At 1,500 meters, UC Davis’ Raquel Lambdin is one of the nation’s top 25 female runners. Her 4:20.89 in the NCAA Western Regionals last month set her up for a trip to the University of Oregon this week.
It’s a chance to etch her name higher on the roll call of college’s elite.
“Earlier this year, I wrote it all down on my goal sheet: ‘Be All-American. Top eight, first team; top 16, honorable mention. Aiming to get into the final round.’ ”
Failing that, Lambdin recalls, “Still I would be very, very happy just making it to nationals.”
Knowing she’ll line up in a field of 25 on Thursday with an eye on the final race Saturday, one would think Lambdin is borderline giddy.
“It’s a great thing,” the junior from Camarillo explains.
Lambdin’s effort to qualify was packed with drama. Running in a tightly bunched pack, Lambdin watched the finale leaders pull away. Entering the bell lap in 11th, Lambdin turned it up in the final 400 meters to pass Oklahoma’s Molly Williams for the top-five finish in her heat.
Lambdin will have to improve on her time — top qualifier Emily Lipari (Villanova) is in at 4:14.64 and the eighth-place seed ran a 4:15.58, but Lambdin thinks she’s got the mental toughness to keep going when others might wind down.
“It’s a lot different for everyone,” she told The Enterprise. Speaking of that proverbial wall so many hit during endurance tests: “I’ve seen people hit the wall where they couldn’t move anymore. For me? I get through it. Mentally, your brain tells you (things) that make you able to push through it … something just happens after years of running.
“For me, it’s just a matter of, do it.”
Lambdin is the reigning two-time Big West Conference 1,500 champ. That 4:20.89 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, was a personal best and moved her into second all-time among Aggie runners. Only Suzy Jones’ 4:19.94 (1995) was faster.
“Rocki’s personal development has been very satisfying,” UCD head track coach Drew Wartenburg offered. “She initially found us during the recruiting process. … The more I saw of her during her senior season in high school, the more I had a feeling that there was something there to tap into.”
Wartenburg, who also coaches Lambdin for cross country, adds: “The physical and mental pieces have aligned for Rocki. Performances … have begun to show her true potential, and she can now put a national meet on her résumé, right next to her two conference titles.”
A Camarillo High grad, Lambdin’s folks are Mindy and Scott. Her brother Josh still attends CHS.
A pre-med student, Lambdin has always been a voracious reader — of comic books.
“It’s my dad’s doing,” she said with a laugh. “He went through a phase when he wanted to own a comic-book store. He had a room dedicated to comics and graphic novels.”
Although she follows in few people’s footsteps when she’s on the track, at home she followed in her dad’s…
Lambdin says she has her own collection and has attended a couple of Comic-Cons. Her favorite character?
“Batman!” she answers.
It’s not surprising that her fictional hero is a source of relaxation, but does the personable distance dandy have other leisure pursuits?
“It doesn’t leave much time between studying and running,” explains Lambdin, who hopes to be an orthopedic surgeon one day. “I like to spend time with my family. I go home during the summer and winter breaks. It’s valuable family time for me.”
Lambdin will be at the University of Oregon with fellow Aggie athlete Ashley Marshall (100 meters). The pair will be accompanied by family, friends, sprint coach Rahn Sheffield and Wartenburg.
“In order for athletes to complete at their best, it is imperative for them to have their event coach present,” Wartenburg adds. “Rahn has done an outstanding job with his group this year, and when an athlete qualifies for nationals, that punches the coach’s ticket in the process.”
Lambdin hopes her qualifying race on Wednesday punches her ticket to the Saturday finale.
Notes: “I’ve really enjoyed Davis … Going to other sporting events, simple things like the Farmers Market,” points out Lambdin, who, despite her comic-book influence, admits she hasn’t seen the latest X-Men movie. Hmmm. What would Dad think? … UCD sent 21 tracksters to the regional meet at the University of Arkansas. … Senior Alycia Cridebring finished 14th in the 5,000 in 16:24.65, wrapping up her Aggie career in the Ozarks.