Ask a 'Dore: Rita Jorgensen's Answers

Nov. 1, 2007

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Vanderbilt women’s cross country freshman Rita Jorgensen responds to your “Ask a ‘Dore” questions submitted online earlier this week.

How has the transition been for you running in college compared to high school? The competition in college is a lot tougher in comparison to high school, but I race against many of the same girls. The college distances are longer, so it’s a little bit tougher. It feels different being in college. I walk everywhere around campus and do little driving. The class schedule is not too much of an adjustment because I’m use to class early in the morning, but studying is different. In college, I have to take the initiative to figure out what to study. In high school, the teacher spelled things out for me more so than college professors.

Are you able to enjoy college life, or is your time always spent in the classroom and running? A lot of people ask me that question. I like all facets of college life. Some may think that all I do is go to class and run, but I have down time which I am able to enjoy other activities like listen to music and go to dinner with friends. My priorities are schoolwork and cross country related activities, but besides that, I do plenty of fun college things.

What race conditions do you prefer in regards to the weather? I really like running in cold weather more so than hot weather. I think on a cooler day, I can knock 10-20 seconds off my race time. I also prefer a flat course, but I don’t mind running on hills. If there’s a tough hill in the middle of a race, I can use them to my advantage to wear down other competitors.

In your opinion, what has been your best performance in a race this year? I did my best in the Commodore Classic. I was behind one girl for most of the race but then thought to myself, `This is the Commodore Classic. I want to win this race for Vanderbilt University.’ I decided to race even harder and picked up the victory for Vanderbilt. It felt great to win my first collegiate race.

How much pre-race planning is there? A lot of preparation and strategy goes into a race. Our team will try to match up to other teams based on certain personnel. Personally, I try to pace myself against certain competitors and when the time is right pull away from the opposition.

What specific training do you do in order to become faster and an all around better runner? On some days, I run a lot of speed oriented workouts, like interval runs of certain distances. I try to make certain intervals under a target time. On other days, I run circuits and easier workouts.

What keeps you going when you feel like you have nothing left? I think about the rest of the team and how they are working hard. I don’t want to let them down. I want to do my part to help the team succeed.

What do you think about while you’re running? I try to focus on my pace and position in comparison to my teammates, the competition, and course conditions. I think about random stuff sometimes, too.

Do you have any pre-race rituals? I always eat pasta the night before a race because the carbohydrates are beneficial. I always wear my favorite pair of socks during a race. I use to have a lucky pair of socks, but unfortunately, I lost them at some point in the past.

Rita, my 6th grade daughter discovered her passion this fall when she ran cross-country for the first time. At what age did you start running competitively, and what advice do you have for a fledgling harrier? I started running cross country at the end of sixth grade. I didn’t start out running on challenging courses. I kept it rather easy and built myself up over time. My advice would be to make sure you have fun running and to build yourself up over time by running with people that are as good as yourself.

Did you play any other sports when you were younger, and if so, what made cross country stand out? I focused my attention on soccer when I was younger. In seventh and eighth grade, I played soccer and ran cross country. Beginning in ninth grade, I only ran cross country because I started to like it more, and I was better at cross country than soccer. I played midfield in soccer, so soccer very much prepared me for the sport of cross country.

Do you prefer dogs or cats? I’ve only owned dogs. I have three of them. Two are Jack Russell Terriers, and the other, named Phoebe, is a mix between a Labrador and a Collie. The Terriers are so wild and crazy, but Phoebe is so sweet. My parents always bring her to my cross country races. In a way, she is an unofficial mascot.

Tell us something about yourself that we might not know. I like to water ski. I also love to wakeboard. I’ve been doing both since I was about seven years old.

You finished second in the cross country pumpkin carving contest. Did you feel you should have won first place? There was a lot of talent in that competition. I would’ve chosen about five to seven first place pumpkins because a lot of people came up with some creative ideas. Two of them were intricate detailed carvings. Some of the others, like mine, just had a lot of props on them.

What was the purpose of the pumpkin carving contest? While most Vanderbilt students went home for Fall Break, the cross country team stayed here. We did many team building activities. Coach Keith gave us 10 pumpkins to carve and split us up into two-person teams. Adam Banks and I were on a team together. The idea for our pumpkin was to make it look like a rapper. We ended up in second place, so I’ve got to start brainstorming for next year’s competition.