September 24, 2012

Running Revealed: Kevin Oliver's Racing Roots, Eating Habits and More

By: Vince Menon '14

SANTA CLARA, Calif.Kevin Oliver is coming off a tremendous season where he reached numerous personal bests in helping the Santa Clara Bronco cross country and track teams to two of their most successful seasons ever. The Tualatin, Ore. native is in his fourth and final season as a member of the Bronco cross country and track teams, and is one of the leaders on this year's squad.

With a strong season to build off of, Oliver caught up with www.santaclarabroncos.com about his efforts to improve on last year's success, his unique approach to (eventually) eating healthy, the Bronco running program's high-achieving history and his secret desire to be a closer in baseball.

SCB: Have you always been passionate about running or did you develop the interest later on?

KO: It definitely was not a lifelong passion. My first loves were football and basketball, but I never really developed the physique to be successful in either of those sports. For several years, chess was my main competitive pursuit; I tied for first place among 8th graders in the state of Oregon back in 2004. I ended up as a runner mainly because I performed well in anything stamina-related throughout elementary and middle school, and I had enjoyed participating in a couple of 5K road races. Once I started racing in high school, I was hooked and never looked back.

SCB: How well do you think the team can perform next year and what is the key to doing this?

KO: This team has improved dramatically every year that I've been here, and next season should be no exception. Most of us have undergone a gradual process of becoming stronger aerobically during our time at Santa Clara, and we're bringing in what is probably the fastest and deepest recruiting class that we've ever had. Just like on the individual level, the key to our success will be staying healthy. If we can avoid major injuries, we have a great opportunity for a top 3 finish in the conference, a top 10 finish in the NCAA West Region, and have an outside chance to challenge for a spot at Nationals.

SCB: Runners are notorious for their eating habits. How are yours?

KO: Yikes. This is one of the areas where I definitely have room to improve. Over the course of my running career, I've followed a self-designed, dubious program that I like to call the "Food Taper." The basic idea is that I eat really unhealthy early on in the season, then gradually upgrade the quality of my diet so that I am eating the healthiest foods leading up to the most important races. I've come to realize that this is not the best plan, so I try to eat right all the time, but the most distinctive part of my diet remains an exorbitantly high ice cream intake.

SCB: How frequently do you change shoes considering the distances you run?

KO: As a general principle, most running shoes will last for about 500 miles worth of running. At that rate, I usually go through about two pairs during the summer and winter when we're running high mileage and one pair during the racing season. 

SCB: Where is your favorite place to run locally and overall?

KO: Nothing beats running in Forest Park in Portland when I'm at home, but there are some great places around Santa Clara as well. Running up Black Mountain at Rancho San Antonio offers some amazing views of the bay, and long runs at Huddart Park in Woodside are nice, too. Every once in a while we go into the Forest of Nisene Marks in Santa Cruz, which is probably my favorite place to run in California.

SCB: Have you ever been injured or had a health scare while running? 

KO: Nothing too extreme, though a couple weeks ago my buddy Marcos and I were running at Quicksilver Park in Campbell, which is always extremely hot, and I wasn't sure I would make it back down due to dehydration and general fatigue. I walked the last mile, drank about a gallon of water, and ate some ice cream sandwiches when I was finished.

SCB: How is the team's camaraderie and do you have a funniest moment or experience with the team? What does the support of your teammates mean to you?

KO: The camaraderie on this team is unbelievable. We're an extremely tight-knit group; most of my social life involves the team. I don't think I can pick out a "funniest" moment, but we make each other laugh every day. The support of my teammates is crucial to me. It wouldn't be worth putting myself through all this pain year after year if it wasn't for these guys.

SCB: Who has most inspired you?

KO: My dad, by a wide margin. I've never met a more focused, driven, and caring individual. He's worked his tail off every day for decades so that our family can live as comfortably as possible. I've been afforded the opportunity to have an easy life, but his example makes me want to work hard.

SCB: If you could meet any runner, past or present, who would it be and why?

KO: This is a tough one. I think I'd want to meet Emil Zatopek, a Czech runner who won the 5K, 10K, and marathon at the 1952 Olympics. He was known for being the toughest runner alive, and didn't care about form or style as long as he was winning races.

SCB: If not running, which sport would you have enjoyed playing?

KO: I'd like to be a closer in baseball, for the sole purpose of having a great entrance song when I ran out onto the field, like "Wild Thing" in Major League. I think I'd go with "Total Eclipse of the Heart" or something sappy like that.

SCB: Have you ever had any interesting stories while running?

KO: My freshman year, Chris Mosier and I found a couple of dogs wandering around Alum Rock Park without owners, so we jogged back to the entrance with them. It turned into quite the adventure because one of the dogs was fat and dehydrated, and he struggled to make it back. We stuck with him though, and he survived. I wish I had a video of that so I could play the last 50 yards or so in slow motion with the theme song from either Chariots of Fire or Rudy in the background.

SCB: What three words best sum up your experience being a runner at Santa Clara?

KO: Punishing, rewarding and sweaty.

SCB: What activities do you like to do in your free time?

KO: I'm probably either watching a San Francisco 49ers football or San Francisco Giants baseball game. I also like telling jokes. Here's one now: A police officer knocked on my door and told me that my dogs had been chasing kids on bikes. I told him "that's ridiculous. My dogs don't even own bikes."

SCB: What do you wish the SCU community knew about the Bronco running program that they might not know?

KO: I kind of wish people knew how much success we've had, in spite of having far fewer scholarships than our conference rivals. The men have finished in the top half of the conference every year since 1993, and the women have produced a Rhodes Scholar (Noelle Lopez, '09) and an All-American (Stephanie Wilson, '10, the fastest collegiate runner in the state of California during the 2009 season) in the past few years. We hope to see you at the Santa Clara Bronco Invite on October 13th!