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While films like The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and Chariots of Fire popularize the notion that cross country is a solitary sport, in reality it is very much a team venture. Claire (left, in photo) and Stacy Kim, consistently among the fastest racers from the Penn women’s cross-country team, insist that teamwork is essential for successful meets and effective training. Fraternal-twin sisters and sophomores at Wharton, Stacy and Claire led the Quakers to third place at the Heptagonals cross-country championship, the team’s best finish at this event since 1991. Although Stacy’s time of 17:33.9 for the 5K race shattered the Penn record, with Claire following closely behind, the performances of the rest of the team were equally important because of cross country’s scoring system in which a team’s top-five finishers secure their team’s score. Claire and Stacy, who have both been running competitively for 10 years, acknowledge that cross country at the college level is harder but also “much more fun.” They sat down with Gazette writer Chelsea Tanimura C’06 to talk about their experiences as student-athletes at Penn.

Do you find that when [you tell people,] ‘I do cross country,’ they really know what it is?

CK: No. A lot of people [think,] ‘Oh, it’s just running.’ But it’s much harder than that. You’re testing yourself mentally and physically.

SK: When you start, holding on to a position at the start of a race means everything. The fighting that goes on between runners—it’s so much more than just going out and running by yourself.

How did you end up running at Penn?

CK: We’re from California and were planning to stay on the West Coast, but Stacy and I want to major in business, so we looked at Penn and then we looked at the team. It was solid. It was young but it was growing. The coach [Gwen Harris] was somebody that Stacy and I knew we could get along with. And comparing it to other Ivy League schools, the people seemed to be enjoying what they were doing.

SK: When they come to visit Penn, the first thing [recruits] notice about our team is that we’re so close-knit.

CK: We’re always with each other. We’ll go out and do eating contests together. We’ll go pumpkin picking and carve [them] together. And we bring an aspect to the game [of] train hard, play hard.

SK: When you’re all out doing a long run like 10 or 12 miles, and you’re at mile seven or eight, you’re so tired, but the people around you make it worthwhile. And it feels so good to be out there on a Sunday morning, not a worry in the world.

CK: You get closer to the people you go through hardships with. We’ll be running out of breath, but the people who have a little bit of extra energy will never save [it] and they’ll yell out to the team or make sure that you go with them.

What’s training like?

CK: Everybody has a set mileage for the week. Stacy and I are 65 miles per week. And depending on if you have a race on the weekend, you’ll either go 100 percent of that mileage or 95 percent of that mileage. We have workouts usually two times a week, and they can be anywhere from a five-mile tempo run or mile repeats on the track.

SK: Or you can do a hill workout, like the 400-meter hill ten times.

CK: There are some days when you hit a wall, but you still have to go.

SK: It’s so easy to think ‘Ok, now how can I get myself out of this? How can I walk off the track without getting in trouble?’ But you can’t. You have a goal.

I’m sure it’s tough balancing classes [with cross country]. I don’t know how you do it.

CK: We have classes usually starting from nine. We have to end [them] by three because of practice. Practice usually takes a couple of hours. Afterwards we either lift [weights] or we go take ice baths. And then dinner. And then you finally get back to your room to start studying. Because you have a lot less time, it forces you to—

SK: Utilize whatever you have.

CK: I feel like [running] keeps me more focused so whenever I do study or sit down to do my work, I’m more awake for it.

Where do you see this team going?

CK: I know that the team is only going to get better. So next year I feel that anything can happen, that we really have a shot for the championships or really have a shot for nationals.

As fraternal twins, how does your relationship affect your team and college experience? How do you handle rivalry—if there is any?

SK: It is definitely comforting to have a family member with you. It feels like I have a little bit of home with me out here … Being twins, it is quite often the case that one does better than the other but I think we are very lucky in that [we] can never be certain who’s going to [finish] before the other.

CK: It’s not that we try to take the same classes, but we have similar interests and majors. Our days consist of the same activities, so we’re bound to do almost everything together. I believe that we are shaped by the people around [us] but I don’t think I’m just doing something because Stacy is. It’s because I want to do it too.

Do you ever need time apart?

CK: I always say that we need time apart, but it never happens. And if we did have the option, we would probably still choose to be together.

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