June 6, 2006
At Rosemount High School in Inner Grove Heights, Minn., Heather Dorniden excelled at everything she touched. A state track champion in the 400 meters and third-place finisher in the 800-meter event, Dorniden was also a star gymnast, a two-time All-State band selection and class salutatorian. Now a freshman at the University of Minnesota, she has shifted her focus solely to the track and has already begun reaping the awards. Dorniden was the NCAA Indoor Champion in the 800 meters and by winning the event at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships, she helped her team win its first ever outdoor conference championship. On the eve of the NCAA Outdoor Championships, Dorniden spoke with the Big Ten about her transition to college, focusing on just one activity and what's left to accomplish in her college career.
Which sport/activity was your first love?
Gymnastics was definitely my first love. I started tumbling around my living room when I was little and my parents signed me up for lessons and went from there. I actually didn't start running until I was a freshman in high school, so gymnastics was my first sport and what really got my athletic career going. Track is my favorite now, though it took a little time for me to develop as my coaches tried to figure out my strengths and weaknesses.
How were you able to pick up track so quickly?
I guess I was just a natural runner; I really don't know where it came from. A lot of people don't like running, but I think those of us who do it are all a little masochistic. But when I get to run I forget everything going on in my life, and I just run and compete. It's a time when my body just takes over and my mind shuts down.
Why was it important to you to continue with all of your activities rather than focusing on just one?
I think that a lot of kids in high school are forced to choose between sports or activities in order to become the best they can at that one thing. For me, I started getting involved with all these things and I enjoyed all of them. You have to figure out what it is that you really want to do, and in my case I felt that it made me a more well-rounded person after sticking with all those things.
How did you balance time between band and all of your athletics?
Well, sacrifices were definitely made and it was important to have good relationships with my coaches and teachers. There were definitely times when I had a concert on the day of a track meet or gymnastics meet, and it was just a matter of priorities and what was best for me and the team or band at the time.
Do you still find time to play the flute?
Not as much as I'd like to right now, but in the summer I have a feeling I'll be able to pick it back up again. This year I didn't try to become involved with the orchestra here because it was the transition year and I wasn't sure of how much I'd be able to handle, but I think in the future I might try to get involved.
How have you adjusted during your freshman year?
I only live about a half hour from Minneapolis, but it's not like my parents have been overly involved in the transition. They email me quite a bit and call and everything but wherever you go to college, you can feel about as far away as you want to feel even if you're close by. With as busy as I've been keeping - I'm very meticulous about my homework so I didn't have a lot of free time - my parents just respected that and were of course there if I needed them but that's about it.
Do you miss being involved with so many things?
Not exactly. I still feel like I have plenty to be doing and I guess I'm so busy with this one thing that I don't even think about what I might be missing out on. I definitely think keeping busy has helped my transition from high school to college. I don't know what I'd be doing with all my free time if I wasn't involved with track. I think that track here takes up more time than all my high school activities combined. We're traveling every weekend and that takes up a lot of time. Practices don't take up as much time during the week though (as my activities in high school did).
As an NCAA Indoor Champion, Big Ten Outdoor Champion as well as outdoor team champion, what else is left for you to accomplish in your three remaining years at Minnesota?
Honestly, I don't know (laughing). Obviously a repeat championship and multiple team championships and things like that come to mind. I just want to bring myself further and see what happens this weekend. I would obviously like to drop more time in my events, and see what happens in cross country.