The 2011 Indoor season was healing. Therapeutic. It reminded Natasha Hastings why she left school a year early to go professional in 2007.
A handful of promising professionals seasons for the former University of South Carolina standout has produced an Olympic gold medal on the 4×400 relay in Beijing, but has not quite reached expectations in the open 400 meters.
That is until now.
Things are changing in Hastings’ individual race. This year, Natasha Hastings is not-so-quietly establishing herself, as one of the most versatile and consistent runners in the world.
She dropped 50.83 in the 400 meters winning the 2011 USA Indoor Nationals and we sat down to discuss what is next for the New York native.
PRJ: Did it surprise you to see everything sort of come together during the 2011 indoor season?
NH: I certainly hoped for a great indoor, but I don’t know if I expected everything to happen as it did. I’m pleased with the indoor season, and I feel it is a great way to begin my outdoor season this year.
PRJ: What were your fall workouts like? What was different about this years offseason workouts?
NH: This year, I did my entire fall training with Coach Frye. Last year I didn’t begin training with Frye until December. So, this season we got to spend the entire off season working together. We spent a lot of time working on strength and speed endurance. We also did some work on speed development and technique.
PRJ: What was it like going back to your New York roots and running in front of the Millrose Games crowd?
NH: I was very excited to go back to Millrose this year. I hadn’t competed there since my senior year of high school, so it was a special treat to get back to the Garden. It’s always a fun experience to get back to New York, and to compete in front of my hometown crowd.
PRJ: What do your indoor performances say about what you are capable of doing in the 2011 outdoor season?
NH: I’m pretty excited about the outdoor based on the indoor, because when you compare this year to my best season back in 2007, you could say I’m right on pace or maybe even a little ahead of pace to run 49 [seconds] this year. The main focus at this point is to continue training hard, and to stay healthy.
PRJ: You’re mother the former Joanne Gardner was an elite track runner and has been with you at nearly every major meet in your career and now she serves as your agent. What influence does she have on your racing? Does she give you advice or feed back after races?
NH: She’s been very influential from day 1. She’s been to most, if not, all major meets in my career. Having been an athlete herself, she has some valuable advice and knows when to step back or even when to get involved. We do talk about my races, but she does leave the coaching part up to Coach Frye.
PRJ: Has your relationship changed at all now that your mother is also your agent?
NH: The relationship hasn’t changed much now that she is my agent. It is a little different being that she is a lot more hands-on with my career. But so far the transition has been pretty smooth.
PRJ: You are back training with Curtis Frye in Columbia, South Carolina. Why change locations/training programs/coaches now?
NH: The change kind of came about by accident. I was back in Columbia finishing up my last semester of school. I was in the library studying one night, and just thought maybe it would be a good idea to stay in Columbia and train with Frye.
The previous two seasons weren’t the successful seasons that I had hoped for, and I knew this was a situation that in the past did work for me. So, I took about a week to really think through the decision. Then I asked to meet with Coach Frye, and asked that he would coach me again. We started training the following Monday.
PRJ: Looking at your outdoor 400 meters for 2011. What can you and Coach Frye do better this spring and summer to improve your race?
NH: We’ve particularly been working on my speed development. One thing we’ve realized over the years of working together is that the faster my 200 the faster my 400 will be.
When I’m able to run a 22 second 200, I’m way more confident about going out in 23 seconds, so speed is something that is very important to the set up of my 400.
PRJ: You get out pretty quickly in the open 400 meters and recently at the Pepsi Florida Relays you dropped 22.7 - a world leading time. What does it do for your 400, when you can turn it over that well in the open 200 meters?
NH: This as I said before is a great confidence booster for me. It’s especially exciting to be this close to my 200 pr so early in the season. So, for me it speaks volumes for what’s to come in my 400.
PRJ: What is your racing schedule for the 2011 outdoor season?
NH: Tentatively, TX relays this weekend. Next weekend, I will be opening up in the 400 at Auburn University, and then we head to Penn Relays at the end of the month.
PRJ: From top to bottom, describe the depth in women’s 400 meter field?
NH: The 400 is DEEP in the US. We have Sanya Richards, Allyson Felix, Debbie Dunn, and Dee Dee Trotter who have all run under 50 seconds. Mary Wineberg is having a great season so far, and of course Francena McCrory has already run 50.5 for the season.
I honestly think it will take 49 low to make top three at the US Nationals this year. We have some amazing talent here.
PRJ: The last couple seasons have not gone as you’ve wanted and this is a world championship year. What are your goals and do you want to send a message that you still have “it”?
NH: I think I’ve already sent the message that I still have it. I’ve come pretty close to my pr’s indoor, and getting off to a fast start this outdoor. But like I said earlier, I just want to stay focused on my training and stay healthy. With that, everything else should fall into place on its own.
PRJ: You have received attention for dating professional football player William Gay of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Who would win a 400 meter race between you?
NH: I hope I’m not receiving attention because of who I’m dating LOL. But I’d like to think I can take him in the 400.
PRJ: Do you still get prerace jitters?
NH: Before every single race!
PRJ: Thanks for your time and best wishes!
Jay F. Hicks blogs about track and field and serves as PreRaceJitter’s Editor-In-Chief . You can find him on Twitter.
The Senior is now part of Superman’s family.
Galen Rupp, who recently completed his senior season winning six NCAA titles — one of the most decorated seasons in NCAA history , is the newest client of Michael Johnson’s athlete management company.
Johnson founded Ultimate Performance Sport Management, which handles the endorsements of Jeremy Wariner, Ebonie Floyd, Natasha Hastings, and Jackie Johnson.
“When I retired in 2001, I felt that I was uniquely qualified to offer other athletes the same quality and personal attention that helped me to achieve success as a professional athlete, so I created Ultimate Performance,” Johnson said. “We’re incredibly selective about whom we represent, and I couldn’t be more excited to work with and for these three amazing young men.”
Johnson also signed Michael Bingham of North Carolina, the reigning NCAA 400m Indoor Champion with a personal record of 45.02 seconds. This former Wake Forest All-American competed for Great Britain’s 4×400 meter relay that placed fourth in Beijing.
400-meter hurdler Javier Culson Perez will be represented by Johnson and will also train at the Michael Johnson Performance Center, a 24,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility in McKinney, Texas, about 20 miles north of Dallas. Perez boasts a personal best of 48.83 seconds and competed for Puerto Rico at the Beijing Olympic Games.
The good feelings are flowing all around.
“I’ve always surrounded myself with good people, and it’s a tight circle,” Rupp said. “I felt an immediate connection with Michael. I knew I could trust him, and that’s one of the most important things to me.”
June 29, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
-Eugene, Oregon - The women’s quarterfinals heat just went down. The most impressive runners to watch are Mary Wineberg (51.46), Natasha Hastings (51.51), Shana Cox (51.69), Eboni Floyd (51.37), Dee Dee Trotter (51.97) and Sanya Richards (51.37).
Wineberg is a sleeper in this race, who has been overlooked by many. Shana Cox, the reigning 400-meter NCAA champion from Penn State, may have some gas left in her tank to get through the rounds. An injury this past year has allowed her to keep her races down during this outdoor season.
It would be surprising if University of Houston alum Eboni Floyd does not make the finals and earn a relay spot. Reigning World Champion Dee Dee Trotter has the ability to turn on her big game on a moment’s notice. Sanya Richards comes in as the favorite to win it all, but the road will be hotly contested by this talented group of 400-meter runners.
By Jay Hicks.