Editor's Note: Throughout the 2011-12 school year, we will sit down with a Spider cross country runner each week and have them answer a set of 20 questions about their lives both on and off the course. This week we interview sophomore Matthew Groff, who wrapped up his rookie campaign as the Spiders' third finisher at the NCAA Southeast Regional Championship in Louisville on Nov. 12.
RichmondSpiders.com (RS): What set the University of Richmond and Spider XC/T&F apart when making your college decision?
Matthew Groff (MG): When I did my weekend visit and hung out with the team, I felt like it was a big family. I loved everyone I came in contact with, which gave me a warm feeling! In addition, this was the one school that I could get a phenomenal education, run on a very competitive level and participate in ROTC all at once.
RS: What kinds of goals did you set for yourself at the beginning of the cross country season, and to what extent do you feel you were able to accomplish them?
MG: My goals in the beginning of the season were somewhat vague. I was still figuring out running in college, so I didn't know what was realistic. I finally made up my mind that I wanted to race for the team at the Regional meet, so I set the goal of running in the top seven.
RS: Which teammate have you learned the most from in your first season as a Spider? Why?
MG: I was able to learn a lot about running from Ryan Lee. He and I had class schedules that prevented us from joining the rest of the team for Thursday practices, so we were able to have one-on-one time on those days. We got up early and ran (often in the dark), and he taught me a lot of the ins and outs of racing, training and being a student-athlete.
RS: Which of the three running seasons is your favorite and why?
MG: I thoroughly enjoy track because of how scientific the races are, particularly the mile. You know exactly how far you have to go, when to make your move and where everyone is. I like seeing the whole race and being more in control of it.
RS: Do you have any pre-meet rituals or superstitions?
MG: In high school my mom would always make me a ham, egg and cheese sandwich the morning of races. I wasn't superstitious about it at all, but I liked having a ritual.
RS: What is the greatest piece of advice you've ever received in the sport?
MG: My dad always told me to run point to point. Everyone gets to the point where they don't think they can finish, but if you break up the rest of your race into little segments, it makes it a whole lot easier. I do it on hard runs as well, picking telephone poles or trees to run to just to take my mind off of things.
RS: What is the strangest thing you've ever experienced or seen happen during a race?
MG: My good friend in high school made up his mind that he would pretend to be a velociraptor when the gun went off at one of our cross country races. The shot was heard, followed by this screeching "merraaaaaauuuu!!!!!!" I looked back and saw him there with his arms up mimicking the raptor's short arms; I almost stopped because I was laughing so hard.
RS: If your teammates gave you a superlative, what would it be?
MG: "Most Likely to Have Had a Quintessential Childhood"
RS: Your involvement in the ROTC program here is a rarity for a student-athlete. What led to your decision to join ROTC?
MG: I think that most guys dream of being someone who makes a difference and protects people when they are young. That dream never really went away in my case, and since September 11th I knew I wanted to serve in the Army. I didn't just want to enlist, however; I wanted to lead people. There are really courageous guys serving today and what they need are good leaders.
RS: What are the keys to balancing your academic, athletic and ROTC demands, especially given that you're a freshman?
MG: I run point to point when dealing with my many tasks, just like my dad taught me. I try to work a nine to five job in a sense, only stopping during the day for lunch. That nine-to-five day actually turns into a 7:30-10 job, unfortunately. That said, the real key for me is to make sure I take time for myself during the week. I've learned that I'm only as healthy as my head is, so I try not to get in over my head.
RS: Who do you consider your role models both in and out of the sport?
MG: I know how cliché it sounds, but my parents have always been my role models. I learned so many important life lessons from them and was taught to be my own person. My dad was always a role model when it came to the sport, and he was my first coach as a kid.
RS: What is your major and dream job?
MG: I'm looking at Business Administration with a focus in Economics and a double major in Leadership Studies right now. My dream job, well, I'd love to run a consulting firm in the Virgin Islands or Hawaii.
RS: Where is your favorite spot on campus? Why?
MG: I love running across the lake in the morning when there is mist over it.
RS: If you could go on a run with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be? Why?
MG: I'd love to go on a run with Jesus. He was probably in pretty good shape from walking all over spreading the Word, so it would most likely be a decent workout. People are more themselves when they run because it strips you down to the core, so I can't imagine how awesome Jesus would be during a run.
RS: What's your favorite pro sports team? Favorite athlete?
MG: I never followed the mainstream sports as a kid. The one sport I followed more than anything was cycling, and my favorite team growing up was the U.S. Postal Service team. Lance Armstrong was the man in my mind, and I was captivated by his book.
RS: If you could be on any TV show or in any movie, what would it be? Why?
MG: I would be Mark Wahlberg in "The Italian Job" because I would get to be a mastermind thief, travel all over the world and end up with Charlize Theron in the end.
RS: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what one person and thing would you like to have with you?
MG: I would bring Conor Phelan with me because he has a skill set that would complement mine, and we are two people who can talk for hours about deep stuff (the kind of stuff you would talk about on a deserted island, like women and the workings of the world).
RS: If you could have the perfect meal prepared for you, what would it be?
MG: An appetizer of freshly baked corn tortilla chips and homemade mango salsa using recently picked mangos. Following this would be the main course of fresh fish tacos using freshly caught fish. I would love to have a dessert of some sort of tropical sorbet prepared using freshly picked fruit. Accompanying this whole spread would be fresh pineapple juice. Oh yes, that sounds scrumptious.
RS: What's on your Christmas list this year?
MG: A vinyl player. I like to pretend I'm somewhat cultured sometimes.
RS: What's something about you that most people don't know?
MG: My entire extended family was in a 'Lands End' catalog one year. My grandmother spent hours on the phone ordering polos from the company for our color-coordinated photo shoot at the Outer Banks, and once the picture was taken she sent it to the company along with a thank you card. They contacted her some time later and asked if we would mind if they used it in the catalog. Soon enough there we were as models!