With the start of the fall season just around the corner, we sat down with one of NE Distance’s most experienced Elite Team members, Katie Spratford, to catch up on her recent successes and the team’s growth over the last few years. After a breakout year where she placed 9th at the 2016 USATF 15k Championships and represented Team USA at both the Great Edinburgh XC Race and the NACAC XC Championships, Katie is looking to carry that momentum forward and help lead a newly minted NE Distance Women’s Elite Team to prominence on the regional and national stages. Katie’s three years of experience coaching as part of NE Distance’s Athlete-in-Residence program will also play a crucial role this fall as the program continues to expand and include more and more youth participants.
Name: Katrina Spratford
Hometown: Tewksbury, NJ
College: Shippensburg University
Specialties: Cross Country, 5k, 10k
Favorite place to run: Columbia Trail, Califon, NJ
Race rituals/superstitions: I always paint my nails the night before a race!
Go-to pre-race meal: pasta, salad, steak
Go-to post-race meal: pizza and ice cream
Favorite running quote: Whether you think you can or you can’t, you are right.
All photos taken by Michael Scott.
Q & A
How and when did you start running?
I began running in 4th grade. My gym teacher was the coach and told me to sign up so I did. Although I had no idea what cross country was, I fell in love with the sport immediately. By 6th grade I decided that I was going to be a pro runner when I grew up.
When did you first join NE Distance? What was it that drew you to the organization?
I joined NED right after graduating from Shippensburg University in 2013. I really liked the community aspect of the team. I have always enjoyed working with kids and love when I get to share and spread my passion of running. I also knew that I wanted to be surrounded by a team atmosphere with teammates and consistent practice times, and knew that I needed help with housing and a travel budget. There are a lot of perks to being on the team!
How do you like living and training in Rhode Island? What is it like to be a part of its ever-growing running community?
It took me a while to adjust to life in Rhode Island, just like when you first go to college. I had to get used to a new environment, running route, coach, team, etc. After the second year I began to feel more at home and comfortable with it all! I have to say, it has been incredible to watch the team grow over the past 4 years. I joined the team in year 2 of NED and there were 3 girls and 1 lone guy on the team. At that time, we weren’t coaching middle school yet so we were all living in Woonsocket and working at the after school program. Now we have close to 10 athletes, coach at 8 middle schools, and live in Providence!
What is your favorite part about coaching a middle school team? How has coaching changed your perception of the sport of running and the impact it can have on a person’s life?
I truly enjoy coaching at Woonsocket Middle School. Middle school is where I began dreaming of being a pro runner and I found my passion for the sport, so it is special to begin working with kids around that same age. They are so impressionable at that age, so it is incredibly important that we can go in there and have a positive impact on them, directing them towards sports and holding them to a higher academic standard. I believe that sports teach life lessons and I have seen it first hand with my middle schoolers. Some of them join the team as a timid, shy 6th graders and leave us as confident, goal setting, dream making 8th graders who have a greater sense of self-image, discipline, work ethic. I could go on forever about the benefits!
What has been your greatest athletic achievement as a member of NE Distance?
This past xc season was a bit of a breakthrough for me. I struggled with some issues in the fall that threw off my training but I was able to come back and place 12th at Club Cross which was good enough to get me on my first USA team (Great Edinburgh Race, Scotland)! I was then able to place 13th at US XC Nationals in Bend, OR and that was enough to make the NACAC US XC team.
What is the most valuable lesson that running has taught you thus far in your career?
I’d say the biggest lesson that running has taught me is how to stay patient and trust in myself and my training. This past fall was really rough; I had 6 weeks of interrupted training (like, barely running, no workouts or long runs) and was so bummed thinking that I’d miss out on cross country. I trusted Coach Kurt when he said he wasn’t worried. We were able to get a full three weeks of training with three workouts in before Club XC where I ended up running a lifetime PR and qualifying for my first US team.
What is the single most important piece of advice you would give to young or beginner runners?
Believe in yourself and your dreams. Focus on what you can control and don’t sweat the rest. It’s too easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing.
What is your favorite workout?
I love tempos and anything cross country related- hill repeats, grassy intervals.
What is your most memorable race?
The Great Edinburgh XC Race in Scotland this past January. It was my first international race and first time overseas. The UK knows how to put on a true cross country race! It was such an incredible experience that I will never forget it.
What are you most looking forward to this upcoming season?
Getting healthy, staying healthy, logging miles, competing in cross country (my FAVORITE season), and training with some new NE Distance ladies!! I absolutely love everything about the fall season, cross country makes my heart so full. There is so much to look forward to.