Interview: James Island's Mary Stewart Wilson

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Name:  Mary Stewart Wilson (James Island)
Academic interest: I like the geometry class I am taking now but I also like writing in ELA. I am not taking any science or social studies classes currently but excited about biology next semester.
Hobbies: I love going to the beach with my friends and I like traveling to visit my relatives on the holidays. I also really enjoy skiing and hope to go to Canada next year.
Brothers/sisters: I have two other sisters, same age as me, and a 15, almost 16, year old brother.
Event PRs: 5K: 18:43, 2 Mile: 11:47, Mile: 5:27
Interesting fact: I’m a triplet, my two other sisters are identical and I’m fraternal, we are all 14.

Racers: Nike
Trainers: Asics  
When not running: I am on a swim team during the summer, the Parkshore Piranhas.
Favorite food: An “everything” bagel with bacon scallion cream cheese from Bagel Nation is my favorite food.
Favorite movie: White Chicks or The Breakfast Club
Favorite place to train: We went up to North Carolina to run during the summer at a camp and I really enjoyed that because it was a lot colder. 
Favorite place to race: I like races where we get to run a bit in the woods, on road, and just a change of scenery.

When and how did you get involved with running? 
In middle school in P.E we had to run a mile every week and our middle school coach asked me if I wanted to do cross country and I really enjoyed it and started track as well. That was in seventh grade and since them I have done two seasons of cross country and two seasons of track. 

Video: Wilson talks with after her race at the Cavalier Classic

Do you remember your first race? Please explain.
I don’t remember it that well, but I do remember looking up to our top runner at the time thinking how crazy it would be to be as fast as her. I also remember how all of the high school runners on our team used to seem so big and unapproachable. 

Do you have any other family members involved in the sport?
My mom runs a little and also likes triathlons. My aunt runs longer distance, half marathons and some 10Ks, and my granddad used to be an 800 runner in high school.

What is the one thing in the sport you will remember the most so far?
I think I will always remember my Lake Murray race last year. My goal after I started to get in the mid-20s was just to break 20. The weekend before Lake Murray I went about a 20:20 so I knew if I wanted to break it I would really have to push. At Lake Murray I went a 20 flat exactly. However, I knew that I had pushed myself and I just kept thinking about the region meet next weekend. At region I  broke 20 by two seconds and it was the best feeling in the world.

What has been your motivation this past weekend and the rest of this season? 
My coaches definitely motivate me every day just by seeing how much effort they put into everything and how much they want our team to do well. However, my teammates, especially my training partners who I have run with and been friends with since seventh grade, motivate me when my coaches can’t. They have become like family to me and I can’t imagine cross country without them. If I ever feel like giving up in a race or a hard day I just think, “I won’t only be letting myself down, but also my teammates” and that keeps me going.

How would you rate your season so far? 
After the first two races I was very anxious to get my time back down to the 19:30s and I was mainly waiting for that breakthrough race when you start to shave time off. The Lake Murray Invitational was that breakthrough race for me; I dropped over half a minute from my record. That race was only two weeks ago so my season has been pretty positive coming off that. However, I continue to push myself, refusing to settle.

What was going through your mind at the Cavalier Classic at Dorman?
The Cavalier Classic was a new course for our whole team and during that race I knew I had to stay mentally strong because of all the hills which we aren’t used to. The whole race I was thinking to push the top of the hills where everyone dies. I also thought of a race we do at the end of our summer camp near the mountains. It is called the ‘Tower Run’; it is almost three miles of uphill running towards a tower at the top of a mountain. I thought that if I did that then these hills shouldn’t be a problem.

The James Island team traveled this past weekend and we know you left early to get to the meet…what made you decide to come to the meet and what did you think about how the team did? 
We left at 4:30 in the morning from our high school to travel to Dorman. That means I woke up at 3:50 to make sure I wasn’t late to the high school because our bus will leave you. The morning of a race, when I generally wake up before 5, I just try to get to our bus because I know I can sleep then. Our team, as a whole, especially our girls’ varsity team, did extremely well. As a whole it was one of the best races we have had, not because we all had great times, but because we raced for spots trying for a top team score.

With a team ranked near the top in Class AAA, what does that mean to you and your team and how do you handle that knowing you are a top team, on a daily basis?
It is definitely a different feeling than last year. Last year, even though we placed top 10 at state with over half our varsity team being middle schoolers, nobody really noticed us. I liked it because we just surprised everyone so much more. However, now being a top team we have a target on our backs and it is important to remember to not get too comfortable with our ranking because we know other 3A teams want it just as bad.

What would you like to achieve in the sport? 
For this season I am definitely aiming for a top spot in state hopefully making it into the top 10. But in long term I hope I stay with running not only through high school but running in college as well. 

Tell us about your coaches, how have they guided you in the sport? 
I am so thankful for my coaches. If it wasn’t for them I would not have started running. They make our sport, which is generally not the most fun thing to do, something interesting. My coaches keep me motivated and focused every day. We have a fairly young girls team, and although we have matured a bit, I know our girls team can get pretty annoying, particularly on the three and a half hours back from a race on a bus. Our coaches not only put up with us, but also make cross country something a lot of people look forward too!

What have you learned from the sport? 
This sport has taught me so many things I would never have known without it. I would never know how close a team could be to a family. I would never know how it feels to hold records or be part of the fastest girl’s team James Island has ever had. I would never know the amazing teammates I have or the amazing competition I have met. This sport teaches more than I could have imagined and I am excited to continue learning from it for three and a half more years.

Do you have a pre-race tradition? Please explain. 
The morning of a Saturday race I always have cinnamon and sugar flavored oatmeal. It is probably not the best thing to eat, but I have been eating it every morning since my first race and I am a little too superstitious to stop. Before a race our team tries to do a prayer and a cheer between strides to calm us down a little but also get in the right frame of mind for our race. I always listen to music for a good two hours at least before a race on the bus ride up so I try to get a song stuck in my head as well.

What kind of race strategy do you prefer? 
My first year of cross country I would feel more comfortable if I had a specific goal for every last detail; it would make me feel prepared. However last year and this year especially I try not to overthink races or analyze anything to close. I try to start mentally preparing two or three days before so I can be in the right zone when the gun goes off. I don’t like to be extremely nervous so before the race I am very quiet and try to focus just on the competition ahead. During the race I find it a lot easier to run with a person who is going about my pace rather than running alone. I also try to not get squeezed to the back of the pack at the beginning of a race because most courses usually funnel, forcing you to slow down you have to spend the whole race attempting to make up ground rather than settling into a pace. 

If there is one thing in the world you could do, what would it be and why? 
I think it would be cool to run a 5K in every continent because I would get to travel around the world doing something I love. The views would be amazing and I think it would be a really neat experience.

James Island coach David Lee on Wilson
"Stew is an absolute pleasure to coach.  Coach Eshelman discovered her talent when she was in his middle school PE class, and we began to work with her then.  Since then, she has grown into our current school record holder!  We're hoping her success will continue far beyond this Fall season!

Stew comes to practice, every day, ready to show why she deserves our top spot!  Her summers are spent splitting time between swimming and running, but she does a wonderful job balancing the two, and working hard to be prepared for the Fall season!

Stew's personality, like all of our girls, is unique.  She's a funny girl with her own funny traits.  She is definitely one of the leaders of the XC family that we have here on James Island!"