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Q&A with Nevada's Emily Costello: From beating the boys to setting Wolf Pack records

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Emily Costello won the 200-meter dash at the Texas Relays. (Ryan Daley, Nevada Athletics)

Emily Costello's athletic career began in the dance studio performing ballet. She them made the transition to the soccer pitch where her speed stood out as special. After a standout high school career, the Folsom, Calif., native committed to Nevada, where she's put her name in the Wolf Pack's top-10 record book seven times, including in the 60, 100, 200 and 400 meters as well as the 4x400 relay. Costello is in the midst of her best season yet at Nevada after taking first place in the 200 meters at the Texas Relays, the Wolf Pack's most recent event.

Because of her accolades over the last month, Costello is Nevada Sports Net's Wolf Pack Athlete of the Month for March, an honor presented in partnership with Champion Chevrolet. You can watch our full interview with Costello below, or check out our Q&A underneath that.

Q&A with Emily Costello

What's it been like to get back out there these last couple of weeks to compete?

Emily Costello: "Oh, it's been amazing. I just wasn't sure if we were going to have a season, and I've just been really keeping my mind open to the idea that it could be shut down at any point. I'm just racing and having fun because you never know when it could be stopped, and that's just kind of how I've been lately."

Do you have a favorite event? Sprinting is a very aggressive kind of sport. You've got 11-12 seconds to get to the finish line, but is there one race when you toe the line you get more excited for than any other?

EC: "I was recruited for the 400, so that's kind of like my main event. So I put a lot of pressure on myself for that one I would say. So for me, that's not as fun, but I do enjoy running it. I would say my favorite is probably the 200 just because there's not as much mental game in it. You kind of just run as hard as you can. There's no strategy. So I would say that 200 is my favorite."

What goes into a typical day of training? You're training for these short races, but there's obviously much more that goes into it behind the scenes.

EC: "We practice five to six days a week. We'll do probably about two days that are short, sprinting work and we work on block starts or acceleration or even getting up to top end speed. We also we lift two to three times a week, depending on if we're in the offseason or in season. We also have two of those days where we do more of a speed/endurance day. Yesterday, we did a 300, then you get three minutes rest, then you do it 200, then you get 8 to 10 minutes rest, and then you do it again, and we were at race pace, and so that was very difficult yesterday. But that's kind of our more speed and endurance day, so working on stuff that's race pace for the 400. We have a day or two in there that's a recovery day. Today we did 600, 500, 400, 300, 200, 100, but they were at more of like a recovery pace with 2 minutes rest. Usually Sundays we have off, but we do put in about 20 hours a week."

Your athletic career started with ballet dancing then evolved to soccer and eventually track and field. Was there a moment you kind of realized 'I'm really fast?' Was there kind of a lightbulb moment where you just knew your speed was maybe a little different than everybody else's?

EC: "With ballet, I knew I was pretty bouncy as a little kid. So we ended up going and moving on to soccer, and I was really fast on the field. I would even play defender, and my coach would just tell me, 'If you can go score a goal and get back in time to defend your spot, do it.' So, I would score goals as a defender, which was kind of funny, but then I would say probably eighth grade to freshman year of high school, I sort of realized through the coach that I had that I could go further, that I could go to college with track and field. When he started seeing the improvements that I was making within the first two years of high school, and the times that I was dropping, it was definitely a big possibility. I just kept working toward that. I know it was odd for a lot of my teammates just because they're out there having fun and track is a very social sport, and they were, like, 'Emily, just have fun today.' And I'm like, 'No, I have a goal. I have something I'm trying to do here.' So that was kind of hard, but I would train with the boys. And they wouldn't want me to run with them."

You mentioned your drive and you were out there for a different goal than some of the other people on the track and field team. Where did that come from? Why did you feel like you had these higher aspirations than a lot of other people you around?

EC: "I don't know. I honestly feel like it was just because I finally had a coach that believed in me, and whether or not his goals that he had set for me were a little more conservative than what they should have been, he just didn't want to disappoint me. So he didn't like put the bar super high, but still those times would get me to college. I think it's just when I realized, 'Wow, I'm pretty good.' When you're good at something, usually you enjoy doing it, and I feel like I was getting reinforced a lot at the meets that we were going to, and so I just continued to grow because of that."

What made you decide to come here to Nevada?

EC: "I really felt like Coach (Shantel) Twiggs put in a lot of effort to build a relationship with me. At one point she ended up coming down to Folsom and watched one of our practices, she went to Arcadia and watch me run there, and I just really liked the way that that I presumed she coached her athletes. I felt like it was very similar to how I was coached in high school. So that to me was a big reason why I picked here. I would say as well the athletes at the time that I met when I came on my visit were amazing, and it seemed like they were really connected. At some of the other schools, it just didn't look like they were a family. I also really enjoy that it's pretty close to home, I don't have to hop on a plane to get home. It's just 2 hours, so that's why I picked here."

What are your goals as you move forward in your Wolf Pack career?

EC: "It would be amazing to get to the NCAA championships, even the prelims I think this year. That's my biggest goal is to make it to prelims. I know that was something we wanted to accomplish last season, and we just didn't get the opportunity. But, I mean, it's crazy this season, I've been PRing almost every time I step on the track, and it's just weird for me because I haven't felt that since high school. My dad even asked me, 'Emily, how does it feel? Like how you were as a freshman and sophomore year in high school?' And I haven't even realized it because honestly I'm happy with what I've been doing, but I'm not satisfied. I just I know I have a lot left in the tank, and it's just takes a little bit of time to get there."

Do you think having some time off helped you to reset in a way these last couple of months?

EC: "I would say it definitely has put things in perspective for me. I get very nervous and I overthink a lot of things. So taking this time off really made me realize you never know what's going to happen, and you just need to go out there and let it all out on the track every time you run. I've kind of noticed even when we were at Texas Relays my nerves were different, and it's so hard to describe, but it was like an excited happy nervous rather than, 'Oh, my, gosh, am I going to succeed today? Am I gonna make coach happy?' It was more of like, 'Make yourself happy.' Just go out there and make sure when you cross that line that you did everything you could that day.'"

How did you get into that mindset where mentally you were more comfortable and relaxed and just allowing your natural athleticism and your training to take over and produce these kinds of numbers you've put up?

EC: "In high school, I did actually have a sports psychologist, and I felt like a lot of the things that he had taught me started to just kind of fall in place this year with just letting go and just letting it all out and just running. I feel like I just thought way too much about things, and when I think too much then I don't end up doing as well."

What are you majoring in?

EC: "I am majoring in Kinesiology. I will most likely be taking a fifth year just because I want to go to a doctorate program for physical therapy. I also have dyslexia, so I succeed when I'm in about 12 to 13 credits, so I;m spreading that out for another year. With COVID, I have been given an extra year of eligibility, so I plan on taking that."

What do you miss most about home?

EC: "I would say my family, especially with times right now. It's difficult because you don't want to accidentally get them sick they don't want to get me sick as well, so I don't get to see them very often, especially with practice and school. So I would say my family, my dog. I miss my dog, but they're coming up to visit me for Easter, so that's really exciting, so I'm really happy to see them."

For previous Wolf Pack Athletes of the Month Q&As, click here.

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