For Stanford senior Justine Fedronic, like most college athletes, the best thing about running track and cross country has been the connections she's made with her fellow athletes.
Heading into the NCAA outdoor track and field championships, which kick off today, that's what the senior from Carlmont High School in Belmont said she would miss the most, though she still has one more season of both cross country and indoor track next year before she graduates.
What makes Fedronic somewhat unique in her running-related relationships is that it goes beyond the teammates and coaches.
"Another thing that people don't realize is I have had the same officials at my meets since pretty much middle school," she said. "They always say 'Good luck' and they've pretty much seen me grow up, which is kind of a cool experience because I really only ever see them at races.
"I really appreciate everything they've done. They've been really supportive, too."
Though her collegiate career is entering its final chapter, the earth systems major is not worried about her career plans just yet.
There is one plan she's already looking forward to, however.
"I really would love to keep running as long as possible," she said. "I'll be done with school next spring so hopefully I can keep training and get into some races."
She will be on Stanford's cross country team for just the second time next year after not participating in the discipline since junior high. Her relative lack of experience didn't affect her closeness with the rest of the team, however.
"We became such a tight-knit family through the season," she said. "And it's kind of a whirlwind, especially for me because I'd never run collegiate cross country before. And I'm just excited to come back and be a part of that next year."
She said next year she will spend more time enjoying the small moments — the jokes at practice, the bus rides to and from tournaments — that make the memories she has treasured most to this point.
The fact that she holds a school record for the outdoor 800 meters at 2 minutes, 3.54 seconds and is a two-time All-American are secondary to the experience of being a part of a team.
"Track is a team sport and so is cross country," she said. "So it's really rewarding to see everyone you're working so hard with succeed and having them support you too."
The NCAA track and field championships begin today in Eugene, Ore., and Fedronic is a member of the 4x400-meter relay team and will compete in the 800.NCAA championships
WHEN: Today through Saturday
WHERE: Hayward Field, Eugene, Ore.
TV: Today (none), Thursday (4:30 p.m., ESPNU), Friday-Saturday (2 p.m., ESPNU)