When she’s not in class, Jennifer Contreras is a runner for the UC Santa Cruz cross-country team. Contreras is one of eight juniors on the women’s team. Recently, City on a Hill Press met with Contreras at the track to talk all things running.
City on a Hill Press: Is being a student athlete a big commitment for you?
Contreras: Yeah, it’s a big commitment. Being a college athlete is very demanding. But in the end, if it’s your passion, it’s all worth it. It’s fun being surrounded by people who share similar goals and interests with you. I love all my teammates and coaches. We all support each other. We train hard and race hard. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
CHP: How do you balance your team and school?
Contreras: Runners are athletes, even when not at practice. We have to sleep early, wake up early, do school, practice, race, every day until the season is over. Even when the season is over, we have to train. I think being an athlete makes me more disciplined as a student. We race almost every weekend and have to get our stuff done. There is a lot of sacrifice involved. We can’t always go out and do things normal college students would do.
CHP: Did any of your fellow runners surprise you with their performance?
Contreras: I’m not surprised with what my teammates can do. They run hard and run well. I’m particularly proud of the freshmen on the team. They did very well and had a good season, and can only improve from here. Two of our runners, Mimi Petersen and Lauren Carlton, had spectacular performances at regionals and placed top 35 in the west region. As for the guys, I think they really showed other teams they are serious and ready to compete … They will only continue to show the competition what they’ve got.
CHP: What are you doing to prepare for next season?
Contreras: I want a faster time. To get faster next year, I will have to allow myself to save my mental energy for the race and not spend it all at practice. Most importantly, I need to stay confident and rest more. I will be a senior next year and I will train my best to make my season count, and hopefully make it to regionals with the top seven girls.
CHP: How much do you train per week?
Contreras: I train 12-15 hours a week. One or two hours, six days each week.
CHP: Does UCSC support the team?
Contreras: UCSC tries its best to support us, but since we don’t have as many resources as Division I schools, we have to just do the best we can with fundraising, and use the voices of our athlete representatives [to] push for more resources and opportunities. I think the student body is becoming more aware of the sports teams UCSC has. Everybody can always use some more school spirit.