Syracuse Orange distance runners Martin Hehir and Justyn Knight have spent 2015 breaking school records, winning ACC titles, and gaining national recognition for their performances. I was able to get them to slow down for a few minutes to share some insight on their training, the Syracuse program, and what they plan to run at next week's NCAA East Regional meet. It certainly helped that our interview took place after the team had completed the infamous "Sweet Road" workout, a 6-mile tempo run in the hills outside of Syracuse, which has become a program staple under Syracuse Coaches Chris Fox and Brien Bell.
The training for the two runners is one of the few noticeable differences between the duo. Hehir, a senior, has a weekly training plan of 85-90 miles per week with two hard workout days, and four days where he'll do double sessions with an easy 5-mile run with teammates to start the day. The freshman Knight is doing the same hard workouts, but his weekly mileage is in the 45-50 mile range as he adjusts to the intensity of college running. It seems as though Knight has proven that it doesn't take him long to make adjustments, whether it be training, or running with one shoe
Talking with Hehir and Knight, you can certainly sense the confidence they have in their training and their teammates. It's easy for me to see how they can enter competitions relaxed as they trust their preparation, but I still wanted to know if they've been surprised by how well they've run in 2015.
NunesMagician: "Heading into track season, did either of you kind of anticipate the success that you've had?"
Hehir: "Every year everyone always goes into it thinking it will be better than last year. Definitely for me I can say that I knew I could break 4 minutes in the mile after running 4 flat point 04, I definitely knew I could do.....I've definitely taken a big jump (in outdoor), which is a little bit surprising.."
Knight: " As a team after a tremendous cross-country season... it gave us a lot of confidence heading into indoor season....I thought I was going to have a good season, but I was kind of worried after World Cross-Country Championships (where Knight placed 25th) of where I would stand with the rest of the boys, but Coach Fox took care of me, he's a really smart guy."
NunesMagician: "NCAA Regionals is coming up next week, you are both highly ranked in two events. What is the plan- are you looking to focus on one race?"
Hehir: "Our team's way has always been pick one event, and that's what you're going to want to focus on. I'll be running the 10k, which is what I did last year. I finally made Nationals last year doing that, so don't fix it if it isn't broken"
Knight: "I'll be doing the 5k at Regionals...it was a tough decision...but we really think that the 5k, and the 10k for Marty, is our best bet"
Hehir is currently ranked at the top of the Eastern Regional Qualifiers in the 10k while Knight is 2nd fastest among 5k runners. The top 12 from each event at the Eastern Regionals will qualify for the NCAA Championship in Eugene Oregon. We will have a more detailed preview with information on all of Syracuse's qualifiers next week.
NunesMagician: "You guys have come to the forefront this season, with the school records... but for people who are new to following Syracuse track, who are some of the people that we should keep an eye out for next week and into next year?"
Knight: "I would have to say keep an eye out for Colin Bennie, definitely him for sure.... Also, one person that has really improved a lot was Philo Germano, and he will be a great help for us next year."
Hehir:"Definitely between Philo and Collin, they're both sophomores this year....it usually takes a year for guys to get training under their belt and adjust, we always hope for a couple sophomores to break through....The faster you run, the more excited you get, and those guys are real excited."
Nunes Magician: "I know the season is not over yet, but up to this point, what has been the race that has been the most personally satisfying for you?"
Hehir: "It's kind of tough, but I'm going to have to say our 5k at Payton Jordan...I've been able to win big races the last few years, but I really haven't been able to get a good 5k time down. I had only run 13:50 up until then, and I knew I was a better runner than that.....me and Justyn, we just ran the race to try to win, and that's kind of always our motto, you try to win a race and the times will come, and I was able to run a huge PR....I was very happy to finally have a time to match where I thought I should be."
Knight: "I have to agree with Martin. For me, it was more than just time, I think it was the tactics that went on during the race. We ran a really smart race, like we started off in the middle, towards the back and we were able to climb up and do our thing....when you break a school record, and you have someone else that's one second behind, that's a great thing too, and then breaking the Canadian junior record, that was just really special"
Thanks to Martin and Justyn for taking the time to talk about their season. You can listen to the full audio of our interview here, and results for the East Regional meet can be found here. We'll have a full preview of all Syracuse athletes competing at the meet next week.