like Nikki Minaj’s song,”Fly;” I really like that song and have been listening to it recently.”

5. Do you get nervous before you race? If so, how do you deal with that?

BS: “Yes, I do. I pray a lot. I go to Joe Whitney, so I use the techniques he has taught me, and it helps a lot. Thank God I have him! He talks about breathing, relaxing and believing in yourself and knowing that your race is important, but if you don’t do well it’s not the end of the world.”

6. What is your favorite cross country course you’ve ever run?

BS: “Paul Short.” (The Brooks Paul Short Run in Bethlehem, Pa., is contested on the Goodman Campus Course at Lehigh University. UT will run there on Sept. 30.)

7. How does Lambert Acres compare? Do you notice the scenery there?

BS: “I haven’t been there in so long (since 2008), but I do remember it being tough. It might be the fact that I was younger, but I do remember it being tough. As I talk to my teammates, both current and past, I know everyone thinks it is tough.

“At first I didn’t (notice the Smoky Mountains in the background) because I was so focused on the meet. I was young and very nervous. After the race when we had a workout, you get to experience that a little more.”

8. Facebook, Twitter or both?

BS: “Actually, neither. I have a Facebook, and I very rarely go on there. I did more two years ago, but now I’m not active with it. I don’t really have time, and I’m not real interested. I thought about deleting it, but I haven’t because you are in contact with people who aren’t right here in the immediate area. It keeps you in contact with old friends. I use my phone more. I’m a big phone person – texting and calls.”

9. What’s your favorite thing about running cross country?

BS: “The accomplishment. I feel accomplishment always after I have some type of success or finish a race, but I feel a great sense of accomplishment after cross country races, I guess because I know a problem I have is concentration over time. Cross country is so tough and there are a lot of aspects that come into play sometimes. You have to tap into other things besides talent, so there is a lot that goes into it.

“It’s very mental, and one of my weaknesses has been being mentally strong with concentration over a long period of time. In the beginning I’m fine, and at the end I’m fine. It’s that middle part (that I have trouble with), and that’s cross country.”

10. What do you think about while you are running, and how do you keep yourself focused during the course of a race?

BS: “I’m the kind of person who uses markers to break the race up. I focus on getting from one marker to the next marker, similar to how I would do in a race on a track. My markers may be in 1000s or by miles. Breaking it up into shorter increments seems to help.”

11. Is there any talking going on out there, and what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever heard someone say on the course?

BS: “It’s much more physical out there than people realize. There’s a lot of elbowing and jostling for position, especially in cross country, where there are so many more people out there than there are in races on the track. You just want to get out into the lead. You hear people cheering on their teammates to get up there and stay with them.

“I’ve heard foul language. (Laughs) You’re getting into the grit of it, and people get irritated because they’ve been hit or cut off by someone.”

12. If you find yourself with some free time, after classes, practice and studying, of course, what do you like to do?

BS: “I’m a big sleeper, so I sleep a lot. I like to hang out with my friends on the team. My boyfriend is here at UT, so I like to hang out with him. I have a puppy; her name is Diamond, so I hang out with Diamond a lot. I also like to watch movies.”

13. What’s your favorite sport to play or watch (other than track and field or cross country), and why?

BS: “I’ve always liked gymnastics and ice skating. I really like to watch it on TV. It’s such an art. All sports are art, but those truly are. I feel like people don’t know all the hard work that goes into it to see the beautiful picture that comes out. It’s very similar to running in that way as well as the idea of competing individually against the rest of the field.

14. You have an undergraduate degree in political science and are pursuing a master’s in agricultural leadership. What do you plan to do with that combination of degrees?

BS: “I am thinking about being a lobbyist. I really want to get involved in community involvement, activist-type work. Right now, I’m researching youth development organizations, and I’d really like to get involved with an organization like the United Way or some type of youth development organization.”

15. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in your running career?

BS: “My transition from high school to college, and then knowing what it takes to have success. You need to have a lot of discipline, know how to manage your time and eat well. Also, the redshirt year (2009 track/2010 cross country) that I had to sit out because of an injury was very difficult. I felt like I was in pretty good shape, and I was really excited and felt like things were really coming together. I know God allows everything to happen for a reason, so I knew that my time would come and I’d get to run again.”

16. What does it feel like to wear Lady Vol orange and represent UT?

BS: “It just feels so great. It’s a great tradition, and there is so much love and support from our campus, community, fans, teammates and family. It makes you want to go out and live up to the tradition, do your best and show all of the hard work that we do here.

“People approach us at meets, and it’s great. That happens especially during track season at Penn Relays and closer to home. People just love Tennessee and the Lady Vols, so you just want to show them what that is all about. I’m just so grateful to be here, you want to represent the program in a positive way.”

17. What’s something interesting about you that people may not know?

BS: “My first job, I was a clown and a party leader. I would lead around characters, like Dorothy the Dinosaur from the Wiggles and Elmo (Sesame Street). Yes, I did that. It was back home at Fancy Parties by Michelle.”

18. Were you nervous about your first race after not competing last season or did you feel prepared because you ran so well in the spring on the track?

BS: “I was nervous. You’re always nervous when you get out there for your first race. I just knew I had to be there for my teammates. I’m an upperclassman as the girls were to me when I was younger, and I wanted to be there for my team and get out there and run. We’ve been practicing hard, and I just wanted to continue to develop, get that race in and see some progression.”

19. How did it feel to come back from last season and set a 4K PR in the first meet of the season?

BS: “It felt really good. It was a good start, and it makes me happy. Things are going in the right direction and the plan is for things to continue to get better.”

20. What are your expectations as you prepare to run this weekend in the Tennessee Invitational?

BS: “We’ve been putting some good workouts together, so we just want to continue to reach our goals for each meet and for the entire season. We want to gradually get closer as a team, stay motivated and work hard, knowing that we’re not just hurting for ourselves but for our team. We want to strive to meet our goal for the end of the season, which is to be the best we can be for our team.”


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