Senior Lyndsay Harper won an ACC title at last year’s indoor track and field championships as a member of the Cavaliers’ distance medley relay. This year, Harper has won every event that she has competed in – a victory in the 800m and the 4x800m at the Amory, in addition to the 800m and the DMR at the VT Elite Meet. Her personal-best time of 2:08.86 in the 800m ranks sixth in the ACC this season and stands as the second-best performance in UVa history.

This week, Harper looks to help the Cavaliers to a second-straight ACC Championship in the DMR, while also competing in the 800m at the 2010 ACC Indoor Championships. The conference meet is scheduled to run from Thursday through Saturday at Virginia Tech’s Rector Field House.

Question: You shaved a second off from your personal best time in the 800m at the Armory a couple weekends ago. Without an indoor track to train on, what do you credit your success to this year?
Harper: As far as not having an indoor track goes, I feel as a middle distance athlete, it hasn’t really hurt my training. The weather has been fairly agreeable this season allowing us to have pretty successful workouts on the outdoor track and soft turf fields.

I also competed on the cross country travel team this fall, which allowed me to really build up a good base for track season. Getting that endurance in while avoiding injuries has definitely allowed me to improve my 800m time.

We’ve also been introduced to our new coach, Mary Jane [Reeves] – a previous NCAA champion – who has been working with us a lot on speed development and form drills. Until my last few races, I haven’t been able to hold on the last 200m of my race, but I think I’ve finally figured out how to race relaxed and then shift into a higher gear when I need to.

Question: With ACCs this week, what are your individual goals for the conference meet?
Harper: One of my individual goals for ACCs is to make the 800m final and possibly place in the top four. I have never made an ACC final. In the past, I’ve ran times throughout the season that would place at ACCs, but I have never ran the right prelim race to actually get me through to the final.

My other goal is to race the 800m leg of the DMR and capture a win while also qualifying to nationals. We have a really talented group of girls and to make nationals would be phenomenal.

Question: With a mix of youth and experience on the women’s side, what is the team’s mentality going into ACCs?
Harper: I think the team is more confident going into ACCs this year than in the past. We have amazingly talented first years, as well as a few returning point scorers that were injured last year. The exciting thing about ACCs is that there is always a possibility of scoring. ACCs really becomes more about team competition than it does about personal bests and individual performances.

Question: Do you have any favorite track memories?
Harper: Too many. Penn Relays is always one of the best experiences. Filling a stadium for the sport of track is a pretty rare thing. To be able to compete with, and in front of, people who are that passionate about track is very exciting. Winning the indoor ACC DMR last year was incredible… the men’s team winning outdoor ACCs in Miami… there really are too many. Every trip has something noteworthy about it. The Armory trips are always fun because we go to Times Square for a little while, which can always be very interesting.

Question: You’ve done a lot of traveling during each of the three different seasons. What has been your favorite place to go?
Harper: Penn Relays. Not only is there a lot of great competition, but the stadium is filled with track fanatics. Most of the seats might be filled for the professional events and the “U.S.A. vs. the World” races, but the crowd gets excited for every competition – from the high school 4x800s and college DMRs to the Usain Bolt 100m dash. To race at Penn Relays where so many people care about our sport is huge.

Question: Do you have plans to run professionally in the future? Or what are your plans for after college?
Harper: I don’t intend to race professionally after college, but who knows. If I drop a few seconds off my times here and there, I would love to pursue a career in running. College track has been incredible and if I had the talent and time to dedicate myself entirely to track, I would.

Most likely, I will begin to pursue a creative career using my studio art major and architecture minor. I’m currently in the application process for a fellowship program that will allow me to teach and coach for a year abroad.

Question: Being from New Mexico, you obviously came a long way from home for school. Did you think about staying closer to home or what factored into your decision to come to Virginia?
Harper: Honestly, I wanted a change from the Southwest. I was looking at schools on either coast, and my brother ended up on the east coast running for UNC (later transferring to Villanova’s track program). I chose UVa partly to be in the same conference as my brother, but I also genuinely loved the school. I got along very well with the then-middle distance coach Brad Hunt who did the recruiting, and he got me very excited about the program. UVa was appealing to me because it had good academics and would allow me to run for a team that was “up and coming.” This proved to be true. Since my first year, we have accrued much more talent and our team really is becoming one of the best middle distance programs in the ACC.

Question: What is the biggest difference between home and school that you’ve had to get used to?
Harper: Trees, rain and a lack of Mexican food. At home in New Mexico, I don’t have one tree in my yard. Here, I can’t go on a run without escaping them. Also, the rain in a desert state is much less frequent than in Charlottesville. I remember being very confused my first year when our coach made us workout in a downpour of January sleet. At home in New Mexico, that would have been a treadmill day.

As far as the Mexican food goes, it goes without saying that as a neighbor to Mexico, my home state has better enchiladas.

Question: What is your favorite thing about UVa?
Harper: My favorite thing about UVa is Charlottesville. I couldn’t imagine a better college town. I’m sure I would have been happy no matter where I went to college, but Charlottesville really is a very charming place to live. The community is very trusting and friendly and although there may not be the best enchiladas, the food here is great.