Wichita State cross country runner Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton treated herself to a light week in preparation for Saturday’s NCAA Championships.
She cut her mileage from the 90 she typically logged earlier this season to 50. She even took a day off. That is not as easy as it sounds for one of the nation’s top runners. She studied, which didn’t keep her from missing the routine of road work.
“I felt like I don’t even deserve to eat just because I didn’t run,” she said. “I kept looking outside like somebody is going to tell me to ‘Go run,’ because I haven’t done it yet. I feel guilty a lot when I don’t run. But you’ve got to push those thoughts away and tell yourself that you deserve a break.”
Tuliamuk-Bolton finished 12th last season and is making her fourth appearance in the national meet. She qualified as an at-large runner by finishing second in the Midwest Regional with a time of 19 minutes, 55.67 seconds.
She won five races this fall, including the Pre-National Meet on the same Louisville, Ky. course as Saturday’s race. That field included No. 1 Florida State, No. 2 Oregon and No. 6 Michigan. At the Midwest Regional, she finished four seconds behind Iowa State’s Betsy Saina. With that base of training, Tuliamuk-Bolton figured rest mattered more than running this week.
“I just want to be stronger,” she said. “I needed time for recovery. I’ve been relaxing and running easy.”
Tuliamuk-Bolton finished 68th as a freshman and 13th as a sophomore, both at Iowa State. She transferred to WSU after her sophomore cross country season and ran in the 2011 NCAA meet for the Shockers.
“I’m a senior and I won’t get another chance to do college cross country,” she said. “I’ve been preparing this for a long time. I don’t even want to think about not doing good.”
The course in Tom Sawyer State Park is mostly flat and Tuliamuk-Bolton believes her familiarity with the track will help.
“I know what she’s like when the gun goes off, and she’s incredibly mentally tough,” WSU coach Kirk Hunter said. “She has an amazing focus when it comes to racing, better than anybody I’ve ever coached. She has the ability to take anything that’s happening in her life, whether it be sickness or tiredness or whatever, and completely and totally focus on the moment.”
Kansas State sophomore Laura Galvan finished seventh (20:45.72) in the Midwest Regional to qualify for Saturday’s race.