Q&A with Coach Sweeney

For 14-straight years the same name has been inscribed on the MIAC Women's Indoor Track and Field Championship - the University of St. Thomas. Earlier this month, the Tommies captured title No. 14 in a row with a tremendous all-around team performance at St. Olaf College's Tostrud Center in Northfield, Minn.

The Tommies' head coach, Joe Sweeney, visited with the MIAC Media Blog for another installment of Championship Coach Q&A to discuss his team's latest title. Sweeney also talks about some of his team's keys to success and philosophies, another star performance by senior Taylor Berg, and takes a quick look ahead to the outdoor season, where his Tommies will try to add another title on their home track as St. Thomas is set to host the 2013 MIAC Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

MIAC Media Blog Championship Coach Q&A
Joe Sweeney, St. Thomas Women's Track and Field

St. Thomas Head Coach
Joe Sweeney
MIAC: First of all, congratulations on your 2013 MIAC Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championship. Your team has now won all 14 MIAC Indoor women’s titles in a row. What does it feel like to carry a streak of success like that, and is there any pressure that comes along with it?

SWEENEY: We don't talk about streaks or numbers much. The athletes and staff take a lot of pride in being successful and enjoy the process of working together to win team championships.  As we start each season it's just an understanding that we are going to aspire to be conference champions.  One of our mottos through the years has been: "UST/TTE," which means: "Total Team Effort." Whether it's practice or meets, that's what we try to deliver - everyone in all the events contributing. Having the winning tradition is definitely a plus, and gives people confidence when the big meets roll around.  When we have had some close ones, our athletes  have been very good at rising to the occasion, and that comes with experience.

MIAC: What were some of the keys to success for this year’s St. Thomas team? How does this particular team stand out among all your other past championship teams.

SWEENEY: We had 10 first-place finishes in the conference meet which is a lot for us. There is something special about being an individual or relay champion,  and in many situations it is by a hundredth of a second or a fraction of an inch. I saw that those who had a chance to win really dug deep to get the victory. It is not easy to be, "the very best,"  in your event in a competitive conference like ours, so I have great respect for those individuals who were able to achieve that. Ten first places - that's 100 points right there, so it was a key factor to our success.

St. Thomas' Taylor Berg runs to a first-place finish in the women's mile
at the 2013 MIAC Indoor Track and Field Championships.
(Photo by Matt Higgins, MIAC)
MIAC: Taylor Berg continued her great senior season with MIAC Indoor Track Athlete-of-the-Year honors and the Performance-of-the-Meet honor. Talk about what her success has meant to your team, both this season and throughout her career.

SWEENEY: Taylor is a great team leader who personifies what we like to see in a student-athlete: overachiever, tough competitor, accomplished student and team player. She has a real passion for running and the success of our teams, and that is as strong today as it was her freshman year. She has improved season-to-season and is a great role model for our younger athletes.  It will be a huge loss when she graduates, but she has left a legacy that will inspire others to achieve excellence by applying themselves in a similar way.  What I will remember most about her is that she simply, "loves to be a Tommie," and be part of everything we represent. As a coach that means a lot, knowing that she is in the right place.
MIAC: Talk about some of the other tremendous individual and relay efforts that helped propel your team to victory.

SWEENEY: All the individual event winners were awesome performances; it's hard to single out any of those out. The one pleasant surprise was the Distance Medley Relay. For rest and recovery reasons, we had one just person from our National team running on the conference team, junior Erin Statz. We had two freshman and a junior running with Erin, and they did a great job keeping us in the race. It was the last event on Friday. Coming from behind and winning that gave us a nice emotional boost heading into Saturday - the perfect ending to a good day.

St. Thomas celebrates its 2013 MIAC Indoor Track and Field championship.
(Photo courtesy of Chad Thomas, CJT Photography)
MIAC: Up next is the outdoor season and the 2013 MIAC Outdoor Track and Field Championships, which will be hosted on your home track. Is your team looking forward to competing outdoors, and what are some of the differences between the two seasons.

SWEENEY: We only get to host about once every eight years so it's always a big deal for our athletes when we do. We have our new video board in the stadium, so we are looking forward to incorporating that into the meet.  We add a few events like hammer, javelin, steeple chase and 400 hurdles,  so the dynamics and scoring potential outdoors is a bit different. We will have athletes in all those events, and they are looking forward to getting outdoors. The best thing we can do is have great weather for that weekend. If we have that, I'm sure the meet will be a great event for all involved. Of course, it would be nice to win, so we'll push for a UST/TTE "Total Team Effort" to carry us one more time.

MIAC: Thanks a ton to Coach Sweeney for joining the MIAC Media Blog and congrats to the Tommie women on a great performance en route to the MIAC indoor title. Good luck as outdoor season gets set to begin, and we're looking forward to visiting St. Thomas in May for the 2013 MIAC Outdoor meet.

Championship Coach Q&A is nearly complete for the winter season with only swimming and diving remaining. Stay tuned to the MIAC Media Blog, as the Q&A with Gustavus women's swimming and diving coach Jon Carlson is set to run later this week, with the men's swimming champions also coming soon. The MIAC Media Blog will also shift gears with a look ahead to the spring season soon, even though the snow continues to fall in our great state.

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