Stephanie was a very successful D1 Villanova athlete and is now learning the ropes on the pro circuit. In the fall she joined the Hoka One One team and now trains with NJNY Track Club, one of her teammates being her sister, Nicole Tully.
Belle Lap catches up with Steph to get to know her a little better and find out her approach to the new training set up, new coach and new goals.
Belle Lap: Congratulations on your Hoka One One support! How did signing with Hoka One One come about?
SS: Thanks, I am really excited to represent Hoka One One! After the NCAA Outdoor Championships, I started looking into the opportunities I had to run post-collegiately. I was familiar with the Hoka One One brand because they sponsored my older sister Nicole (Schappert) Tully. After deciding to to join the New Jersey New York Track Club and train under Coach Frank Gagliano, Hoka offered me the chance to represent the brand. It was the perfect match to be able to join one the best American distance running groups and be supported by a company that I truly believed in. I am extremely grateful for the support Hoka One One has provided me and I am looking forward to seeing what I can achieve with the brand!
Belle Lap: Did you get any senior year anxiety leading up to graduating? How did you handle it and not let it affect your amazing senior track season?
SS: Shockingly, my anxiety about the graduation was pretty minimal. At the beginning of my senior year, I was focused on landing job interviews and applying for graduate programs / scholarships. It was actually a good distraction and allowed me to feel confident that if I decided I did not want to pursue running post-collegiately, I had other options.
My senior track season was my best season and opened up a few opportunities for me to run post-collegiately. As these opportunities began to open, Gina Procaccio, my college coach, asked if I was interested in running after college and I said yes. She said she would handle it and that we would discuss after NCAAs. We both agreed that this would allow me to focus on the remainder of my collegiate season and enjoy my senior year. I have always had so much trust in Gina and knew she would do what was best for me .Focusing on my senior year rather than the future, definitely allowed me to stay relatively stress free as graduation approached.
Belle Lap: What are some key values that you learned by being a student-athlete at Villanova that you will carry forward to your pro career?
SS: Towards the end of my high school running career I began to get really nervous and anxious about races. These feelings carried over into the early part of my college career. One of the most important things I learned in my final two years at Villanova was stop always worrying about the outcome of races and let go some of the stress. I realized if I did the training in practice, made sure I was doing the little things, and just enjoyed running the results would come. I also grew to realize that every race is not the be all end all. Rather each race is just a stepping stone to reach your bigger goals!
Belle Lap: What are your career goals outside of track?
SS: I graduated from the Villanova School of Business with a degree in Marketing. I truly enjoyed school (which explains why my teammates used to call me the ‘nerd’ of the team)! Athletics and marketing engage my competitive spirit and creativity similarly. I am driven by the challenge that each offers to seamlessly combine multiple pieces into one cohesive and successful performance. While I postponed entering the corporate world to pursue my Olympic aspirations, my career goals outside of track remain lofty. My ultimate career goal is to become a university professor and teach marketing focused courses. Achieving this goal will require me obtain a graduate degree and gain relevant corporate work experience.
Belle Lap: You and your older sister (Nicole Tully) are a very speedy duo. How does she inspire and motivate you? What have you learned from her?
SS: Collectively Nicole and I have been running for about 22 years, but this is actually the first time we will be on the same team at the same time! We have always overlapped training when we were home, but never had the chance to train together on a consistent basis – so we are very excited to have this opportunity now. Without any reservations, I can say Nicole is my best friend and my biggest role model. It is hard to say what is more motivating to watch her achieve her running aspirations or our innate sibling rivalry! Being there to celebrate her USA National 5K title this year was unreal. I have always laughed with her that I have never been more excited and happy for a race including all of my races!
What have I learned from Nicole? A LOT! I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate to have a big sister who has gone through all the ups and downs of competitive running before me. A few key things she has taught me is not to stress about performances and enjoy the sport, racing and training setbacks play out for a certain reason, and just to be confident in myself!
Belle Lap: What are your main goals this year?
SS: For indoors, I am focusing on gaining as much racing experience as I can and of course it is 2016, so everyone’s hearts are dreaming of Rio. My main goal is to make it to Olympic trials and take each round of the 1500 one by one. At the trials my main goal is to earn a spot in the 1500 finals. If everything goes to plan who knows that will happen, I mean everyone in that final has a shot right? But I am just taking things one step at a time and trying to enjoy it!
Belle Lap: Are you planning on staying in the same event group as you competed in college?
SS: Yes, my primary focus will be the mile indoors and the 1500 outdoors for 2016. I also hope run some quick 800s and maybe a 3k to work on my strength.
Belle Lap: So you’ve been racing some indoors this season! What advice can you give a runner who is inexperienced running on a 200m banked track?
SS: Yes, I absolutely love indoor season! I think it is something about the smaller track that makes me feel like I am flying! Ironically enough, I grew up in South Florida so there is no indoor season. Entering college I had only run one indoor race. Honestly for runners who don’t have experience running indoors, I would tell them not to worry about it. You know how to race and that exactly what you will do it doesn’t matter if it’s indoors or outdoors your body will adjust.
Belle Lap: Which aspect of training would you like to build on?
SS: While I am really proud of what I accomplished in college, I know I have great potential to improve. This is one of the main reasons I decided to pursue running professionally. In college I trained hard, but my coach was very focused on not burning us out. I think I have room to improve on all aspects of my training: endurance training, speed work, and weights / strength work. I am lucky to have a great coaching and support staff with the NJNY Track Club that has allowed me to take my training to the next level!
Belle Lap: You’ve been training with NJNY track club this this fall and been on a training stint in the Australian warm weather. Tell us about your ‘pro’ fall base phase compared to what you would have done in college.
SS: In college, I grew really accustomed to racing almost all year around with cross country in the fall, indoor track in the winter, and outdoor track in the spring and summer. This was actually the first year where I focused almost solely on training through the fall. It was a lot different, but I think it was critical for my transition into professional running to focus on building a strong base. Coach Gags’ training philosophy is fairly similar to what I was used to at Villanova. But the volume and intensity of workouts have increased significantly! For example in college, I would maybe do 6 x 1k for a workout. Now I am doing 8 x 1k at much quicker paces. The increase of volume and intensity has really forced me to make sure I am recovering in between sessions, supplementing some mileage for cross training, and taking care of all the other little things.
Yes, I was fortunate enough to sneak away to Australia for a few weeks to visit my boyfriend! I was able to capitalize on the great Australian summer weather for training and play with some kangaroos so I have no complaints!
Belle Lap: Where can we find you when you’re not training?
When I am not training or busy with work you can find me on the sofa binge watching my current TV obsessions! I am also a coffee addict so I love visiting coffee shops. The NJNY track club has a favorite coffee shop in Clinton, NJ. You can pretty much bank on seeing someone from the team there at any time of the day.
Belle Lap: How do you switch off mentally from training and racing?
SS: After races I usually like to have an evening or day just to decompress and relax! I catch up on sleep and try to recover as best as I can before training kicks up again. I have so much respect and trust in Coach Gags so during training I am more mentally focused on putting my head down and getting through the work. Training with NJNY track club is really fun! We have a great group of girls and guys on the team, so that really makes training less mentally exhausting. When it comes to racing, I am certainly more focused than practice. I really just try to stay calm and keep it fun. I like to tell myself I don’t have to do anything heroic or out of the ordinary just do what I trained my body to do!
Belle Lap: Which new Hoka product are you most excited about in 2016?
SS: There are a lot of Hoka products I really excited about this year! On the average training day, I usually opt for the Cliftons or the Odyssey. But on workout days I have been wearing the new Tracer. I really love this shoe! It is lightweight so I can get some speed work in but still has good cushioning.
Belle Lap: What are your race day essentials?
SS: Race day checklist: uniform and spikes (which I double check are in my bag about 1,000 times), coffee, snacks, headphones, and my lucky/ go to jewelry selections of the season (indoors it’s pearls!)
Belle Lap: Will you hit up altitude in 2016?
SS: No, I do not have any plans to train at altitude this year. I really have little to no experience running at altitude outside of racing in New Mexico for NCAA Indoors a few years ago. I have been successful training at sea level and not looking to make any major training changes this year.
Belle Lap: What’s next?
SS: I returned from a training camp in sunny South Florida with my sister to get some quality training in before my indoor season. Now I’m back in Jersey reunited with the rest of NJNY to train and race our way through indoors, outdoors, and eventually onto the Olympic Trials!
Good Luck Steph! We are really excited to have you in the Hoka One One family and wish you all the best in your first year and beyond! We can’t wait to see you grow, blossom and build the foundations for an amazing future and great pro career!