Q&A With Running Star Jessica Hull
Jessica Hull is a young woman on the go. From an early age, she has represented Australia and her home state of New South Wales in long-distance running. Originally from Wollongong, she now resides in America as a university student while simultaneously training for her dream, to become a world champion athlete.
I spoke with Jessica to see how she manages her study and prepares for long-distance running events, while also balancing a work and home life.
Q: When did you move to America?
A: “I moved to Eugene, Oregon in September 2015.”
Q: What do you compete in?
A: “As a distance runner we compete in all three NCAA seasons; cross country, indoor track and field where I run the mile and 3km and then outdoor track and field with the 1500m being my focus for this season.”
Q: What are you studying?
A: “I’m almost 3 years into a double degree of Human Physiology and Psychology.”
Q: How long have you been running for?
A: “I’ve been running since I was about 8 when I was old enough to compete in primary school cross country and athletics carnivals.”
Q: How long have you been in America for?
A: “I’ve been living here for 2 and half years now.”
Q: What does your average day look like?
A: “My average day usually starts with an easy 20-minute shakeout run and some breakfast before morning classes. I usually have lectures across the morning between 9:00 am and 12:00 pm and then some time for study/homework before practice at 1:30. I’m usually at practice until around 5:00 pm which includes treatment beforehand, completing the session for the day, strength work and then recovery.
After practice, I have a lab for anatomy/exercise physiology/biology three evenings of the week. I try to be done with my day by 7:00 pm to head home and make some dinner before finishing off the work for my next day of classes. My days are long and busy but they’re broken in half by practice which is definitely the highlight of my day with my team.”
Q: How do you juggle running, work and study?
A: “Juggling running and study is sometimes really challenging in itself, I couldn’t imagine trying to add in another time commitment with working. To stay on top of things I just have to commit to being organized ahead of time which means working at study and homework tasks when I have free time and not putting them off to the last minute. It also means I have to use my time productively which I’m still learning to do.
I find that keeping up with my uni workload makes running a little easier to balance too as I don’t end up compromising parts of my recovery or the time I have to do the 1 percenters that I need to stay on top of niggles and be ready to race and travel every second weekend.”
Q: Is it hard being Australian and representing another state in another country?
A: “It’s certainly a different feel to representing NSW or Australia but it hasn’t been a hard thing to get used to. When you put on an Oregon uniform you’re competing for something bigger than yourself and trying to put points on the board for your team which is a mentality I am loving being apart of. Our program has a lot of history so it’s fun to be writing our own within this as we go. Our school colours are green and yellow too, mainly during the championship season, so that’s a nice similarity to home!”
Q: What is your main focus at the moment?
A: “At the moment my main focus is on qualifying for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships which will be hosted by my university in June. It would be an awesome experience to compete in this event on our home track representing the University of Oregon, so I’m aiming to be on the start line in the 1500m.”
Q: What are your goals for this year so far?
A: “So far this year I’ve surpassed my goals and what I thought I was capable of through the indoor season which leads me to reset and raise the bar transitioning into the outdoor season. Going forward I would just like to be able to translate everything I learnt through the indoor season into some outdoor races and start piecing my racing together which usually takes 3-4 races.
From there we head into the championship season starting with the PAC-12 conference championships to be held at Stanford University in mid-May where it will be important to have some momentum going. I am hoping to stay relaxed through the process of the outdoor season and the results I’m after will come with accumulating races and putting the work we’re doing into action.”
Q: What do you do in the lead up to your event?
A: “In the lead up to races, I try to keep everything as normal as possible and replicate what I’m used to when we travel for meets. Often this means staying pretty low key and as the season goes it may start to seem monotonous to those around us, but as a team, it helps us stay in the right zone.
In the week leading up I usually start to think about what the race will look like and a few different scenarios that might unfold but then I won’t think about it again until we travel to the meet, usually 2 days before we race. Once we arrive I go over what I’m thinking with my coach, Maurica and she shares her thoughts and together we come up with a race plan that considers the elements we both foresee.”
Q: Your relay team just won national championships in the 4x distance medley relay, how did your team prepare for this?
A: “The DMR is a unique event in that it lets distance runners combine forces alongside sprinters, which is something we only get to take part in during the indoor season. We’re so used to competing across different events and doing our own parts to contribute to the championship, but getting to put a team together that incorporates both disciplines of track events was super exciting and we were all excited by the potentials that could come of it. We raced back in January in New York together to run a qualifying time and then got back to training and put in the work we all needed to be ready to go at the NCAA Championships.
On the distance side of things, Lilli (1600m leg) and I worked on building momentum with the season and once nationals rolled around we were ready for any scenario. Venessa (400m leg) ran a huge personal best at our last meet before nationals which had her excited and raring to go. Suzzane (800m leg) qualified for nationals in the mile as well which was scheduled 3 hours before the DMR final so she had to focus on that first before switching her mind over to the DMR.
When we started to prepare and think about how we wanted the race to unfold, we decided we were going to be the ones to take up the running and go to the front and trust that each of us would get the baton around leaving nothing on the track.”
Q: When you come back to Australia, do you hope to compete in the Olympics representing Australia one day?
A: “The Olympics is definitely my long-term goal, but there are lots of steps I would like to check off along the way. I will graduate in the first half of 2020 which puts Tokyo on my radar. Hopefully, my running career can extend long enough to see another home games (Commonwealth or Olympics) because watching the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games right now has me super excited.”
Q: What do you hope to achieve in the next years?
A: “Before I graduate I have a few things I would like to accomplish, most of which focus on my everyday training process including finding new limits in practice and sessions, learning from my experiences and hopefully another NCAA title as a team or in an individual event.”