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After a Record-Breaking Weekend, Stoddard Wants More
Track and Field  . 

After a Record-Breaking Weekend, Stoddard Wants More

by Brad Muller, Director of Content

Records are meant to be broken. Sometimes they’re shattered. South Carolina graduate student distance runner Anna Kathryn Stoddard destroyed the 27-year-old school record in the 3000 meters by 14 seconds to win her event last Saturday at the Weems Baskin Outdoor Track & Field Invitational, which was held at Cregger Track.

“I guess you could say I found out before the race finished,” Stoddard said of her record run. “When I was on pace to break it, Coach was yelling at me at the start line, ‘the record is going down today. You just have to hold it together!’ So, I thought, oh gosh. I can’t slow down! No pressure.

“The race is seven and a half laps, so four or five laps in, I knew I was on a good pace. After crossing the line and hearing ‘A.K. breaks the school record,’ that was so cool!”

Stoddard’s time of 9:29.72 was also a facility record and was the 35th fastest time in the world this year. For the layman, 3000m is 1.86 miles. Breaking the record that stood for nearly 30 years is a big deal.

“That’s crazy to think about to me that no one has come along and ran faster than that,” Stoddard said. “I don’t think I’m that crazy-talented or anything. I just work hard.

“When I started doing track, I wanted to do hurdles. In high school, they sent me with the distance kids, and here I am. It just kind of stuck. You tend to like the things you are good at. I understand why some people don’t like distance running. If you don’t keep at it and stay persistent, it’s not very fun. If you just keep practicing, it does get better and it gets easier.”

Like many student-athletes, Stoddard’s outdoor season was canceled last year due to the pandemic, and with only that portion of her eligibility in place, she had to train all year without being able to fully compete until the outdoor season began again this spring.

“It was tough,” Stoddard said. “I felt like I was back to being injured because I was training with the team, but not really traveling and competing. I decided to stay persistent. I did a couple of races unattached to keep myself engaged and have a little inner-goal to train for. I’ve been thinking about putting the uniform back on since (spring) 2020.

“Being around all of my teammates during the fall and winter and seeing their success in cross country and indoor track (season), that was really inspiring. It always really motivated me to want to get out there and train so that when my time came, I could be right there with them.”

“I just try to think about the pace, not dying, and how much I could possibly give without collapsing before the line.”

The Greenwood, S.C., native has been competing in cross country and track and field during her South Carolina career and has consistently improved her times in several events to get to this point.

“When I’m running, I think about splits and the lap times,” Stoddard said. “I listen to what (head coach Curtis Frye and assistant coach Andrew Allden) say when I’m going around the track. I don’t really think about form much. I just try to think about the pace, not dying, and how much I could possibly give without collapsing before the line.
Anna Kathryn Stoddard
“My coaches have believed in me a lot and encouraged me. I’ve felt a lot of support from Coach Allden and Coach Frye. They’ve been proactive in finding good, fast races for me and tried to get me the best shoes and gear. The little things really mean a lot to me. I’ve really been able to tell a difference this year.”

Weather can play a factor in performance on the track, and Stoddard was originally supposed to compete in North Carolina last weekend, but when it was projected to be much warmer, the staff opted to have her run in South Carolina’s home meet. As luck would have it, the heat stayed in Columbia and was around 85 degrees at race time.

“The higher in distance you go, the more (the weather) affects you. Heat is a factor, mentally more than anything, just going into the race already feeling drained and worried about how you’re going to perform.”

Stoddard is no stranger to success. Last year, she set three top 10 marks during the indoor season, which included the third fastest time in the 3000m as well as South Carolina’s second fastest time in the 5000m.

“I really like the 1500m and the mile,” Stoddard said. “My freshman year, Coach Allden decided to put me in one 5K on the track, and it went really well. After that, I just kept doing one (event) after the other.

“I was able to progress very slowly, increasing my mileage over time, and working hard to do the little things that I didn’t really have time to do in high school, such as making sure I recover well, eating well, and getting lots of sleep. It’s like building blocks. It’s a process.”

Stoddard already has her undergraduate degree after studying advertising and is currently working on her master’s in mass communication. She has also been named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll every year.

So now that she has mastered the 3K, Stoddard is ready to etch her name elsewhere in the record books.

“We’ll see. I hope so!”  Stoddard said with a grin. “From here, I’m going up to the 5K. I did the 3K last week and the 1500m the week before.”

Stoddard’s personal record for the 5K is only seven seconds off the school record, so it’s certainly within reach as the Gamecocks return to action this weekend at the Florida Relays in Gainesville.

“I don’t want to jinx it, but I did drop about 15 seconds off my 3K, so I’ll definitely have my eye on the record.”

Records are meant to be broken.