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Junior Andrew Mearns transferred to Virginia following his freshman year of competition for the William & Mary track and field team. Primarily a steeplechaser, the Williamsburg, Va., native has made an impact with Virginia’s track and field program and will head home with his teammates to compete at the Colonial Relays this weekend. Competition is scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

Question: You get to return to your hometown to compete this weekend. How excited for that are you?
Mearns: I started looking forward to this weekend as soon as I saw it on our team’s schedule. Although my family is going up north to celebrate my grandfather’s 80th birthday, it will be great to see some of my old friends and teammates. I’ve always been one of Williamsburg’s biggest fans. I’ve already had a few laughs with other teammates about it. I’ve told them about so many things we can do while we’re there, places we can eat, trails we can run, etc. I think they’re worried I’m forgetting about my race.

Question: You ran a year at William & Mary before transferring to Virginia. What made you decide to transfer?
Mearns: William & Mary is such a great school in such a great environment. They’ve also got a very great team with really great guys. For these reasons, it’s hard to explain why I transferred. I just kind of felt that I would be happier here at UVa. I wanted to come to a larger school with a little more energy. Even though leaving my old friends and teammates behind was really hard, the decision to transfer has been one of the greatest decisions in my life.

Question: You’ll get to run your first steeplechase this weekend. Are you looking forward to that?
Mearns: Definitely. The steeplechase is unlike other events for so many reasons. I mean, what other races have big, thick barriers and a water pit. In a debut steeplechase, you really need to get a feel for the race and remind your body of what if feels like the few steps before jumping over your 30th hurdle.

It’s great to open up this weekend at a fast track. Also, my season ended last year on a kind of sour note with a poor performance at the NCAA Regionals. If it’s true that “You’re only as good as your last race” then I’ve definitely got some work to do this season and I’m looking forward to getting it going!

Question: How do you feel about your performances in the events you have competed in so far this year?
Mearns: Throughout indoor and so far this outdoor season, my training has been focused on longer distances. Although I have run a really high amount of mileage, I’ve been doing a few shorter races this season. I actually ran my first-ever 800m in college two weeks ago at George Mason. The feeling of the last 100 meters of an 800m brought back some memories of high school running. I’ve ran nothing but my personal bests this season and it makes me really excited to open up in what is possibly my best event.

Question: How did you get involved in the steeplechase?
Mearns: My dad, who has been with me every step of my running career since I started in fifth grade, was once a very great runner and steeplechaser. He actually qualified for the Olympic Trials in the steeple and has won a lot of big races. So, knowing this, the steeplechase has always been something I’ve wanted to try. Also, I’ve always been an athletic person. In high school, I played lots of basketball, football and soccer. So I think a race with some hurdles and water obstacles plays to my advantage.

Question: Looking back to ACCs last year – you raced practically the entire 3000m steeplechase race without a shoe. How did you lose it and what was that experience like?
Mearns: While jumping over the second hurdle, less than one-tenth of the way into the race, a Virginia Tech runner landed on my heel. Just like the “flat tire” jokes we used to play in middle school, my heel slid right off and my shoe fell off to the inside of the track. It really wasn’t too bad. My first though was “Are you serious?” I think the adrenaline of being in a major championship and an opportunity to do something for the team kept me going.

Question: Did you have any blisters or soreness on your foot?
Mearns: As soon as I finished, the trainers rushed over to me expecting my foot to be bloody and broken. However, it wasn’t too bad. I just had a big blister on my big toe and a few scrapes on the heel, nothing too serious. Honestly, I was in more pain from the strenuous race than from losing a shoe.

Question: You finished fourth in the race. Coach Vigilante used it as an example of what kind of performances it took to be able to win the ACC team championship. What made you decide to complete the race? Did you ever consider dropping out?
Mearns: Right before the race, Vig said to me something along the lines of, “I want you to prove to me that you are the toughest runner out there.” I’m not going to lie, when my shoe fell off, I thought about dropping out. However, knowing it was going to be a close team battle, I deciding to keep going until I fell out of scoring position. This decision paid off because we tied for the team championship!

Question: What are you looking to accomplish this season?
Mearns: Well, without a doubt, the best moment of my season was winning the ACC Championships with all of my teammates. So, it’s really important for me to show up big down at Clemson in a few weeks. After that, my running gets a little more individual. I want to keep lowering my times and hopefully make it to the NCAA Championships in June. That’s the big goal. I have to take care of all the little things now to get to that point though.

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