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Sophomore Barbara Strehler was the Cavaliers’ top finisher at the 2010 ACC Cross Country Championships on Saturday, Oct. 30, finishing eighth and earning her first All-ACC honor. Strehler also led three Cavaliers in the top-10 and Virginia to a runner-up team finish – its best showing since taking second in 1993.

This weekend, the distance runner will head to Louisville, Ky., for the 2010 NCAA Southeast Regional, where the No. 12 women will be the top-ranked team. Races are set to begin at 9:40 a.m., with the top-two finishers automatically advancing to the 2010 NCAA Championships.

Question: The team heads to Louisville this weekend, where you’ll compete in your first-ever regional championship. What are the team’s goals for the race?
Strehler: I think the biggest goal of the team is to compete and get that spot at Nationals. We have all worked so hard this year, and I think we really deserve getting a chance to race at Terre Haute.

Question: Going into the race as the top-ranked team in the region, do you feel that adds extra pressure or a sense of confidence for the women?
Strehler: I don’t know if it has really hit anyone that we are a top-ranked team. We are still training just like we have been all year. I think that for the most part everyone is really excited. We have done all the hard work for this race meet, so now all we have to do is run.

Question: What do you see presenting itself as the biggest challenge to overcome in order to come out on top at the regional meet?
Strehler: Our biggest challenge is probably to not let ourselves become too nervous and worked up for the race. It is the Regional meet, a big deal, but it is still just a meet. We just need to run, and not worry about anything else.

Question: Talk about ACCs. Competing in your first conference championship, what was that atmosphere like? And what did it take to upset some nationally ranked teams?
Strehler: The atmosphere was mostly just fun. Like before every race, there were some nerves, but for the most part we just had fun and embraced being in Boston. The course was beautiful and the weather was great, so there was nothing to cause us problems. I think this and the fact that no one let themselves get too nervous was all that was needed to compete well at ACCs.

Question: How did you decide that you wanted to come to Virginia?
Strehler: I went on my recruiting trip and then about one week later, I had verbally committed to come to UVa. UVa had the school, the team and the coaching staff that I was looking for; and I knew that I wanted to come here as soon as I visited.

Question: What does it mean to you to be competing at the collegiate level?
Strehler: I love competing on a collegiate level. It helps to keep me focused, and it forces me to take care of myself. I am really lucky to have the resources and support provided to me if I need it. Just the experience of being on a team has been fun and a bit maturing. I am responsible for taking care of myself, but I also need to look after my teammates. A team environment is something that I have always loved, so even if I chose not to run, I would try and find another social group or team that kept me accountable.

Question: Now this year, after coming off an injury, you’ve worked your way into being one of the top runners on the team. What is it that drives you or helps you to be so successful?
Strehler: I am a pretty competitive person in general, but I think the most important factor is that I have a team that is counting on me to take care of myself and to always give my best. Coach Vigilante always tells us to keep each other accountable – we need to stay healthy and happy for ourselves and for others. It is a lot easier to stay motivated when you have others to help you and keep you on track, and I think that this has been what drives me the most.

Question: Can you tell us something that the average fan wouldn’t know about cross country?
Strehler: Cross country can be as superstitious as any other sport. Whether you have to paint your nails before every race or bring your own bagels and Nutella, everyone has their own little rituals that prepares them to compete and keeps them calm.

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