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Feb. 3, 2011

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Three weeks are in the books and the Gamecocks begin their “Championship Season” this week with the prestigious annual New Balance Invitational held at The Armory Track Center in New York City. Each week here on we will provide you with a variety of updates ranging from practice reports to student-athlete features to storylines to video interviews to everything going on in the world of Gamecock track and field. Our third report features a Q&A with former Gamecock and Olympic gold medalist Natasha Hastings – a native of the Tri-State area and multiple-time participant at the New Balance Collegiate.

You won the 400m race at the 104th Milrlose Games at Madison Square Gardens last weekend, finishing in front of DeeDee Trotter whom you have battled over the years. First, how many times have you run at the Millrose Games and what did you think about your race?
I’ve run at Millrose five times now. I ran the 4x400M relay in high school there. Being that my senior year of high school was 2004, it’s been a while since I’ve competed on this track, so I had a lot of refreshing to do. I knew I always had a difficult time staying down in lane one, so I remembered the turns being extremely tight. Going into the race I just told my to get to the front before the cut in, because I knew it would be very difficult to pass on that track and I needed to take control from early. So, I was excited with the outcome.

Results from the Millrose Games

What was your goal for this race? Did you and Coach Frye have a race plan?
My goal prior to the race was of course the victory. Coach Frye and I did talk before the race, and our main focus was getting to the front and executing a clean race plan. I mentioned breaking Diane Dixon’s track record, not remembering how difficult those turns are, and I also didn’t know that the track now is much slower than it was back when she ran. But I was pleased with the win, and to know that my time was the fastest run in the 400m in a few years was pretty exciting as well.

There were a number of former Gamecocks running at Millrose this year. Where you able to visit with them or train with them at all? And we have to ask about all the snow up in New York prior to the Millrose! Did that make getting around difficult.

It’s so hard to get around to see everyone at meets, because we’re so focused on warming up and preparing for our race. I did however, get to see Miki and Lisa Barber briefly. It’s always great to see former Gamecocks competing and doing well. The snow did make things a little difficult. I managed to catch a cold while I was up there, and on a couple of occasions I almost slipped and fell. For a while, I appreciated the snow because we don’t get much snow down south, but by the end of the week it was a pain!

Being a New Yorker who is now a transplanted Southerner as you live and train in Columbia with Coach Frye. What is the best part of being back on the campus where you went to college?

I guess the best part of being back is that I feel more at home. I’m familiar with the surroundings, and although the team has changed a lot since I graduated, it is great to be out there training with the Gamecocks like old times.

The Gamecocks had a really nice showing at Texas A&M last weekend. Do you feel like a role model for the current Gamecocks? What kind of advice do you give them?

That’s odd to me because I feel like I’m not that much older than them, but some of the team members do come to me for advice. I really just advise them to stay focused and to listen to the things Coach Frye tells them.

Where else will you be running indoors?

This upcoming weekend, I have the Boston Indoor Meet in Boston, Massachusetts. I will again competing in the 400M. The following weekend I’ll be running in the Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark. We haven’t decided on the events for that meet yet. Finally, I will be competing in the US Indoor National Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There is no World Indoors this year.

What’s the biggest difference in running as a professional from running in college?

I’d say the biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is mentally. While I still enjoy doing what I do, it does make a difference that this is now how I earn my living. There is a lot more pressure, and certainly a lot more at stake at this level.

The biggest thing that Coach Frye and I have been working on is speed. This off season we worked a lot on developing my speed and technique. That is why I ran a few 60M races and a 200 so early in the season. The hardest part is making the adjustment to the training schedule. I now train 2-3 times a day. I also have to schedule treatment and rehab and of course breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Have you started to work on your schedule for outdoors yet? Will you run in Europe? How do you set up your schedule to run overseas? Do you have a favorite place to run in Europe?

We have not started working on my extended outdoor schedule yet. I do know that the first couple months will be mostly relays at relay meets like Florida and Penn Relays. I think my favorite place in Europe to run is Paris. That meet always has a great turn out, and I just love the shopping in Paris.

Is running as a professional easier or harder than you thought it would be? Why?

I’d say it’s harder. I didn’t think that my training schedule would change so much, and in some cases I have to travel to meets on my own. So, not always having a coach with you can make things a little more difficult.

You won an Olympic gold medal with the USAs 4x400m relay at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. What was the best part of the race and that experience?

It’s been nearly three years since that experience I still can’t it into words. All I can say is that I’ve dreamed about running in the Olympics for as along as I can remember, and for that dream to come true before my twenty-second birthday is humbling!

Any advice for high schoolers? College athletes?

The best advice I can give is to remember that competing in a sport is a privilege. That means you need to handle your business first; meaning academics. You can’t get into school or compete at a major university without having the grades to maintain eligibility. So, I say take that same competitive attitude that you have on the track or on the field or court, and put it to use in the classroom.

Best thing that has happened in Columbia the last year?

I’m so excited to see how much the University has grown since I left. The sports facilities as well as the academic campus are going under major transformations. Of course we were all excited to see Baseball win its first National title (of course women’s track won the first outdoors in 2002), and football had a great season this past fall. I think the future of the Gamecock Athletic Dept is boundless.