Jan. 30, 2003
Illinois' Perdita Felicien was named the Big Ten Women's Athlete of the Week in indoor track after winning the 60-meter hurdles at the Olympic Oval Invitational in Salt Lake City with a time of 7.97 which includes .02 seconds added for altitude adjustment. Not only is her time a NCAA automatic qualifier, but it is the fastest time in the world thus far. Felicien already owns the NCAA record in the 60 hurdles (7.90) which she clocked in with at the 2002 NCAA Indoor Championships to become the first NCAA indoor champion from the University of Illinois. She later went on to win the 100-meter hurdles at the 2002 NCAA Outdoor Championships becoming the first Illini to win indoor and outdoor titles in the same season. Her other accomplishments and awards are lengthy in number including various All-American honors in both indoor and outdoor track, the 2001 Big Ten Indoor Freshman of the Year Award and being named the University of Illinois Dike Eddleman Female Athlete of the Year for the past two years. The native of Ontario has also participated in the World Track and Field Championships and was a member of the 2000 Canadian Olympic Team. The redshirt junior spoke with Matt Savoti of the Big Ten Conference about her most recent performance and her career at Illinois.
Are you surprised at how quick your time was considering that it's this early in the indoor season?
Surprised, no, just because I think since I started training this fall I've been working harder than I ever worked since I've been at the University of Illinois. So I wasn't really surprised, but on the other hand, to run under eight seconds in basically the first meet for me because I really didn't finish that race the weekend before, but to just run such a phenomenal time, I'm just excited about what the next two months can hold for me.
You had the second-fastest time in the prelims but then came back to post the best time in the finals, and considering that Tiffany Lott-Hogan (world record-holder in the 55 hurdles) was amongst the competition, I'm sure that had to make you even more pleased?
Oh yeah, definitely. When you see someone else running fast, it gets you pumped. I knew that I had to bring my "A" game because she's a phenomenal hurdler, as well, so I had to be on it.
Is there any certain goal as far as a specific time that you're shooting for by the end of the season?
I try not to limit myself with times because if you don't meet them, then it's kind of disappointing, but I definitely do know that I'm working towards improving upon my NCAA record of 7.90. So anything under that will be a good thing for me.
Do you have any pre-race routines or superstitions that you go through?
Normally, I'm just really absorbed in my race the night before. Visually rehearsing, things like that, and meditation. But on the day of the race, I'm pretty much relaxed, talk to my teammates and start my warm-up, but nothing too specific.
Besides your natural talent and athletic ability, what is it that you think has led you to excel in track, is there anything specific that you can pinpoint?
I know for sure it has to be my coach. Gary Winckler is such a great coach. When I first decided to come to the University of Illinois, I knew he was a great coach, I really did. I guess now I'm realizing how great he really is and how much he knows. That definitely has led me to run as fast as I have. It's easy to have natural talent but unless you have someone to help you nurture it and take you to the next level, then natural talent can only go so far.
Last season at the NCAA Championships, when you won the 60-meter hurdles and set a NCAA record in the process, would you describe that as the perfect race or characterize that as the closest thing to a perfect race for you?
Yeah, at that point definitely. I think if that's the best I was for that season, then I definitely did run the best race that was possible for me. As this season came, I looked back on that the race and I'm like, 'oh, that wasn't the perfect race.' But at the time, definitely for me where I was, it was the best race.
Before the finals were you aware that you had the opportunity to become the first Illinois indoor champion?
No, I was unaware about that fact. It wasn't until after Gary had told me and I talked to our sports information director and he told me. So I didn't know what I had done.
Had you known, do you believe would it have put more pressure on you to win?
No, I don't think it would have put more pressure on me. Who knows, I probably could have run faster had I known because I definitely like the pressure aspect of things. I like the adrenaline running through my body and feeling really pumped before a race. It's easy to kind of get relaxed and bored because you do this over and over again, but you definitely need something to keep you on your toes.
That's probably as good as it gets: you win the NCAA title, set a NCAA record, and become the first Illinois indoor champion in a span of less than 8 seconds, what's the biggest memory you'll take from that?
You know what, I think me just putting that race together meant so much not only for me but for my school and for my coach. I think the biggest memory I'll take from that is just knowing that I can put together the perfect race and when it really comes down to it - there's that much pressure, that much on the line - that I have what it takes to be able to meet the challenge. Because so many athletes spoil under the pressure because there's so much hype. I think a few weeks before, the girl from Indiana (Danielle Carruthers) had broken the NCAA record and my friends had called me and told me and I was like, 'oh wow' I definitely have to step up now. So knowing that under that type of pressure, everybody looking at the two of us from the Big Ten, I could put together the perfect race.
You've obviously accomplished many things and won many awards, is there one particular award or accomplishment that is the most significant to you?
Let me see. I don't want to sound ungrateful, but I have so many awards right now, some of them I even forget unless I look on my bio. You know what, winning the University of Illinois Dike Eddleman Female Athlete of the Year the past two years has definitely been the most significant to me because the community has always recognized my accomplishments. Sometimes I feel that track doesn't get a lot of attention but they definitely are noticing what we are doing here with our track program. Hopefully, I can get a third one. No one has ever been able to get three in a row but that's something I'm gearing to. That would be such a phenomenal goal.
Do you have a preference between indoor track versus outdoor and why?
Outdoor is where all glory is. That's where you run the world championships and the national championships; it's such a huge deal. Indoors aren't really in the spotlight. I actually feel that I'm a better 100-meter hurdler than 60-meter hurdler. But I love the 60-meter hurdles because it's so short and so sweet. I like them both equally, but outdoors is definitely where you make your mark and make your name.
When did you begin running track and what interested you in the sport?
It's really an odd story. I didn't start until I was in the 11th grade in high school. I actually started really late. In elementary school, we'd have a track day every single year and I'd say from grade four to grade eight, I would have gone out for the team, but we only had that one day in June and that was it. And I always did well, but you'd have to wait another 364 days until that meet came around again. Every year I'd win it and it would be great. Then, I went to high school and I got really scared because I always used to win it in elementary school and I really didn't want to get beat in high school, so I didn't go out for the team at all. I remember one day, two of my friends who wanted me on their relay team, dragged me to the gym, and I was fighting them, I was like, 'no, no, I'm not going out for the team, I don't want to get beat,' so for two years I wasn't on the track team. And then in the 11th grade, I was a little more mature and I thought, let me see what I can do. I went out and actually did really well that year. I started getting recruited by a few schools down here and the rest is history as they say.
You were on the 2000 Canadian Olympic Team, my guess is that it's a goal for you to compete or at least train for the 2004 Summer Games?
Oh yeah! That's been an intense goal of mine. I definitely want to be in Athens in 2004. I think it's going to possible. I actually think that 2004 will be my breakout year. It's 2003 and it's really hard to be patient right now because as good as I feel that I am now, I know I'm going to be 10 times better next year just in terms of me being stronger and getting the international experience, that's really going to take me there. What I'm really focusing on apart from the collegiate season is the World outdoors in Paris this summer. I want to be in the finals of the 100-meter hurdles in Paris.