October 23, 2023
"We want to be successful, absolutely. That’s a top priority here. But how we go about doing that is up to us."
2023 NCAA 1500m champion Maia Ramsden, a junior at Harvard, just signed an NIL deal with On.
In this episode, you’ll get to hear a bit more of her story as she’s lived in so many awesome places including New York. New Zealand (which she represents internationally), Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Ethiopia and now Cambridge.
She had an amazing season that included a personal best of 4:08 to win the NCAA title in Austin. She’s also having a really great cross country season that included a sixth-place finish at the Nuttycombe Invitational in Wisconsin, which is considered one of the deepest races of the year. She’ll be one to watch at the upcoming Ivy League Championships, NCAA Regional Championships and the NCAA Championships in Charlottesville next month.
This was a super fun episode and I’m sure you’ll be rooting for Maia and the Harvard ladies in the coming weeks.
Host: Chris Chavez | @chris_j_chavez on Instagram
Guest: Maia Ramsden | @maia.ramsden on Instagram
When the cameras were panning through the teams [at Nuttycombe], some were super serious and game-face mode. But then when it came to Harvard, everyone was having the time of their life. It seems like fun is a big part of the team culture for you guys.
"Absolutely. I think it's something that doesn't necessarily come easily in the sport. There have been seasons and periods of my NCAA journey where it hasn't felt fun. To me then it's like, Why are you doing it? Otherwise it's just painful… The fun part is warming up with my teammates and chatting on the cool down about whatever drama happened with their friends that day. This year at camp when we sat down as a women's team to think through what we want out of this season, that was a big part of our conversation. We want to be successful, absolutely. That’s a top priority here. But how we go about doing that is up to us.”
You mentioned earlier about the individual success that you had the past couple of years, but now the team is also being lifted. Harvard women's cross country isn't just you as the star of the show–the team is also rising.
“This year we're on the same page in a way that feels really special. But then on the coaching end of it too it means that Gibby can talk to us having full faith that we are on the same page. We're really excited about that. And then of course, I like that we're a joint program. That was a really appealing part of coming here for me when I was in high school figuring out what my next steps were. The men's team is in a really great place this year. I think a lot of success is in their future and feeding off of each other's energy has been really cool.”
I think the first sign of your own individual success in cross country was last year at the Cowboy Jamboree finishing seventh and then you fared pretty well at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. What exactly sparked on that hot day in Stillwater?
“I feel a little funny about the breakout season thing because I think a lot of times there's been months and months of work stacking together and then maybe the opportunities don't line up for that to become clear to the outside world. So I feel like it was a little bit like that. I had a pretty good outdoor season the year before. I think I was a little unprepared mentally for where my body was physically; I definitely had good workouts but then I was putting some mental traps in there for myself about who I thought I could run with… But then coming into that next cross country season, I sat down with Gibby and he was like, ‘look, I think you're really fit. I think you're ready to run a good time here. Just get yourself in the first 30 and see what happens.’”
I'm assuming it would’ve been an easy trap to set to be like, ‘Alright, it's Parker Valby vs/ Katelyn Tuohy and that's it. Everyone's competing for third place’. But you haven't allowed that – you seem to think of yourself as potentially up with those two heavy hitters come nationals.
“Hopefully! I have so much respect for how those girls run. It's so brave and I aspire to have that kind of confidence from the gun and just trust my body and trust my fitness. It's easy to predetermine where you should finish. Even if you're not vocalizing that, subconsciously it can be a little itch in your brain of like, ‘okay, this is who I’m meant to be running with. I'm just going to stick with them’. It's something that I'm still working on. I think that it’s also something that changes every season as you evolve as a runner. You have to redefine where the boundaries are. It’s definitely something that I'm thinking about going into the postseason.”
Let's go back four years to wherever you were at with the sport. Would you have ever thought that you’d be knocking on the door of potentially an opportunity to represent New Zealand at the Paris Olympics?
“I don't think I could have ever imagined this… It's so hard to get there. The other part of it too is if you only look at the numbers, then that's it. That to me is my biggest trap. I'm looking at these rankings like, ‘I've got to cut this many seconds’. It's so divorced from what the actual experience of training hard and getting faster feels like. I think I never could have imagined this, but in hindsight, I should have dared to imagine.”
Let's go back to Austin, Texas. You went into the NCAA Championships with a personal best of 4:11, then advanced to the semifinal with a PR of 4:09 and then in the final you got another PR of 4:08. What made those three days in Austin so magical?
“Partly it was just night and day from my experience the year before. I think I’d grown a lot as an athlete, but I also think our team was coming in with far greater numbers. Everyone was excited and happy to be there, but had very clear competitive goals for themselves, whereas the year before we didn't necessarily have those big goals or dreams for ourselves…
I was really excited about testing myself that time round. I had a healthy dose of nerves, but I took away a lot of the expectations that I set for myself during indoors and was just like, ‘let's see what happens’. My mom was there as well. I think that was a huge part of it to be honest.. During the day between the heat and the final, we went to a museum and got dinner and it was just a nice reminder that this sport is so much more than 4 minutes on the track. That's the big conceptual reason why I think it went well.”
What's written behind you on that wall?
“That's actually from Austin as well! It says: ‘In a dream you saw a way to survive and you were full of joy’. It was from the museum that we went to that day. It was on a massive mural outside and I just took one from the lobby where they give out stuff. It was a nice reminder that that’s why we’re doing this.”
What are you most excited about in these next couple of weeks now that you’re gearing up to be in championship season for cross?
“I'm really excited for regionals. I'm excited to see some of my teammates race in the front of the pack in a way that they are so ready for and have been preparing for all season. I think we're going to surprise some people at Regionals. We had a really good showing compared to our regional competitors at Nuttycombe. But it's the middle of the season–you don't want to put too much thought into it. But we're going up from here. And then of course I’m excited for us to hopefully be in Virginia.”
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Chris Chavez launched CITIUS MAG in 2016 as a passion project while working full-time for Sports Illustrated. He covered the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and grew his humble blog into a multi-pronged media company. He completed all six World Marathon Majors and is an aspiring sub-five-minute miler.