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Sophomore Morgane Gay is a member of the women’s cross country team that heads to the ACC Championships this weekend. Virginia’s third finisher at the conference meet a year ago, Gay earned all-region honors in her first season and has helped the women’s squad to a No. 11 national ranking this year. Gay and her teammates will toe the line at 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning, following the conclusion of the men’s 9:30 a.m. race, at the WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.

Question: ACCs are this week and the women are among the top-ranked teams heading into the championship. How is the team preparing?
Gay: We have already come a long way since the beginning of the season and we have been able to follow our goal of getting a little bit better with each workout. It has been exciting for me to watch our women’s team benefit from this goal of training. We all arrived at very different stages coming off of our individual summer training, but we have come together throughout the season, worked together and challenged one another to perform to our potential. At every practice, we have kept a low-stress environment and accomplished what we needed to in order to feel confident going into this race. All we can do now is trust in ourselves, our training and, most of all, our teammates. If we each give our very best for that day, no matter what kind of day we are having, I know that we will be successful.

Question: With the men being so successful at ACCs recently, how does that help the women’s team?
Gay: Watching the men’s team win last year was inspiring for the women, especially as we followed up their win with our own success at the regional meet. I believe that we are stronger and have more depth than last year and I am excited to see what we can accomplish on Saturday.

The fact that our men’s and women’s teams practice together and do similar workouts unites us. Any success for Virginia is felt by all of us, so we are most likely just as excited as them when they do well. For example, last season during outdoor track, watching our men’s team win the ACC Championship was rewarding for the ladies too. A championship on both sides is even better, so that is always the ultimate goal.

Question: The women’s team has had a very successful season so far this year. What would you consider to be the strength of this seasons team?
Gay: We have done very well in our first three meets, regardless of always having at least one of our runners sit out. We are successful as a team this year because of our confidence in our coaches, our workouts and our ability to trust in one another. We have done all we can to prepare to the point that we are at right now, keeping in mind that we also have regionals and nationals to look forward to. So we know that as we continue our baby steps toward getting faster, we are going to get stronger as the season continues.

Question: How did you get into competitive running?
Gay: I was a competitive gymnast for 10 years until my sophomore year in high school when my parents told me I should pick up another sport to continue the academic-athletic formula I had been living by my whole life. I originally wanted to join the track team to do the hurdles, but my geometry teacher convinced me to try cross country. I loved being part of a team again and it has been a joy for me ever since.

Question: Why did you decide to come to Virginia?
Gay: I loved the academic and athletic balance it offered. I loved the Virginia area and its pretty places to run and I thought both the team and the coaches were the perfect fit for me.

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