Denmark native finds comfort in second season

After finding her place in America in her second year, her performance has improved.

Sophomore mid-distance runner Helene Gottlieb competes in the 4x400-meter relay at the Charlotte 49er Classic on March 16 in Charlotte, North Carolina. | COURTESY

Helene Gottlieb feels like she’s running with more confidence than she had last season.

The sophomore mid-distance runner, who is from Hoersholm, Denmark, struggled to get comfortable in her first year living in both a big city and America, she said. 

Now in her second year, Gottlieb has adjusted and is beginning to reach her potential, cross country and track and field assistant coach James Snyder said. 

“Everything was new,” Gottlieb said. “I didn’t really know what was going on around me. I kind of just had the mindset that I was just going to do my best, and I was satisfied with that.”

Now, with this new-found confidence, Gottlieb is finding success on the track. Gottlieb last competed at the Raleigh Relays on March 29, where she ran the 1,500-meter race in four minutes, 20.29 seconds, breaking her previous personal best by eight seconds. Gottlieb won the 800 at the Charlotte 49er Classic on March 16 with a time of 2:08.51.

At the American Athletic Conference indoor championships in February, Gottlieb had two top-three finishes. In the mile race, she placed in third with a time of 4:51.38 and earned a second-place finish by running the 800-meter race in 2:08.39 minutes.

Snyder believes most of her success has stemmed from her just being more comfortable in Philadelphia.

“Having that chance to move through her freshman year and gain the experience necessary made it a lot easier for her this year,” Snyder added. “Nothing’s brand new anymore. She’s familiar with Philadelphia. She’s familiar with the trails where we train. She’s just in a more comfortable situation overall.”

Gottlieb was complacent when it came to her performance last season, she said. She thinks she could have pushed herself harder to earn better results. This season, Gottlieb made it a priority to achieve goals she sets for herself to be more successful.

After achieving a personal record at her last meet, Gottlieb wants to set a personal record in the 800-meter race and earn a medal at the American Athletic Conference outdoor championship on May 10 to May 12, she said. 

At the beginning of her freshman year, Gottlieb wasn’t running as fast as she wanted to during the cross country season, she said. But as winter and spring track approached, Gottlieb improved and eventually posted a school record in the 800-meter dash at the outdoor conference championships in May 2018. 

Gottlieb credited her teammates and the coaching staff for sticking by her and helping to guide her through her ups and downs last year. 

Michelle Joyce, a sophomore distance runner and Gottlieb’s roommate, has had a big impact on Gottlieb’s adjustment, Snyder said. 

The two helped one another adjust to college their freshman year and quickly became friends, Joyce said. 

“[Gottlieb] has always been a great runner but having one year under her belt helped her see how good she can be,” Joyce said. “As a team, we get motivated by our teammates’ success. We want everyone to do good so we push and motivate each other every day in training. To see her running like this now motivates everyone.” 

Junior mid-distance runner Millie Howard, who is from England, also helped Gottlieb last year by sharing similar experiences from her first year in America, Gottlieb said.

“We’re very supportive of each other in general on our team,” Gottlieb added. “[Howard] was really good at teaching me everything that she had experienced during her freshman year and helped guide me for the future. We also just really push each other and celebrate each other’s success.”

Gottlieb will run in the Larry Ellis Invitational in Princeton, New Jersey, on Saturday before competing in the Penn Relays on April 25 to 27.

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