Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Interview with Emily Blaha

As one of the Warrior's top runners since her freshman year, Emily has not only been instrumental to the team's success as an athlete, but as a teammate and leader as well.  Blaha has finished inside the top 15 at the CCS Championship the past three seasons and had a breakthrough race at the Mt. Sac Invitational this year where she ran 18:36 for the 3 mile course, her first time under 19 minutes.  She is #4 all-time for the Warriors with a personal best of 19:27 for the 5k Woodward Park course and has personal bests of 5:15 for 1600 and 11:28 for 3200 meters.  As the Cross Country team captain, an honor she also held last season, she leads by example on the course and off.  This fall she capped her high school cross country career by being named to the San Jose Mercury News All-County Team.  She will run in NCAA Division 1 next year for the Navy. 

Q: You recently announced to your friends on Facebook that you got into the Navy by saying: “Spent some great time with family and friends this weekend…now praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!” Please share with us when you found out you were accepted and what you were feeling when you got the news. 

I found out I was accepted to the Naval Academy in August, but was still waiting for a nomination from Congresswoman Eshoo to make it official. My response in August was silence followed a few deep breaths- then I got excited and couldn't stop telling my curious family that I just got off the phone with the dean of admissions! When I opened my letter from Congresswoman Eshoo last Saturday, my eyes got big and I think I exclaimed, "Ahhhh!". It was definitely overwhelming at first.

Q: What has inspired you to serve our country and when did you know you wanted to go into the Navy? What do you plan on studying there?

I deeply respect the selflessness, dedication, character and work ethic of our men and women in uniform. I can only hope to become an officer like my father and his father were, and like my cousin is today. The example set by others inspires me to challenge myself to grow through any experience the Navy offers me. It seemed like the Naval Academy was the ideal fit for me for college, and the more I thought and prayed about it, the more I realized that a career in the Navy was the path that fit my style of running the best. While at USNA, I plan on studying history, perfecting my Spanish, refining my math and science skills, and learning some crazy self-defense techniques. 

Q: Earlier you went on an official recruiting trip and visited this summer for a sampling of “boot camp.” Can you share what your experience was like and what drew you to want to compete for the Navy Cross Country and Track teams?

First of all, waking up around 5am to go for a run is one of the best ways that a cross country runner can start their day. The week I spent in Annapolis last summer was an incredible experience consisting of some military training, various academic classes, and physical testing that gave me a glimpse into life at USNA. The last day of the week was called Sea Trials and entailed nine hours of crawling through the mud, push-ups, abb workouts, boats, swimming, obstacle courses, running, and lots of yelling. This was my favorite day all week. This was the most grueling day, but it was the only time you saw everyone's true potential. That week showed me that the only way to survive and eventually thrive at USNA is to develop and depend on your squad-mates. (Everyone belongs to a group of six to eight students called their squad, ranging from freshmen to seniors, who very quickly become your best friends.) Later when I went on my recruiting visit, I experienced the hospitality of the girls on the Navy Cross Country and Track teams. I am excited to not only run with them, but also learn from them, in an environment where comradery is so important. 

Q: You have had some amazing success in high school. When did you start running? What inspired you to try cross country and track?

When I came to Valley Christian Junior High in seventh grade, my dad said I had to participate in two sports every year. For someone not particularly gifted in any sport involving a ball, this was a challenge. I used to beat some of the boys when we ran in elementary school, so running seemed like a logical solution. I enjoyed it from the beginning, but it wasn't until eighth grade, when I won a few races, that I started getting more serious. I realized that God had given me some natural talent, but it was up to me to put in the hard work and take it to the next level. God is my inspiration, but some races I like to unofficially dedicate to friends or family members who I admire or who are maybe having a tough week. I always seem to run better when I run with or for a reason, rather than just for myself. 

Q: In 8th grade you and your family were on vacation in Hawaii and you flew back early to help your Junior High team win its first ever county championship. In a sport that is often considered an individual sport, what does that experience and the word “team” mean to you? 

I flew back from Hawaii because I could not allow myself to let my team down. I vividly remember that trip and race day, and would not trade that joy and friendship for two days on the beach. The excitement of my personal finish was so small compared to the elation of winning as a team. The word "team" means together. I am going to miss my teammates so much next year, but the memories I have from the past four years of high school will bring me some laughs for years to come. We are a team and have gone through everything together, so the individual aspects of the sport aren't as noticeable or important anymore. 

Q: You have had a number of injuries and illnesses you have had to overcome the last few years but have always come out stronger in the end. How have those experiences made you a stronger runner and person?

As I look back at all of my various injuries and sicknesses, I see that each one prepared me in a different way. A few of the difficulties I had to overcome gave me the knowledge and experience I needed to support and help a teammate conquer the same thing. Everyone was there for me when I hit a rough patch, and I know how to be a stronger and more understanding friend based on their examples. As a runner, I evolved from the freshmen I was, who wouldn't throw elbows to get a good position in lane one, to someone who is more confident and often wants to prove that those challenges weren't a set back. In the middle of a tough workout, I try to think back to a time when the pain was worse. 

Q: You have had some great teammates and role models your four years of high school. Talk about what you have learned from them and how that has helped you in your own running.

So many people have taught me about running and life that I wish I could thank everyone, but I'll just name a few for lack of space. Jen Bergman is still the hardest person to beat on hills. She showed me that you need to take initiative and work hard. Kendra Higgins taught everyone, even the coaches, how to have fun during workouts. Her sense of humor and conversation would brighten anyone's grueling workout or a long drive to Los Angeles. Morgan Lira continually shows me how mentally tough I should be. Isabel Garcia has the biggest "kick" that every runner should be jealous of, but I am still trying to learn her secret. 

Q: Looking back what are some of your favorite and/or toughest workouts?

Some of my favorites are 16 X 400m and 12 X 200m during track season, but a long run at Quicksilver park or Rancho San Antonio are the best during XC season. Bergman Hills or the Michigan are the toughest, but they are also a tiny bit fun. I also really enjoy a good pool workout. 

Q: Looking forward, what are some of your goals for this year and as you run for the Navy in Division 1 next year? 

Before I leave, I want to post my best times ever with the teammates I love so much right beside me! It's a little intimidating to think of running Division 1 next year. My goal is to make the Navy varsity girls team and do my part to score at every opportunity (and especially help beat Army, Navy's rival who beat them this past Cross Country season).

Thanks for all the support you've given over the years, and all the compliments too. Running at VC has been so much fun!  And it's gone by much too fast. I wish you could coach at Navy next year, but no one would ever forgive me for taking you away!  :D   Five more months of hard fun sounds great!!



  1. Being an Army guy it is hard for me to watch you go to Annapolis but for one day every year for the next 4 years I will be routing for a Navy girl to beat Army. You have been a total blessing to VC3 and if I had to pick a favorite runner of all time Emily Blaha would make the top 10.
    Go get 'em EM.
    Coach Lee

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