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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Running for two

    Usually UA cross country assistant coach Amy Wilson isnt standing around, like she did in McKale Center last night. Even though shes five months pregnant, the three-time Honda Award-winner still runs at least an hour a day on top of coaching the Wildcats.
    Usually UA cross country assistant coach Amy Wilson isn’t standing around, like she did in McKale Center last night. Even though she’s five months pregnant, the three-time Honda Award-winner still runs at least an hour a day on top of coaching the Wildcats.

    She is one of Arizona’s most decorated athletes of all time. She dominated collegiate distance running nationally in the late 1990s and went on to run internationally for Nike. She retired from competition in 2000 and became an assistant cross country and track and field coach under UA head coach James Li in 2004.

    Amy Wilson has brought even more to the table for the cross country team recently, showing that she can coach effectively, even while five months pregnant.

    “”She is very important to our local running community,”” Li said. “”It’s also extremely important nationwide to know that we have one of the most successful and most decorated alum of our school.””

    Wilson won one NCAA individual title and four Pacific-10 Conference individual titles for cross country competition with the Wildcats.

    She has also earned three Honda Awards, which is equivalent to football’s Heisman Trophy. Only one other UA athlete has ever won a Honda Award: softball pitcher Jennie Finch, who won it twice.

    On top of that, Wilson was named to the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Silver Anniversary Team, which recognizes the top individuals, coaches and schools over the 25-year period that women have been competing in the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

    “”Outside of the awards,”” Wilson said, “”I have the experience of being a student athlete to bring to the runners. I’ve been in their shoes, and I know exactly what it’s like to manage a full class load, with tests and midterms and everything but still try to train and compete at a Division I level.””

    Being an outstanding female athlete, Wilson serves as a role model particularly for Arizona’s female runners, although she is technically the assistant coach to both the men’s and women’s squads.

    “”Because she is a female athlete,”” sophomore Staci Ulibarri said, “”we feel really close to her solely for that reason. We feel really close to her because she is in charge of our training and scheduling. We do workouts with the guys, but we’re around her more, and for that, we have a special bond.””

    But that doesn’t mean that she isn’t a strong influence on the male runners.

    “”Because of her success, I think that any one of the guys can feel comfortable going up to her and asking her advice and things of that nature,”” sophomore Lou Maturo said.

    Two Wilsons are better than one

    And where there’s a Wilson there’s … another Wilson?

    Her husband, Ryan, who was a national champion distance runner for Arkansas, is a volunteer assistant with the teams.

    When they got married in 2001, Amy changed her middle name to her maiden name, Skieresz, and then took the last name of her husband. So actually, her last name contains no hyphen, as most publications would have the general public believe.

    It is a big bonus to have the unhyphenated couple contributing to the same program, Wilson said.

    “”He has so much to offer in terms of being an experienced collegiate athlete as well,”” she said.

    Even as a volunteer, coach Ryan, as the runners call him, is highly respected.

    “”We love having him there,”” Maturo said. “”He is so straightforward with his coaching.””

    He is such a great speaker and motivator, Muturo added, that “”we work so much harder just to get his approval.””

    Before Amy and Ryan were coaching, Li was stretched pretty thin, coaching all of the 30-plus athletes.

    “”I was coaching distance runners in the spring and cross country runners in the fall by myself,”” he said. “”That was hard.””

    In the two years that Wilson has been the assistant to Li, she said she has acquired more authority over the women’s program, being responsible for the recruiting of female athletes. She also feels closer to the women simply because she herself is a female athlete.

    “”Coach Li has been a mentor and a great person to learn from,”” she said. “”He has handed me a lot of responsibility and has trusted me with it, and for that I am grateful.””

    Being pregnant doesn’t slow her down

    Nearly five months ago, some might have thought that Wilson’s success in coaching would be hindered. But her first pregnancy hasn’t slowed her down in the least.

    “”I’m hoping to keep things moving along,”” she said.

    The baby is due right at the beginning of outdoor track season. The biggest change, she said, will be that she won’t be able to travel during indoor season in February because it will be close to the due date, March 3.

    “”There is where having Ryan around will help out a lot,”” she said. “”He will be able to go to practices and meets and help coach Li if I can’t go. But as long as I’m feeling fine, I should be able to do things the way I’ve been doing them.””

    Furthermore, Wilson has kept up a routine of running daily.

    “”She’s tough, isn’t she?”” Li said.

    But tough doesn’t even begin to describe her. Wilson, who ran five to 10 miles daily before the pregnancy, still runs daily, but does everything by time.

    “”I’m running a lot slower now,”” she said. “”I’ll just go for an hour to an 80-minute run every day, whereas before I would do tempo runs, road races, marathons. I do everything in minutes now.””

    It makes her that much stronger of a person to have the motivation to go out and run so often, Maturo said.

    “”I hear of people running well into their pregnancy, but I’ve never actually seen it,”” he said. “”I’m surprised, but at the same time I’m not, because you’d expect that from her. It’s coach Amy.””

    Although the baby will have the running genes in her (a girl, as confirmed by an ultrasound Monday), the choice to run will ultimately be left up to her when she gets older. True, Ryan and Amy played various sports growing up but “”for all we know, she may be really artsy and play piano and dance,”” Wilson said with a laugh. “”And that will be OK too.””

    Fortunately for Wilson, Arizona’s track team will be at home for the whole month of March. Also, her family is here, “”so Grandma will be helping out a lot,”” Wilson said.

    When Baby Wilson finally arrives, she will be coming into the world with a family beyond the Skieresz-Wilson clan.

    “”The baby is going to have lots of older (brothers and) sisters,”” Ulibarri said.

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