Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 34
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
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ELITE STATUS: Cack Ferrell races to the tape during her stellar career at Princeton University. Ferrell, who joined the Oregon Track Club Elite program after graduating from Princeton in 2006, recently finished second in the 5,000 meters at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Training Full Time With Oregon Track Club, PU Alumna Ferrell Starring on World Stage

Bill Alden

Cack Ferrell produced one of the greatest distance running careers in Princeton University history.

The willowy native of Minneapolis, Minn. was a six-time All-American in cross country and track and field.

Ferrell, a two-time Athlete of the Meet at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships, capped her Princeton career by earning the C. Otto van Keinbusch Award as the top senior female student-athlete at the school.

After graduating from Princeton in 2006, Ferrell wasn't ready to give up running, particularly with the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing on the horizon.

Learning from PU women's track head coach Peter Farrell that the Oregon Track Club (OTC) Elite was interested in having her join its program, Ferrell saw her chance to maximize her potential and moved to the running hotbed of Eugene, Ore.

"I was deciding between the OTC and a club in Minneapolis," said Ferrell.

"I figured if I was going to dedicate two years to running, I should go to Oregon and do this full time. It was a bit of a culture shock coming to Eugene; it's a small town on the west coast. I grew up in a city and at Princeton, we were close to New York City."

While it took a while for Ferrell to adjust to life in Oregon, her immersion into training full-time has yielded benefits.

Earlier this year, she placed 30th in the World Cross Country Championships in Kenya as she made her debut running for the U.S. national team.

Last month, Ferrell came up even bigger in a U.S. singlet, placing second in the 5,000 meters at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Under her training regimen with the OTC, Ferrell's weekly mileage is logging 70 miles of running a week compared to the 55-60 miles she put in during her Princeton career.

"It's totally new to have running as my first priority," said Ferrell, who receives a stipend from the club which covers its athletes' housing, travel, and insurance expenses.

"My life is organized around practice. It gives me a chance to focus on the little things. I can be more diligent about stretching and icing. I am making sure to get more rest and to focus more on my weight work. I couldn't be happier right now."

In addition to devoting her full energies to improving as a runner, Ferrell has learned by osmosis from her contact with other OTC athletes. "I'm training with Nicole Teter who was a 2004 Olympian in the 800; that lifts your intensity," added Ferrell. "I have other mentors who have been to the Olympics. They are able to give you tips; I have not been around people like that before."

Those tips came in handy as Ferrell competed in the World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa, Kenya. "The whole thing was absolutely surreal," recalled Ferrell, who went on a week-long safari with her family after the competition.

"It was marketed as a return to the home of running. It was the equivalent of their Super Bowl; there were 40,000 spectators on the course. It was my first experience running for the U.S. I was always so proud to run as a Tiger but there is something special about wearing the U.S.A. singlet. You look at the competitors next to you and they are from Japan, Korea, and Kenya, not Harvard, Yale, or Brown."

Ferrell certainly put in a special effort in her U.S. debut as she battled blistering heat and the world class field. "It was hotter than hot, it was practically 100 degrees," said Ferrell, who clocked a time of 29:43 on the 8-kilometer course. "To begin with I was happy to finish, a lot of runners didn't finish. I didn't really have a concept of where I finished. When I found out I was 30th, I was beyond excited. It exceeded my expectations; to be the first American was fantastic."

Although Ferrell did not quite meet her pre-race goals in the Pan Am Games, she was happy with the ultimate result. "I said before the race that I either wanted to win or run a fast race," said Ferrell, who ran a time of 15:42.05, two seconds off of her personal best. "I led the whole race until the last lap. I never, never plan to lead but I have a problem with sit back and kick races. All things considered, I was very pleased."

Like the World Cross Country meet, the competition in Rio left Ferrell with some indelible memories. "It was the loudest stadium I've ever been in; it was the most people I had ever run before," said Ferrell. "They were doing the wave, you never see that at a track meet. I made some sacrifices by not staying in Europe and running in some fast 5ks I could have entered."

In upcoming months, Ferrell will focus on making herself as fast as possible as she looks ahead to next year's U.S. Olympic track trials, needing to finish in the top three and making the qualifying time of 15:08 in order to book a ticket to China for the Olympics.

"I'm taking some time off right now," explained Ferrell, who noted that she should have a home field advantage since the the trials will take place at Hayward Field in Eugene from June 27 to July 6.

"I'll start base training in a couple of weeks and then run some road races in November and December. I will do cross country in the early part of next year. I do need to up my intensity and start running twice a day a couple of times a week."

Whatever happens, Ferrell is taking things in stride as she chases her Olympic dream. "I'm not cut out to run professionally for more than a few years," said Ferrell. "There are so many other things that I want to do in my life. At the end of the day, I'm not doing this to make money. I'm in this for the experience and the adventure of it."

And in the course of enjoying that adventure, Ferrell figures to make more running history.

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