QA₂Max: Florida State’s Colleen Quigley

QA₂Max: Florida State’s Colleen Quigley

NEW ORLEANS—Florida State’s Colleen Quigley has the second best combined cross country/steeplechase résumé in NCAA history.

Colleen Quigley

Out of the eight collegiate women[1] who have ever run faster than Quigley’s 9:38.23 in the 3000-meter steeplechase, only 2009 The Bowerman winner Jenny Simpson’s two national runner-up cross finishes top the Seminole’s sixth place in Terre Haute, Indiana, from last fall. 

After finishing second to only Emma Coburn in the steeple at NCAAs in June 2013 and taking sixth in cross last November, Quigley seemed primed to contend for national titles this past spring.

She finished sixth at indoor NCAAs in the mile and ran the first sub-10:00 steeple opener of her college career, but a foot injury abruptly ended her season in early May. 

Below, Quigley talks about coming back from injury and contributes her answer to the great debate of our times.

Colleen Quigley
Courtesy: Bob Thomas/Florida State Athletics

Q: Is it accurate to say that an injury held you out of outdoor prelims and nationals? You ran your fastest steeple opener ever and basically tied your 1500 PR, then missed the chance to go against Shalaya Kipp and Leah O’Connor at NCAAs.

A: Yes. I’d never been injured before, but it happens to everyone at some point, and I hit that point during track.  I picked up a heel burr after ACCs. Then, from compensating against that (and running on the outside of my feet to begin with anyway), I got a stress reaction in my metatarsal.  We considered skipping the steeple and just running the 1500 at regionals.  But then a doctor told me that there were three or four spots in my foot that were heading towards a stress fracture, and we decided to shut it down.  It never got past a stress reaction.

I took six weeks completely off, which I’ve never done before.  That’s the story of my unfortunate little track season.

Q: As an individual, you’re the No. 4 returner in the nation, and as a team, you guys have just about everybody back and are ranked No. 6. What are the individual and team goals for this fall?

A: Doing better than last year is the goal. Getting sixth was really exciting; even though the course was crazy town [last year’s NCAA meet was on one of the sloppiest courses in recent history], I finally found my groove in that race.

It’s tough to compare fitness levels from the same time a year ago, but I feel like I’m in a good place.  My goals haven’t changed.

As far as the team, we’ve said “this could be the year!” every year for the last three years.  We were ranked number one going into nationals two years in a row and didn’t come away with a national title.  So, taking away the expectations this year helps.  We learned last year that that puzzle takes so many pieces.

Colleen Quigley
Courtesy: Bob Thomas/Florida State Athletics

Q: Right—after last year, Karen Harvey has very publicly announced that she’s shaking up the team’s training and racing schedule this fall.  What’s it like to know that a way of doing things that’s worked for you personally is going to change?

A: The way of doing things the last few years has worked for me personally, but it’s not fun if it doesn’t work for the team.  We’ve gotten in this groove the last few years of going to Notre Dame and then pre-nationals.  I want to run longer races, and we don’t get that with the 5k at Notre Dame.  And I’ve been to Terre Haute, what, five or six times now? So if I get to skip that trip, well, I totally agree with that.

The last few years have shown that we absolutely do need to switch it up and not have this false sense of where we are going into nationals.

Q: You have unusually broad interests for a Division I runner, having done work as a model and studied abroad in Spain.  Is it a challenge to balance that stuff with trying to run fast?

A: I have a different response than my coach to that! She likes to remind me to focus on running fast; I love the bubble of running and the track team, but it’s important to break out of that bubble too. 

I get some of that from the Florida State women’s basketball coach, Sue Semrau.  I’ve seen her speak a few times about wanting her athletes to “be more” than just a basketball player.  So I try to be more than just a steeplechaser, just a runner.  Studying abroad and being involved in a few different groups on campus, one athletic and one non-athletic all has been a huge part of my experience.

I do want to pursue professional running for a few years, but I’m not going to be a professional runner my whole life.  I’d like to be a dietician or maybe go back into modelling, and to set myself up to do that, I’m only 150% into running some parts of the year.  It’s nice to keep it light sometimes and talk to someone who has no idea what a steeplechase is.   Only being 150% into running at certain times of the year really makes me appreciate and enjoy those times of the year when it really is all about running.  It prevents burnout.

Q: Ok, now to the important questions. Has training with Pippa Woolven, Hannah Walker, and Linden Hall given you an accent?

A: I really wish.  I try to do it and they tell me that my accents are “rubbish”, that I don’t sound British or Australian at all.  I constantly try and all it does is make them laugh at me and remind me that I am 100% American.

Q: As a dietetics major, here’s the question your entire undergraduate studies have lead up to: is a  hot dog a  sandwich?

A: Oh my God… It’s not one that will ever go in my mouth, and I would not recommend it go in the mouth of any other student-athlete.  Is it technically a sandwich, does it fit the definition of “sandwich”? I guess so, yes.

1. Combining in and out of season marks from this list. (Back to story)