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At the Front of the Pack

Nov. 14, 2001

For the 2000 Texas high school cross country champion and a four-time all-state selection, one would think that running at the front of a race would be a given. But for Georgia Tech sophomore cross country standout Renee Metivier it took a little time for her to learn her place in collegiate competition. But this season she has found it in a big way.

“I learned a lot more about running with the faster runners,” says Metivier, a Highland Village, Texas, native. “My freshman year, in my first couple of races, I wasn’t up there in the front because I was thinking ‘All these people are so fast.’ But I’m beyond that now. I kind of associate myself now with the faster runners.”

And Metivier, who led the 24th-ranked Yellow Jackets to the NCAA South Regional Championships last weekend, has proven herself to be among the ACC and nation’s elite. As a freshman, she posted three top-10 finishes and earned All-South Region honors with a sixth-place finish at the NCAA South Regional Championships. She also ran a strong race in the Yellow Jackets’ first trip to the NCAA Cross Country Championships.

Metivier enjoyed a strong rookie track season, as well. She earned All-ACC honors, clocking a time of 17:05.49 in the 5,000-meters at the ACC Indoor Championships. She also placed fifth in the 3,000 at that meet. In the outdoor season, Metivier garnered all-conference honors again by placing second in the 3,000-meter Steeplechase at the ACC Championships. She also placed fifth in the 5,000 with a time of 16:49.62.

“Last year, early on in the season, she wasn’t really sure where she should be in a race,” says Tech head coach Alan Drosky. “As the season went on she became more comfortable with that and started to assert herself a little bit more. It wasn’t really until our regional meet last year where she really had that breakthrough individual race. That was kind of the first step for her to see the type of people that she can compete against.”

The next step occurred in her first race this season. At the Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis, she finished seventh out of 300 runners in a field that included 12 nationally-ranked teams. Her six-kilometer time of 20:58 bested her performance from last year’s NCAA South Regional.

“I didn’t quite expect to run that well,” says Metivier. “I knew I was in good shape, but I surprised myself. It really showed me what could happen later on in the season. I got excited after the race. I was only two places behind the girl who is ranked eighth in the country. I didn’t really expect myself to be up with the big dogs but when I found myself up there it gave me more confidence.”

Adds Drosky, “She ran very competitively, finishing seventh in probably what has been the biggest meet in the country so far this year. The people that she was competing with and the kind of people that she beat were big time, national-level studs, literally the kind of people that are mentioned as contenders for the individual national championship. I’m sure for her that is a race that can only help her confidence.”

Metivier’s performance at the Griak meet proved to be a springboard for the rest of her season. At the NCAA Preview, she finished second on the course that will host next week’s NCAA Championships, posting a time of 20:59. Two weeks later, she led the Jackets to a fourth-place finish at the ACC Championships by placing second individually, the highest finish ever for a Tech runner.

And last week Metivier clocked a season-best time of 20:20.39 to win the NCAA South Regional Championship and pace the Yellow Jackets to their first-ever team title. She earned all-region honors for the second consecutive season and became the first Tech runner to capture an individual regional title.

Some of her recent success can be attributed to the team’s switch from longer, distance-based training to shorter interval workouts. Metivier believes this change has had a very positive effect on her races. “I think that it helps me finish a lot faster and handle faster paces and changes in pace, because you don’t run the exact same pace the entire race,” says Metivier. “Some people will throw in a surge in the middle of a race, and I think it helps me be better prepared for that situation.”

Another thing that is certain to have Metivier prepared for any situation is her work with Drosky, as he has already been where she wants to go. One of Metivier’s goals is to become Tech’s second women’s cross country All-American, and first since Beth Mallory in 1995, which means finishing among the top 30 Americans at the NCAA meet. Drosky was an All-American runner at Tech from 1985-87. This fact was key to Metivier when it came time for her to choose a school.

“He knew what he was talking about,” says Metivier, who also considered Notre Dame, Rice and Vanderbilt. “He’s an All-American. He recruited me very heavily. He flew to my house for an evening and then flew back here, which showed me that he really wanted me to be on the team. I’d seen what he’d done with people who weren’t as fast in high school. They’d gotten so much better when they came here. I wanted to get better when I came here.”

Drosky adds, “Initially what attracted me to Renee was she had fast times, she had won some big races like the Texas state meet, and she was a Georgia Tech-type kid. She had great academics. As I got to know her, I realized that she is very strong as an athlete. She’s small in stature, but she is big in heart. She really is a tough, tough kid and is very competitive.”

Metivier’s competitive nature often pushes her to want to go above and beyond the call of duty in practice. “One of the challenges for me as a coach is kind of holding Renee back a little bit,” says Drosky. “If you give her half a chance, she will do too much, and she’ll do it too hard. She always wants to do a little extra and extra is good. But at some point the increased risk of injury starts to become greater than the increased fitness. But she works very, very hard. There are many times when I’m just really impressed with Renee.”

Metivier’s past accomplishments, as well as those that are sure to come, are enough to leave anyone impressed. But for her, there is a much more to running than just the end result.

“I get a high when I run,” says Metivier. “There’s a quote in the movie Chariots of Fire – ‘When I run, I feel God’s pleasure running though me,’ and I kind of feel the same way. When I’m done with a race or a really hard run it makes me feel better about myself. It clears my head and makes me a happier person, too.”

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