Thursday, March 08, 2012


Jon Grey joined Team USA Minnesota last September and the 24-year-old is already making a name for himself as a professional.  The recent William and Mary graduate earned his first national title with a win at the USATF Club Cross Country Championships and he made his half marathon debut in Houston in 1:02:25.  He now has his sites set on the 10,000m at the Olympic Trials, which will take place in Eugene, Oregon in June.  He also looks to improve upon his 5,000m (13:46.12) and 10,000m (28:40.33) PR's before eventually moving up to the marathon.

First off, welcome to Minnesota. You’ve been with the Team USA Minnesota for nearly 6 months now, how has your transition (new city, new coach, new teammates, etc.) been?
Thanks, the transition has gone really well! It was a big jump moving out here, but with the help that Team USA Minnesota has given me in terms of help finding housing, a job, and the overall training, it has been relatively smooth. The team is a fantastic group that works well together, and coming in with fellow training partner Matt Llano has been a lot of fun. Coach Barker and his training plan have worked very well for me as well.

Prior to joining the team, you attended the Run Pro Camp here in town. How helpful was that in your decision to turn pro and what were some of the things you took away from the camp?
I had already planned on “turning pro” as a runner, but prior to attending the camp, I was not quite sure what steps would be necessary to launch my running career. Attending the Run Pro Camp was definitely a great experience that taught me to be patient, and surround myself with the quality support needed to succeed.

Did you look at other programs? What made you decide to join Team USA Minnesota?
I did look at other programs, but at the end of the day Team USA Minnesota was the right fit. I realized I did want to join a group to go pro instead of trying to do it on my own. Between Coach Barker, the team unity here, and the support around the team, it was an easy decision!

Well, you didn’t waste any time making a splash as you won the USATF Club Cross Country 10K Championship in your first race as a pro, beating guys like Matt Centrowitz, Brett Gotcher, and Ian Dobson. Did you think you had a shot at the win or did you surprise yourself a little?
I wanted to win, but I definitely surprised myself a lot. I always try to put myself in a position to do something special if I can, and it turned out it was certainly my day! I was just hoping for a high enough finish to earn a trip to Edinburgh, instead I got both the trip and the win.

The trip to Scotland was for the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country race where you finished 4th. So two races into your pro career and you have a national title and a trip to Scotland. You’re making it look easy. Obviously, considering you underwent hip surgery in 2010, it has to be even more gratifying to be back racing so well?
After how difficult my surgery ended up being, I was really worried about how long it would take before I could finally run competitively, if at all. I never expected to pick up a national title and also be on a U.S. team like Edinburgh right away. It gives me a lot more confidence going forward as I continue to progress!

Your new teammate, Antonio Vega, had hip surgery last year. Have you talked with him at all about what he can expect during the recovery process?
I have, although his hip surgery was much less severe than mine was, thankfully. I told him to have patience with it, as clearly you can come back and still be able to race very effectively.

You made your half marathon debut in Houston the day after the Olympic Trials Marathon, running 1:02:25, which placed you 5th. You didn’t have anyone within a minute of you on either side, so you were doing a lot of the work by yourself. Were you a happy with that performance?
I was happy with the time itself but pretty upset with my performance. I was doing most of the work with the other two Americans who ran 61:30ish, and with 3 miles to go, my trip to Scotland the week before caught up with me. I have many better races at that distance ahead of me.

That race was won in 59:22 by Ethiopian, Feyisa Lilesa, and just a couple of weeks ago I saw that 17 or 18-year old Kenyan, Dennis Koech ran, 1:00:40. Do you ever think, “How am I going to compete against all these Ethiopians and Kenyans?” Or do you not really think about it and just focus on yourself?
I am a firm believer in the fact that at some point I will race, and beat, guys of that caliber. I was a good day away from running under 62 min in my debut, so I am not afraid of racing at 60-minute pace in a year or two. Besides, at this point with American distance running, it is going to take at least those kinds of PR’s to look for a spot on our World/Olympic teams.

You mentioned in another interview that your future probably lies in the marathon. Were you able to take away anything away from this year’s Trials?
Well, I realized that I am not quite ready for the marathon yet! I am really excited for when I do get the chance though! Until then I will be able to learn a lot more about the distance from many of my teammates who ran at the Trials.

Have you put any timeline in place for moving up to the marathon?
I’ll be taking it one step at a time, and first I would like to lower my 5k/10k PR’s to the necessary levels.

At one point you were considering running the USA Cross Country Championships. How come you didn’t end up making the trip to St. Louis?
After seeing how much the Houston Half took out of me, I needed a break and racing that soon afterwards was not going to be helpful with my long term goals being the Olympic trials in the 5k or 10k. We wanted to, but it was just not going to work out.

What do you have in planned for the rest of 2012?
I originally was planning on racing the U.S. 15k championships, but I took a spill on the ice (in 40 degree weather ironically) and will not be able to make that trip. So as of right now, I have Mt. Sac 5k and Payton Jordan 10k as my next races. The focus is on the 10,000m for the Olympic trials, so those two are the main chances to hit the qualifiers at those distances. After the Olympic trials I truthfully have no idea!

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