2015 has been one heck of a year for former University of Oregon All-American Daniel Winn. The Portland native put together a string of successes, earning personal bests and strong finishes across the board, including a sixth place mile finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships, a ninth place 1,500m finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships and took seventh in the 1,500m final at the USATF Outdoor Championships.
Topping it all off, Winn ran a new 1,500m personal best of 3:37.56 at the Portland Summer Twilight, only to follow it up with a runner-up performance at the NACAC Championships. More recently, Winn moved across the country, joining the B.A.A. High Performance team led by coach Terrence Mahon.
We caught up with Winn recently, discussing his breakthrough season, his transition to professional life and his thoughts on his former Duck teammates as the NCAA Cross Country Championships approach.
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Portland Track (PT): It's been an eventful past few months for you, with the biggest news being you've joined the B.A.A. High Performance team. Why the B.A.A.? What was the draw when there are so many groups out there to choose from?
Daniel Winn (DW): I was interested in B.A.A. coming out of college, but talking to Terrence assured me that it would be a great fit and got me really excited about the training environment. I think we're very compatible in terms of our approach to training and racing, and Terrence's coaching credentials are beyond reproach. I can't imagine being in a better situation to get the most out of myself as a runner. On top of that I'm really excited to move to Boston because I don't feel comfortable outside a big city. I think the location and the team are a best case scenario for me and I feel very lucky they were interested in having me join.
PT: While you've only been with the group for a short while, how's it going thus far? Any idea on how training might look different compared to your time at Oregon?
DW: It's been a really easy transition, in that there are a lot of similarities in the structure of the training that I was used to at Oregon, and the workouts are similar, but also because my specific training plan is building off the strengths and weaknesses I had in college. So while it is very intuitive and natural, it's also very progressive and I don't feel at risk of stagnating. The team aspect has been incredible after running by myself most of the summer. I hadn't met anyone on the team until I got a chance to chat with Chris at Fifth Avenue, so I was a bit apprehensive to meet everyone and try to assimilate myself. Fortunately, it seems to be a very natural fit and all my teammates have been very inclusive and helpful. They're teaching me how to cook, and they're very patient.
PT: You had a great sequence of races from NCAAs, to the Portland Track Festival and then at the USATF Outdoor Championships, where you placed seventh in the 1,500m. What did you learn from those series of races and how will they set you up as the 2016 season approaches?
DW: I love to race at Lewis and Clark because that was my district track in high school, and the two races I did there were just helpful to reiterate that I was as fit as I thought I was, after a series of tactical races during the championship part of the season. USAs was sort of a combination, because it was tactical in a way I had never experienced before, but also one of the fastest 1500s I'd ever run, as well as a definite success in terms of finishing place, but a physically difficult way to learn how far I need to go to be competitive with those guys finishing ahead of me. It was one thing to see with my eyes how good Centro and those guys are, but it was another thing to feel it with my legs. I didn't know 1500s could be that painful, honestly. I checked the video to see if I crossed the line before Centro finished his celebration, and I'm proud to say I did.
PT: The next few months are the time most athletes start to work on areas of need. What do you feel you need to work on most in order to take another big step forward?
DW: I knew this going in, and it's one of the first things I talked about with Terrence that made me excited to join B.A.A., but there are a slew of technical things I can improve upon. The general problem I have is that I waste my long legs with a fairly short stride, so we're doing a lot of things already that will hopefully pay dividends. I am also just terrible at strength stuff, even core exercises which I did constantly in college, but so technically poorly I feel like I'm starting from square one. It's humbling to see how deficient I am, but it's nice to have specific areas I know can make big improvements in.
PT: The USATF Indoor Championships and IAAF World Indoor Championships take place in your hometown of Portland. What's it mean to you to be able to compete at USAs in front of your family and friends and know your hometown is hosting such an amazing international competition?
DW: I don't like to look through upcoming races, but I've been extremely excited to get to race in a such a big meet in my home town. I think my parents are even more excited about it than I am. Hopefully in addition to them I can get some fans in the stands. It makes a lot of sense to me to have more and more big track meets in Portland, considering what a good running city it is.
PT: Away from the track, what do you like to do in your free time?
DW: I watch a lot of movies, which is a fortunate interest for a runner because our profession necessitates a lot of down time. I also pretend to be a writer from time to time when inspiration hits, and currently I'm obsessed with the show Nathan For You. I'm trying to get all my teammates to watch it. Probably to an obnoxious extent.