November 27, 2009

Liza Hitchner: A Great Example

Nov. 27, 2009

This week's Great Example is women's cross country runner Liza Hitchner.

Excited for her fifth year of Gaucho cross country, while staying on to earn a masters degree in molecular cellular and developmental biology, Hitchner was in the first two miles of a run when she experienced an unexpected seizure, which left her without a memory of the episode, and a concussion due to the fall.

Doctors warned Hitchner about the possible dangers of running, which could potentially induce another seizure or concussion. Not allowing herself to sit out, wondering about the possibility of another attack, Hitchner ultimately chose to continue running.

"It was a hard decision," she began, "but I knew it would be harder to give up running because it has become an important part of who I am."

Slowly, but surely, Hitchner progressed from stationary biking to gradually running with a buddy for safety precautions, to ultimately racing again for the Gauchos.

On October 31, at the Big West Conference meet in Riverside, Hitchner crossed the finish line as the fifth scorer on the squad to secure the Gaucho women as the 2009 Big West Conference Cross Country Champions. Including this year's conference championship, Hitchner has been a part of three Big West Conference champions in her five year career as a Gaucho.

In addition to her determination and dedication on the cross country course, Hitchner demonstrates an identical work ethic in the classroom and is a two-time Golden Eagle Award winner for holding the highest grade point average on cross country team.

Liza Hitchner took the opportunity to answer some questions about herself.

1. What is your favorite aspect about going to UCSB?
The beautiful location and great academics.

2. In one word how would you describe UCSB cross country?
Fierce.

3. What has been your biggest challenge in college?
Meeting my own expectations.

4. Do you have any pre-competition rituals? Splitting a candy bar the night before the race with my roommate Danielle Domenichelli.

5. What has been your biggest accomplishment while competing as a Gaucho?
Earning All-Region and qualifying for Nationals in 2007.

6. In downtown Santa Barbara, on State Street I can be found...
At a coffee shop...or shopping.

7. What advice would you give to an incoming athlete interested in competing for the Gaucho cross country team?
I would tell them that to make it on this team and to stay on this team you must be both physically and mentally tough.

8. Who are your biggest role models?
My parents; they both have an incredible work ethic and a good perspective on life.

9. What has been your favorite class at UCSB?
Immunobiology with Dr. Sears.

10. What is one thing about you most people don't know?
I've never eaten a McDonald's hamburger.

11. Where is your favorite place to study?
The Daily Grind, a coffee shop on Mission Street and De La Vina.

12. What do you most enjoy about having the Pacific Ocean right outside your front door?
The clean ocean air.

13. What is your favorite Gaucho women's cross country moment?
Winning the Big West Conference Team Championship in 2006. I was our 7th runner and came in 10th place...it was powerful.

14. What are your aspirations after graduating next spring with a masters in Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology?
Hopefully be accepted into a PhD program in Biomedical Sciences.

15. Is there any motto that you live by?
When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

16. What is your favorite outdoor activity in Santa Barbara?
Running!

17. What was your reaction when you crossed the finish line and realized you scored 5th on the squad to secure the Gaucho women the 2009 Big West Cross Country Champions?
I am so thankful to be here.