Illinois senior makes successful switch

By Sharon Steed

Before last season, senior Lindsey Reu never ran the mile. Now she holds a spot on the women’s cross country traveling team and is in head coach Karen Harvey’s top five.

Reu ran the 300-meter hurdles and the 400 in high school. She came to the University to run the 400 hurdles and ended up running the 800-meter. She described her progress as average after her sophomore year. When she did not start to see improvement, she got frustrated.

Then Harvey came and saw that Rue’s talents extended beyond middle distance. Reu also noticed it; she knew the only way she would improve at her events was if she made a change, so she did.

Transitioning from track to cross country is no easy feat. Reu had to make drastic changes that seriously affected her training, diet and overall lifestyle.

“It was kind of like starting over in a lot of ways,” Reu said.

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Coming from track, the farthest she would run in practices was 600-meter intervals, and sometimes 1,000s. The workouts were shorter and stressed strength work. Cross country entails more mileage, with long runs being 10-12 miles, and short runs being six miles. The intervals are no longer 200-600 meters for Reu – they are 2,000, or even a mile.

“Physically, it was really hard on my body,” Reu said. “It was a shock to the system. I was coming into practice day in and day out and getting my butt kicked.”

Harvey saw and understood the struggle. Reu was in a locker room full of unfamiliar people and was training opposite of how she trained with track. Reu began feeling overwhelmed and started to have second thoughts about her decision.

“She actually told me fall of last year she wanted to quit this team because it was that hard,” Harvey said.

On top of her doubts about training, she had to overcome the coaching change.

“I’m pretty much the opposite of (track coach Gary Winckler),” Harvey said. “Obviously he’s a man, he’s older. I’m young, (more) hyper,” she said. “He trained her totally opposite than I was going to train her.”

Having to adjust to a new coach and new teammates was hard, but Reu was even more frustrated with her progress.

But by mid-October, she started to see a change. She was getting better in workouts and gaining confidence. Then at Big Tens, Harvey saw how strong of a competitor she was. She finished eighth in the 1,500, recording personal bests in her heat and in the final.

“To be honest with you, I didn’t think she could score,” Harvey said. “Now she’s going to be one of my top runners in cross country.”

Reu also began to pay more attention to her sleeping, eating and study habits. She became more serious about everything and realized she needed to take better care of herself to get through classes, practices and workouts. She knew she needed more discipline and focus, so she made the necessary changes.

“She’s an incredible story because she was a 300 hurdler in high school, came in, all of a sudden got put in the 800, which is a huge change, and now all of a sudden she has a new coach and is doing the mile in cross country.”

Though she doubted many of her decisions, Reu now knows her decision to stick with it paid off.

“I’m so happy I stuck with it and that I’ve been able to see all the changes and make all these improvements,” she said. “It’s been hard, but it’s been worth it too.”