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Faces Off the Field: Emi McCollum, senior, Vandegrift track and field

First off, what are the stories behind those medals?

One medal is for being regional champions in the 1,600 relay, and the other two are for winning regional champions as a team in cross country.

What’s your favorite memory from competing in track and field?

I was on a (1,600-meter) relay as a sophomore, and we were the first girls from our school to advance to the state meet in track. I will never forget how excited and giddy we were standing on the podium realizing this (accomplishment). We celebrated the whole bus ride home and our coach even let us stop at Buc-ee’s.

What do you think about when you’re running?

During the relay, I always think about my teammates and getting them in a good position. During my individual events, I have teammates who stand at the same place around the track, so I listen for their voices to push me to the finish line.

Do you have a special diet in season?

I eat more fruit smoothies, protein — and lots and lots of water. It’s truly amazing how much a diet can impact your running so I try my best to just be conscious of what I’m fueling my body with, but after a hard week of workouts and a meet, it’s sometimes OK to reward yourself with a milkshake.

How do you motivate yourself to run on days you don’t feel like it?

I just remind myself to stay strong mentally and focus on my season goals. I also try to be intentional with every workout because you can’t hide on the track and how hard you work will show during meets.

If you could have dinner with any four people in the history of the world, whom would you invite?

Jimmy Fallon, Simone Biles, Ellen DeGeneres and my teammate Taylor Grikis.

Why Simone Biles?

She has a powerful story of overcoming adversity that has really inspired me as an athlete. Watching her in Rio, she seemed to always have a smile on her face, and you just knew she loves gymnastics.

If you had the choice of being all-state in track or valedictorian of your class, which would you choose?

All-state because of how much my coaches, teammates and parents have invested in me. Although I value academics highly, I feel like I have a whole lifetime to continue to learn in areas I’m passionate about.

What are your college plans?

Next fall I will attend Texas A&M to study civil engineering. I’m exploring the option of walking on to the cross country team and hopefully track as well.

Do you have any pre-race rituals?

The night before every meet, I have a pasta dinner and take an ice bath. Right before each race, I say a prayer with my teammates.

Tell me something about youself that most people don’t know.

I’ve been a part of a Bible study for seven years with my church, but the past two years, I’ve begun to lead my own group for middle school girls.

What’s your favorite food?

My grandma makes the best chocolate chip cookies ever. I don’t think anyone can beat her recipe. I could eat dozens at a time.

— Rick Cantu

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