Q&A with Track and Field Junior Captain Paul Hefferon

Jan. 9, 2007


Recently, junior track and field captain Paul Hefferon sat down with the media relations staff to discuss the upcoming indoor season. Hefferon earned All-America honors last season in the outdoor 5000m and also was named a 2006 cross country All-American following his 42nd-place finish at the NCAA Championships.

Q: What does being a team captain mean to you?
A: As a junior and someone who has the opportunity to be captain for a few years, it means a lot of things. First, the coaches see me as someone who has shown the characteristics and has the qualities to be a captain, which is a big honor for me. I work hard on trying to do what I do with excellence. To me, the distinction also means the coaches can trust me to lead my teammates. I truly care deeply for my teammates and about how they perform. I want to see everyone who wears the Crimson and Blue succeed at their own goals and do what I can to help them get to that point. I have always wanted to be in this position and I believe this is a great opportunity.

Q: What are your personal and team goals for the indoor season?
A: Personally, I would like to qualify for the NCAA Indoor Championships, which I believe, when compared to cross country and outdoor track and field, is the most difficult in which to qualify. It is based on time alone, and for me, I am more comfortable trying to race in to a meet rather than trying to qualify by time. I want to try and get better at each meet and win as many races as I can. As for the team, I want to see all my teammates reach their own goals. I believe if everyone takes care of their own business and we look out for each other, the team scores will take care of themselves. We all play an important part, and if we do that to the best of our ability, we can be proud of what we accomplish.

Q: What teammate do you look to as a leader?
A: Being not very senior heavy, I look to throwers a lot as leaders because of the success they’ve had recently. Cody Roberts, another captain on the team, is someone I see as a great team leader. Being a thrower, he has a presence and is someone people gravitate towards, and as a fellow captain, I look to him as one of the main leaders on the team. I also look to my fellow junior captain and roommate, Matt Baysinger, as a leader. Finally, I really feed off Colby Wissel, who is my training partner, because we’ve shared a lot of success and disappointment together. Him being here is very important and he is someone I key off of and look to when I am in training.

Q: Why do you believe hosting an indoor meet is important?
A: It gives us visibility. We get to compete in front of people who don’t get to see us that often. People can look at times and numbers on paper, but it means a lot more to put a face to those times and watch someone compete with the ebbs and flows of the race. It also allows us to develop a fan base in Lawrence, which is not always easy to do with a sport where we are on the road a lot. I think it is a big recruiting tool because we have a high school meet that accompanies it and allows the high schoolers to experience the University and meet some of the coaches and team members. For the team, it is a fun meet that doesn’t hold too many championship implications and allows friends and the city of Lawrence an opportunity to come out and support us, which I truly cherish.

Q: How does competing in the cross country season help you prepare for track and field?
A: For me, and I don’t know if it is the case for other athletes, cross country is more difficult than track. I really like cross country being the first season because it challenges me with the terrain, the hills and the huge field helps me to become more alert and more conscious of where I am in a race and that transfers over to track. A distance runner’s training naturally progresses from strength into speed and becoming sharper. Cross country plays into that, but it is more of a strength-based sport. I get to take advantage of that by building up my strength through longer mileage. The first few workouts on the track can be difficult because I am not used to running on the track, but at least I am stronger already. I think going a long time without racing is not something I enjoy, so mentally and physically it is great preparation.

Q: What is your favorite event in track and field?
A: My favorite would be the 5000m; it is the event I have had the most success in. I think it is a great distance. It’s not like the mile, which is a little more glamorous. I feel like the 5000m is a good mix of speed and strength. People who run the 10000m and marathons can run good in the 5000m because of their strength and milers coming up, with enough strength, can have a good finishing kick. I think it takes the most strategy to win a tough 5000m than any other event. I like knowing that not only do I have to be prepared physically, that I also have to be on top of my game mentally and be ready to make choices in short amounts of time.

Q: Can you describe the feeling of being an All-American in two different sports?
A: I think the weight of being named All-American might hit me when I am done with school, but while I am still competing, I am focused on what I can contribute to the team and the progress I can make in my own career. I am excited about it, but I don’t dwell on it and constantly think about what is next. I still have a lot of work to do, a lot more progress to make and a lot more ahead of me that doesn’t allow me to rest and think about it.

Q: What would you like to do when your running career is over?
A: I want to keep running once my career here is over. I have a couple of years to run fast enough to earn sponsorship. I want to train and see where I can take myself after I am done here. I feel like I will have a lot of good running left in me when I am done here. I don’t think I’ll ever stop running, even when I’m older. Running is always going to be a big part of my life, whether I am competing or not.

Outside of running, I am keeping my options open. I will graduate with a business degree. I have thought about coaching at the collegiate level. I think it would be hard to be an athlete and a coach at the same time. It is tough to not be selfish pursuing your own goals and also having to coach. I have also considered going into some ministry training. I am just keeping my options open and see what doors open for me.

Q: What have you learned training under Coach Redwine and Coach Clark?
A: I have learned more than anything how to be patient in training. A lot of people want instant improvement and want it as quickly as possible. I think that is somewhat of an American Mentality. Coach Clark has taught me to settle down and realize that distance running is rewarding to people who work hard. It takes time and effort and no one workout or run gets you to a certain level. It’s a building up of those workouts and runs that allows you to improve over time. One thing Coach Clark always says is “the 21 hours a day I spend not practicing is as important as the three hours I do.”

– KU –