Olvera: Running Toward Success

Courtesy of UCI Athletics

Courtesy of UCI Athletics
Senior Laura Olvera has hit her stride and put herself as one of the elite runners in the country for UCI.

Laura Olvera runs really, really far and really, really fast. Olvera is a fifth-year senior on UC Irvine’s cross country team and has started her last season with two straight wins.
Last weekend she ousted 278 other runners to win the Stanford Invitational with a time of 20:42, just weeks after her first win at the Asics/UCI Invitational in early September. To follow with another win at Stanford is nothing short of impressive.
When asked how it feels, she simply replied, “Good.” When asked how it feels to start her season with two straight wins, she smoothly replied, “I’m excited.”
For Olvera, these few accomplishments in the beginning of the season are just steps before the real running starts at the end of the season.
“It just makes me a little more anxious,” Olvera said of her two wins. “It makes me more anxious for the bigger stuff at the end of the season. I kind of want it to come already and compete against some of the bigger fields.”
However, like the steadfast athlete she is, these explanations are said with a slight smirk of confidence and joy. When speaking with Olvera, it is obvious from the first moment of interaction that she loves the idea of running. She has spent the last five years of her collegiate career competing and vying for the top spot and has, for the moment, reached it. The only thing to ever bother her throughout her career has been when something has kept her from succeeding at cross country.
However, Olvera is the epitome of success. As a freshman she was not a highly touted prospect on the team and soaked it up. She worked hard day in and day out and has finished in either second or third in the Big West Conference Championships for the last three years.
Yet, what separated Olvera from the pack is her ability to adjust her physical training to also accommodate her mental fitness as well. Every year, she tweaks a certain part of her training regiment to improve her overall stamina and mental capabilities. This year, Olvera has turned to yoga.
“[With yoga] I know how to stay more relaxed now,” Olvera said. “It is really easy to tense up at the line and start thinking about those around you. Especially as you get higher up in the ranks [where] you can’t avoid that type of competition. Yoga has really helped me to block everything out and focus on myself.”
Olvera’s new-found mental toughness has been the key improvement that has set her apart so far this season. She possesses the ability to visualize her win before the meet and execute that vision, all the while running within herself and staying in control.
At the Stanford Invitational, she stayed with the leaders up until the 2,000-meter mark when she decided that this was her race to win. She broke away from the pack with 1,000 meters to go and had a four-second lead on the field. By the time Olvera crossed the finish line, she had extended her lead to eight seconds. That fact alone displays her ability to keep her mind and body in control and finish strong.
“The big change throughout her career is [that] she now knows how to finish strong,” said cross country Head Coach Vince Boyle. “When she was younger, she didn’t have a great finish. Now she does. She can finish with authority now and it is a sign of her maturity, both physically and mentally. It is her turn.”
Yet, Olvera does not want it to be only her on top. She loves the fact that she has two wins under her belt so far, but she is striving to get to nationals with her whole team running next to her.
“I really want us to go out with a bang,” Olvera said. “That would mean more to me than anything. To go out with a bunch of really talented, really successful girls would be the best.”
In two weeks, Olvera will race with her team at Indiana State University in hopes of taking the next step towards the NCAA National Championships.