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Lair qualifies for cross country nationals

Friday, November 16, 2007  
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By Chad Hartwell

Junior Nicole Lair qualified for the 2007 NAIA Cross Country National Championships in her first season of running for Oklahoma Christian University’s cross country team.

Lair participated in track in high school but claims she never was any good. She is in her third year at Oklahoma Christian, but up until this year she ran on her own.

“I ran on my own anyways, so I figured why not just run competitively for the school?” Lair said.

Assistant cross country coach Mark Thompson said Oklahoma Christian’s cross country team was eager to have Lair join them.

“She has run on her own for the past several years and expressed an interest in running on the team this season,” Thompson said. “We were glad to have her join the team.”

The Billings, Mont. native earned her place on the team by posting two top fifteen marks this year in spite of the fact it was her first year as a competitive runner, far surpassing Lair and the coaches’ expectations.

“I was totally shocked when Coach told me I made it. I was not expecting that at all,” Lair said.

At the Sooner Athletic Conference/NAIA Region VI meet, Lair posted an 11th place finish and qualified to participate in the national championships. Thompson said this qualification was remarkable.

“Stepping into a very competitive region and qualifying individually is an impressive feat. I think it is just the beginning for Nicole though,” Thompson said. “She has run strong for us the entire year, but is still getting better.”

Even though she felt she had run one of her better races, Lair was still unsure of whether she ran well enough to qualify for the national meet.

“I ran my best race of the season but still didn’t think I made it,” Lair said.

Prior to this year, Lair ran on her own without a structured training program. The speed workouts especially provided a challenge for her.

“I was never very fast because all I did was long easy runs on my own. Now we’ve done a lot of speed workouts which I feel has definitely helped me improve,” Lair said.

The new training regimen has helped Lair move from an average runner to a competitive runner.

“It has taken her a little while to adjust to the intensity we expect in training,” Thompson said. “When you run on your own, the easiest thing to do is just head out the door to jog a certain number of miles, and then that’s the workout.”

Thompson said to see significant gains in fitness level, it is necessary to increase the intensity with hard interval sessions and tempo runs. Lair is still adapting to this type of training and the benefits from it will continue to come.

“This is where running with the team will really benefit Lair. It will take some time before the benefits of the higher intensity are revealed,” Thompson said.

Thompson expects to see Lair continue to improve throughout the rest of the year.

“She is a very strong runner both physically and mentally,” Thompson said. “She has the talent to be one of Oklahoma Christian’s all-time best runners over the next couple of years.

Lair not only runs cross country and goes to school, but she also works at Academy, a sports and outdoors store. Thompson considers Lair to be a unique individual.

“She balances her life very well and somehow manages to consistently be in a good mood,” Thompson said. “She is fun to be around and adds a lot of personality and character to our women’s team.”

Lair plans to continue cross country running in the future.

“I hope to get a personal record at nationals, but with a challenging hilly course, who knows,” Lair said. “I just want to go out there and run my best.”


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