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Susan Brooks is a senior on the Virginia women’s cross country team. This weekend she will begin her final season of competition for the Cavaliers. With first-year head coach Jason Vigilante taking over the program in the off-season, Brooks and her teammates are working to adjust to a new mentor. The Cavaliers are scheduled to compete at Panorama Farms this Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Lou Onesty Invitational.

Question: What are you feelings about the season’s opening race this weekend?
Brooks: Coach Vigilante wants the team to take a very relaxed approach to this weekend. We’ve all trained hard over the summer, however the championship season is still over two months away, thus we want to make sure that we save the best for last.

Question: The women won the Lou Onesty team title last year; do you feel that the team is prepared to defend its title?
Brooks: The Cavaliers always have the home field advantage racing at Panorama, considering it is such a difficult course. We’re pretty well rested, and with returners such as Katie Read, Stephanie Garcia and Lauretta Dezubay, if we all race to our potential while having fun, I know that we can still take home the gold!

Question: What are the benefits of being able to open your season at a course you are familiar with?
Brooks: Panorama is hard! Many schools that visit are not used to its rolling hills, so we keep it in our minds that they are hurting more than us. Opening at our home course also helps us to re-familiarize ourselves with cross country, with most of us having raced the outdoor track season. It’s also an opportunity for all of our friends and families to support us at home!

Question: With a new head coach and a new season, new expectations arise. What are your expectations for yourself, and for the team, this year?
Brooks: This year we all expect to get better. It’s difficult adjusting to his new style, methods and approaches to training, but I know that once we all get settled and organized in the new season that the training and its outcomes will start to show. We had a rough end to the season last year at the ACC and Regional Championships, thus we have already made it a goal to come back with a top three place in the ACC and to advance to Nationals.

Question: Do you have a favorite course to run?
Brooks: Last year I really enjoyed racing in Louisville at the NCAA Regional race. Not only was it spectator friendly, but it also had more open views to see your teammates ahead and work up towards and with them. And, it didn’t have too many hills!

Question: Do you have any advice that you’d give to the incoming class who will be competing for the first time this weekend?
Brooks: Have fun! This is their first time racing with UVA, so hopefully they can use the opportunity to show their stuff and work with the team. This is going to be a great opportunity to take chances and risks, as well as to work with their new teammates to get up the hills and finish strong. It’s a new team and a new year for them, and there’s so much opportunity!

Question: Outside of running, what do you like to do in your free time?
Brooks: When I’m not running, chances are that I’m doing schoolwork. But in those lucky moments that I’m not doing either, I love to lay out in the sun or sit inside for a good movie with hot chocolate.

Question: Are you taking any interesting classes this semester?
Brooks: I’m in my culminating classes for my mechanical engineering degree, so I’m working on my thesis and am in a business leadership and management course. My most interesting class is my senior design course, in which I’ll design an Engineering Teaching Kit to teach middle school students about engineering and applying science. I love working with kids, and if they know how to apply the math and sciences they are learning in school, they’ll start to enjoy them more!

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