Interview With High School Phenom Anna Maxwell

Anna Maxwell placed fifth at the 2013 Footlocker Cross-Country National Championships, crossing the line first for Team West. Photo: www.photorun.net

The future University of Washington runner will compete at this weekend’s Brooks PR Invitational.

On June 21, the “fastest of the fastest” high school track athletes will line up at Renton Memorial Stadium in Seattle at the Brooks PR Invitational. San Lorenzo Valley’s Anna Maxwell will be toeing the line in the mile, stacked up against the best scholastic female milers in the country. The future University of Washington Husky hopes to dip under 4:40, which will put her more than 3 seconds ahead of the meet record.

“Every event this year is absolutely stacked, including the girls mile,” said Brooks Sports Marketing Manager Jesse Williams. “We saw Anna dominate the Mt. SAC Cross Country Invite last fall, and she has been on our radar ever since.”

We caught up with Maxwell this week and discussed her career, training and her shift to a gluten-free diet halfway through high school.

Congratulations on a successful high school career—what are you most looking forward to as you move from high school competition to competing at a Pac-12 school, University of Washington?

Having a really good girls team to train with and getting in a lot of training and competition at a higher level and less racing. I’m really excited for a lot of reasons! In high school, I ran with the boys team—for instance, this year I ran with one of the junior high boys. We had a good girls team, though, with a lot of competition at meets. It will be fun training with a group of girls faster than me, definitely a new experience. I’m excited to not run alone as much and have a team that’s faster than me, to challenge me to get faster.

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Looking back on high school, how has your training and understanding of the sport shifted over the last few years to now running at the collegiate level?

Training-wise, we’ve done pretty low mileage since I started running; we started doing more weights and plyo stuff my junior year. I think that really helped—so it’s more a mental shift [from high school to college] and a more positive attitude going into races that I’ve developed over the last few years. My race strategy and instincts have definitely shifted, but I also make sure I enjoy what I’m doing too and not get too stressed out about running. I was a little bit of a stress case my first couple of years! Freshman year I think I definitely hunkered in on bad races a little bit more, but now I’m able to grow [from bad races] and use them more as motivation. Winning doesn’t matter as much as a PR or how hard you pushed yourself. I think I’m able to appreciate more what actually happened in the race versus the outcome.

You follow a gluten-free diet following some painful setbacks in 2012. How did this diet change affect your training and what adjustments had to be made to meet your goals but also keep your gut happy?

I definitely eat a lot more now because I cut out so many carbs. I switched to gluten-free during my junior year cross-country season, and I had to make changes mentally and in my training and, of course, in my diet. It’s not super difficult because there’s so many substitutes out there and so many good options. I just try to eat a lot of different foods—I eat a lot of variety so I don’t get bored, and I also get everything I need. I’m a big fruit person, and I still eat gluten-free pasta before my races. It’s definitely helped my training—I feel better when I run, and that’s what’s important. For people who are just trying out the GF diet, you are definitely going to have to increase your calories and eat a wide variety of foods. There’s a lot of good things available—I’m a big fan of gluten-free pretzels!

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You led your team to a fifth title at the XC state meet last year and broke the course record, you placed fifth at Foot Locker last year, the first West finisher, and you recently won the 1,600 meters at the state meet in triple-digit heat. A very impressive resume—but what has been your proudest moment looking back on your last year of high school?

I was really excited to win state cross country, because my team also won, so I got to share that with all the girls. Other than that, probably running at [IAAF] World Youth Championships in Ukraine [where she took ninth in the 1,500 meters] or being on the USA junior team [at the Bupa Great Edinburgh International Cross Country race] in Scotland.

What is the best advice your coach has ever given you before a big race and how did it help you through that race? What advice do you give new runners?

I wouldn’t say specific advice, but he’s always believed in me more than I’ve believed in myself. His support and confidence in me has translated to me racing confidently. For new runners, I tell them to start slow. Don’t take on too high of mileage right away, and don’t stress about what you’re running in the beginning. It will build itself up quicker than you realize.

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You have the second fastest seed time for Saturday’s mile event—how are you feeling looking at the roster?

I’m really excited about the field, hopefully they can pull me to a PR. I believe it’s around 4:41, but I hope to break 4:40—that would be awesome! That’s definitely more of a goal than winning—if I broke 4:40, I’d be ecstatic. I don’t have a specific plan of attack; I’m going to see how I feel and see what happens with this stacked field.

Who do you just really want to go on a long run with?

I can’t choose! I have no clue. They are all so awesome. I would definitely want 10 or more miles with them—the longer I get to talk to them, the better! I would have so many questions!

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