Ashley Higginson started the 2013 steeple season strong by taking the win at the Oxy High Performance meet this past Friday in a time of 9:45.83 and was just short of the 9:43.00 World A standard. Opening up in the steeple at Oxy was not Higginson’s original plan but after a stomach bug at the Drake Relays, she switched from the 1500m to the Steeplechase at the meet. “It was the first time I’ve been confronted with being sick at a meet. In college you have a fever and no matter what you’re running and that’s what you do. You act tough and you do it,” she continues to explain the mindset now “You don’t get on the line to have a bad result; you get healthy and get better and get ready to race.”
The Oxy High Performance meet was not Higginson’s first meet of the season she offically opend the season with a 1500 meter. “I think it’s important to get into some speedier races but also just a way to get a rust buster in and run a pace that’s faster than steeple. Also just get mentally competitive,” Higginson goes on to explain, “I think that that the 1500 meter compliments the steeple well.”
Higginson’s strong start to the season is not a surprise especially after coming within 2.4 seconds of qualifying for her first Olympic team and finishing 4th at US Trials. She later lowered her PR to 9:34.49 in the 2012 season. “I think that last year I sort of was really motivated by the idea of the Olympic trials and I think a lot athletes, gave last year a shot and now I settled into the idea. With the excitement of last year and the success and improvement I saw I want to know what could an 18 or 36 month training cycle with my coach produce and hopefully that will be more good results but also more confidence” she said.
She goes on to explain her goals for the season, “I think I’ve gained this idea that I want to be doing this for a while now and I want to take ownership of it. And with that has come some excitement and hopeful confidence. I want to become a name that people are always thinking when thinking of whose in contention in races and I can grow into and improve upon that” she goes on “Last year was kind of a vacation and a whirlwind and this year it’s a little bit more for better or worse, like business with that I’ve gotten really excited about it and I definitely have not lost that sense of awesome and fun so I think I’m just excited to have that little bit of experience going into these races”
Taking ownership of her want to continue training for the steeple meant that Higginson had to make some tough decisions last year including deciding to go to Rutgers and staying with New Jersey-New York Track Club, one of the first elite track clubs based in the Northeast and Coach Gagliano (Coach Gags) instead of going to the University of Colorado with its deep tradition of producing great steeplers including Jenny Simpson and most currently Emma Coburn. Higginson chose to stay with New Jersey-New York track club. She has learned to balance both law school and training. She likes the idea of having balance in her life and being able to have something else to focus on in the down months of training.
Higginson is part of a great club including Kate Grace, Julie Culley, Delilah DiCrescenzo and Renee Tomlin among many others of the 24 person track club. Oftentimes Higginson will meet for tempo and recovery runs with the women that live close to her. The team meets twice a week for work-outs at Rutgers with Coach Gags picking up runners along the way as he drives from his home. “I think it’s growing, but it’s cool, I think it’s really great to be a part of a group on the east coast. For some reason or another it is always seen as so taboo. There are so many great runners from the Northeast. It is nice to be able to be close to all of your support, near your family or near your college or near your other running friends and obviously having your team too” she explains.
“I think we have a little bit of everything.” Higginson also states, “It’s been really special to be part of this group through its first cycle these first three or four years and seeing it grow and become something that I’m really excited to be a part of for years.”
Stay tune for Higginson’s advice to those looking to start steepling later in the week.