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April 07, 2005 - Image 10

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10A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, April 7, 2005

ONE AND THE SAME
FRESHMAN RUNNERS AIM TO PUSH EACH OTHER TO THE TOP

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By Daniel Bronwich
Daily Sports Writer
The strategy employed by the two freshmen distance runners at the Michigan Invi-
tational at the end of January was simple. One would take the lead for the first two laps,
then the other would pass her and pace the rest of the mile-long race. And whoever had
the most left at the end of the race would finish it off.
The strategy went exactly as planned. Nicole Edwards used her strength to start the
race off fast, and teammate Alyson Kohlmeier followed right behind her. Kohlmeier
passed Edwards after 400 meters and set out to pace the rest. The two quickly moved far
ahead of the rest of the field, and it became a two-woman race. Koblmeier continued to
hold Edwards off until the last turn, when Edwards gathered herself and made one final
push to sprint past Kohlmeier and finish in first place with a time of 4:45.98, an NCAA
provisional qualifying time. The time beat her own Canadian junior national indoor
mile record. Not to be outdone, Kohlmeier finished just a second behind her teammate
and also hit a provisional mark and an Ontario indoor junior record.
But it was no surprise to Kohlmeier that Edwards passed her on the final turn of the
race.
"When we came around that last turn and she was that close to me, I knew I was
screwed,"Kohlmeier said. "She has a much better kick than I do, and, if she's that close,
there's really nothing I can do."
Said Edwards: "At the end of the race, it doesn't really make a difference who is run-
ning in front of me. I'm just trying to win the race, regardless of if it's Aly in front of me
or anybody else."
This kind of competitiveness is not unique to a runner as talented as Edwards, but
she takes it to a new level. Everybody on the women's track and field team, from fel-
low freshman Kohlmeier to fifth-year senior and national champion Lindsey Gallo, has
noticed Edwards's drive to win.
"She's really an amazing competitor," Kohlmeier said. "She always has immeasur-
able confidence going in - not cockiness - but supreme confidence in her ability.
I know she's giving her absolute all the entire time, and that motivates me and other
runners on the team."
Michigan coach Mike McGuire notices that competitiveness in each of his prodi-
gies and explains that the similarities between them go surprisingly deep. Many of the
similarities are easy to see. Both are Canadian, both are freshmen, both are distance
runners, both either had or have relatives who run or ran at Division I track programs
and, together, they are leading the Michigan track and field distance team.
With two runners who have so much in common, one would expect a natural and
heavy competition to emerge. But according to both Kohlmeier and Edwards, that
hasn't happened. And they don't expect it to happen. The two train differently and, for
the most part, run different races. Edwards excels in shorter races like the 600-meter
and 800-meter runs, while Kohlmeier is the surfacing star of the mile and the 3,000-
meter race.
"At first it was a little different," Edwards said. "We trained together a little more and
we ran the mile together. But I think as we go on, we are going to do more and more
different things. We are really completely different types of runners, and so we prepare
mentally and physically for completely different races. So I don't think there ever will
be a special level of competitiveness."
But the Michigan Invitational is not the only time that they've raced each other. As
much as they deny any competitiveness between them, runners with a mentality like
theirs have a drive to be the best. During the indoor season, they competed together
in an 800-meter race and a mile race, and these distances would seem to be the arena
from which the inevitable comparison would arise. The mile, especially, is a race that
falls on the low end of Kohlmeier's distance spectrum and on the high end of Edwards's
spectrum.
When forced to compare herself to Edwards, Kohlmeier gives the nod to her team-
mate. The Michigan Invitational and the 800-meter race that Edwards won at the Jack
Harvey Invitational seem to provide her with all the evidence she needs.
But Edwards wasn't always able to beat Kohlmeier. The two raced against each other
several times in high school, and each time, Kohlmeier finished ahead of Edwards.
They competed against each other in the 800-meter run and the 1,500-meter run at
the Canadian Legion Track Championships and the cross country Canadian Nationals.
Kohlmeier won both races.
Edwards remembers Kohlmeier as a successful prep runner.

One conclusion that can be agreed upon is that both runners make the other one train
harder and run faster.
"She really pushes me, because I definitely don't want to be lazing around while she
is training," Edwards said. "She works unbelievably hard, and I don't want to be left
behind."
The runners do not only have each other to motivate and encourage them, but each
has a relative who enjoyed success running at the college level. Edwards's aunt Pamela
Lawrence owns the Rice University indoor records in the mile, the 3,000-meter run, the
5,000-meter run and the outdoor record in the 5,000-meter. Kohlmeier's sister Amy was
recruited by McGuire two years ago but is now a sophomore at Notre Dame who runs
on the cross country and track teams.
"My sister has really been invaluable to me, just in terms of advice and encourage-
ment that she can offer," Kohlmeier said. "She's had a tough couple of years with inju-
ries. But they never seem to get her down, and she always bounces back as quickly as
she can from them."
Amy Kohlmeier is able to provide much-needed inspiration to Alyson, especially
now, since both sisters are currently struggling with knee injuries. Alyson is leaning
toward redshirting her first outdoor season, but, even if she decides to cancel it, her
ascent won't pause for too long.
"She is just so much better than I was as a freshman," four-time NCAA indoor All-
American Lindsey Gallo said. "She obviously has the physical tools to be great, and I'm
just excited to see her mature as a runner."
Gallo has set Michigan records in the mile and the 1,500-meter, finished third in the
mile at the NCAA Championships and led the distance medley relay team to a national
championship less than a month ago. Edwards ran on that team, but it just whet her
appetite for more.
"I absolutely loved being on the relay team at nationals, and I would love another
chance to be on that team," Edwards said. "I didn't get a chance to run individually
though, and I'd love to run the 800-meters at the outdoor championships. If I didn't get
to, I would really be disappointed, but I know that I'll have other chances."
Kohlmeier ran the mile at nationals, but, by that time, her knee was already acting up.
Regardless of her disappointing time and her recent injury, her goals remain high.
"I would really like to be an All-American, and I want to win an individual Big Ten
title as well," Kohlmeier said. "But my primary goal right now is for our team to win the
Triple Crown this year in the Big Ten (titles in cross country, indoor track and outdoor
track)."
With athletes as talented as these two, it sometimes seems like there is not much that
a coach can do other than watch them improve. And McGuire doesn't dispute that.
"There's no real strategy for coaching them," McGuire said. "Basically, I'm just
going to try to keep them healthy and happy running and make sure they accomplish
things within the framework of the team."
Gallo doesn't think that McGuire's task should be too difficult.
"It's really fun because they are both so eager and so excited about running and com-
peting," Gallo said.
Gallo isn't the only one who has noticed these qualities though. In fact, Edwards
enthusiastically talked about the encouragement she hears from her teammate.
"Aly is just so impressive to me with the way she always stays positive, and she's
always encouraging everybody around her," Edwards said. "She's never down, even
after she runs a disappointing race. She is always able to encourage and be happy for her
teammates. Not many people can bounce back like she can."
The future of Michigan women's track and field looks bright with these two at the
helm.
"They are both really serious about being very, very good;' McGuire said. "They are
both going to have multiple opportunities to be All-Americans, and the level they are
running at is already as high as anybody else."
Kohlmeier realizes that she and Edwards will be counted on to lead the team in the
coming years.
"After that race at the Michigan Invitational, I kind of realized the potential we have,"
Kohlmeier said. "Two freshmen finishing one-two - it's really pretty amazing. But
this is why I chose to come here, so I could find competition like Nicole. It just helps you
improve so much."
With their already impressive athletic abilities and their unwavering focus on future
success, it shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody if Kohlmeier and Edwards finish
one-two. Or two-one.

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40

ALEXANUE R)DZADUOS/Daily
Alyson Kohlmeier leads Nicole Edwards in the mile during the Michigan Invitational
on Jan. 29. Edwards surpassed Kohlmeier en route to an NCAA provisional
qualifying time.
"She was infinitely better than I was," Edwards said. "And at that time, there is no
way that I could ever even think about racing her. I was never even near her."
Kohlmeier was a dominant runner, competing in four World Championships and
winning four provincial gold medals in the 1,500-meter run.
"Of course I knew who she was," Edwards said. "She was winning all the time."
But Edwards was no less impressive. Hailing from Winnipeg, she holds seven Mani-
toba provincial indoor records and was named Manitoba Female Athlete of the year in
2004. And Kohlmeier knew who she was.
"I followed her in the papers and saw how she was doing," Kohlmeier said.
"Coincidentally, we also both visited Duke and Michigan at the same time, and
when coach McGuire met with me, he mentioned that they were also recruiting
Nicole."
But for a runner who always seems to be the best, Edwards bccame surprisingly
agitated when told that Kohlmeier had. said that Edwards was faster.
"She is absolutely faster than I am," Edwards said. "Coming in here, she was 15 sec-
onds faster, and that's an unbelievably long amount of time. Just look at the times if you
don't believe me. Yeah, I might have beaten her in one race, but she's faster. She runs
faster times, just look at the paper."
But the statistics do not provide any definitive conclusions. Kohlmeier's fast-
est time in the mile is faster than Edwards's, but Edwards owns the title in the
800-meter.

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