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UVa graduate student Mark Amirault recently checked in with to talk about the upcoming 2011 ACC Cross Country Championships and his transition from Princeton to Virginia.

Question: Two weeks ago, you finished second in your first meet at Panorama Farms, how did your race go and what did you think of competing at Panorama Farms for the first time?
It went well. Panorama is a tough course, no matter. Whether you’re running a five-minute (mile) pace or six-minute pace, it’s tough. The plan was to run controlled and run with guys in the beginning. I let myself go at the end and felt good and in control. I feel good going into the championship portion of the season.

Question: Will you take the same plan going into the ACC Championships, staying together before breaking out?
It’ll be a little different. Coach (Jason) Vigilante has really geared towards ACCs and regionals, more so regionals, but we want to come to ACCs and show we can be a team to look out for. It’s firing up our competitive energy up for this meet so we’re prepared for regionals.

Question: What are your expectations and goals for the ACC Championships?
It’s a big test weekend for me. I’m going to try and run with the lead pack and win, but it’s a gauge of where my fitness is. If I don’t win, I won’t be too disappointed because it’s just the start of the championship season and I’m in the process of getting my legs under me. Coach and I were talking and we all need this meet to get our legs under us and we’ll be really competitive. Me individually and Chris Foley, he’s been doing some great things out there and all of our guys; we’re going to try and win it. We’re looking to run really well, but this is just a stepping stone to the regional meet. If we hit it well at regionals, we’ll do really well at nationals. Those two meets are the primary focus.

Question: What is your perfect cross country weather day?
A little cooler, I don’t mind a 55-degree day. Sunny is nice, but if it’s overcast and not raining, I’m not complaining either. I like things being on the cooler side being from the Northeast.

Question: You went to Princeton for four years, how did you end up at UVa?
In the Ivy League, you’re only allowed to use four years for eligibility, unlike other schools where you can use a fifth year or sixth year for medical reasons. I was injured my first two years at Princeton and when it came around to my senior year, I did pretty well at the NCAA cross country meet and coaches started calling and emailing my coach inquiring about me transferring for a fifth year. Coach Vigilante was one of those coaches and I gave him a call and we talked throughout the year.

I had a couple options. I wanted to go to medical school, it’s one of my life goals, but I didn’t end up getting into medical school yet. I had the opportunity to come here and pursue a master’s in public health, so hopefully that will improve my application for medical school. I saw the best of both worlds here at Virginia. I was excited to have that opportunity.

Question: What do you want to do in the health industy?
I want to go to med school, get a medical degree and become a physician.

Question: What was the biggest draw to UVa?
It was that combination of academics and athletics. It’s the same reason I went to Princeton. Princeton has great academics and a good athletic program that got better as I was there. But here, a great athletic team and Coach Vigilante, he’s almost famous as a coach, had national champions here and Virginia, its one of the top public university in the nation and had what I wanted in both academics and athletics.

Question: Since coming down here, what has been your favorite part of UVa outside of running?
I like the weather. Coming from Princeton and heading a little further south, I like the milder temperatures, where as it’s getting cold back home towards Boston. It’s really beautiful and when we go out Sunday for a long run, I was surprised at how beautiful it was.

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