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Junior Catherine White finished fourth at the 2009 NCAA Cross Country Championships on Monday, earning All-American honors and becoming Virginia’s highest-ever finisher since Lesley Welch won the national championship in 1982. White’s finish wrapped up a remarkable season for the junior who transferred from Arkansas. She was name the Southeast Region Athlete of the Year after becoming Virginia’s first-ever individual regional champion. White finished runner-up at the ACC Championships, was the individual champion at the George Mason Invitational and is among four nominees for the 2009-10 Cross Country Honda Sports Award given annually to the top woman collegiate athlete in their respective sport.

Question: Heading into the NCAA Championships, were you expecting to finish as high as fourth?
White: No, I was not expecting a fourth-place finish, but at the same time I acknowledged that anything can happen during a race. My goal heading in was at least top-15. However, I knew if I fought hard enough and stayed focused I could do much better.

Question: What was the race like? There were some top female competitors struggling throughout the course, such as Colorado’s Jenny Barringer and Florida State’s Susan Kuijken. Were you able to see any of that unfold?
White: Yes, I realized Jenny Barringer had fallen off in the middle of race. I didn’t catch it unfold, I was a bit distracted myself, but apparently it was pretty dramatic. The course was a little rough with the soft ground and poor footing in some places. I think it zapped some people’s legs and made them panic because they were not feeling as good as they expected. Also, with the fast pace from the beginning, the combination of factors was going to take its toll both mentally and physically on some girls.

Before the race Coach Vigilante warned us about the ground and the pace. I was able to stay calm during most of the race because I had known I was going to feel like I was working hard early on. I was confident the race would slow, as it does every year, and just stayed relaxed and ready to make a move in the last half of the race.

Question: Looking back to the Southeast Regional Championship, you became the first person in Virginia’s history to win an individual title – on either the men’s or women’s side. What does that accomplishment mean to you?
White: The win was definitely a great honor and it was fun to win. At the same time, I had to make sure to keep my emotions leveled because the big and important race was nationals. At any rate, it was exciting to win and race with the team and to get an automatic spot at NCAAs.

Question: You came to Virginia after having a stellar first two years at Arkansas. What made you decide to transfer?
White: There are a handful of reasons I left the University of Arkansas, but my main motivation was to get closer to my family. Every since I went to Arkansas, I had always wondered what it would be like to go to UVa and be close to my home and friends. At the same time, I am grateful I attended the University of Arkansas. I learned a lot about myself and was given some amazing opportunities I will never forget.

Question: How has the transition been?
White: The transition has been remarkably smooth and a very positive change. Looking back, I cannot imagine being anywhere else. The team, coaches and staff have been supportive and helpful through the entire semester, and I can’t wait to wear the blue and orange on the track!

Question: Being one of the few who has experienced earning All-American honors on the track and in cross country, how would you compare the two? Is one more rewarding than the other?
White: I think cross country is more rewarding because you take the entire pool of distance runners in the country and throw them into one race. All the distance events on the track are represented and the 6k is a fair distance for all of the athletes. The tone of the race is different and very unique with the crazy fans and the nation’s best collegiate runners. Also, getting to line up with six of your teammates is amazing. Just thinking about all the hard work and all of the early morning workouts you put in with those girls is notable in itself.

Question: As you transition into the track portion of the year, what are your individual goals or expectations for the upcoming seasons?
White: Honestly, I have not thought much about indoors. In outdoor track, I want to focus on the 10k and try and run a fast 5k during the season. Other than that, I will probably be sitting down with the coaches within the next week or two to discuss what is coming up next and set some more specific objectives.

Question: Do you have a favorite season between cross country, indoor track or outdoor track?
White: I enjoy all three seasons, and my preference changes often. Right now, I am pumped for indoor track. I love the atmosphere and bringing the whole track team back together. The races are shorter than most of the events I do in outdoors. Getting to run quite a bit faster is always fun too!

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