Thursday, April 11, 2013 | 1:05 a.m.
This is a new weekly feature where we’ll have a Q&A session with someone either involved in or working with UNLV Athletics. Part informational, part nonsense, we want to get to know the Rebels.
The harder Emily Blok works, the less time you have to see her perform. That’s the trick with track athletes, especially sprinters like the UNLV senior captain. A quick day is a good day, though with a workload of four events at almost every meet, there’s no easy day for Blok.
A native of Conifer, Colo., Blok was a three-time state champion in the 100 and 200 meters, adding one 400-meter title on her way to the state’s Gatorade Athlete of the Year award in 2008. Since coming to UNLV, she has won five conference titles, including two individual crowns (60 meters and 200 meters) at the indoor championships in February. Off the track she’s a member of the UNLV Student Athlete Advisory Committee and earned the Mountain West’s scholar-athlete award in her freshman season.
Blok is coming off a pair of personal record (PR) times at a meet in Fresno State, where she ran the 200 meters for the first time in the outdoor season and clocked an 11.46-second performance in winning the 100 meters. We caught up with Blok after a workout preparing for this weekend’s Randall Cunningham Invitational at Partridge Stadium.
This interview was edited for content and clarity
Do you prefer the individual or relay races?
They’re apples and oranges; I enjoy them for two totally different reasons. Individual, I get to focus on goals and dreams that I’ve had for a really long time: PRing, times I’m running after and the NCAAs. Whereas the relay changes every year so it’s a little bit different, but I love it in the fact we win as a team or lose as a team.
Do you have specific times in mind for the 100 and 200 meters?
You’re always trying to PR. I try not to chase times too much, though it’s kind of hard not to. For the 100, I’d like to get into the 11.3s or high 11.2s and in the 200, the low 23s or high 22s. The goal isn’t necessarily a time; it’s the fact that I want to be in the NCAA Championships, so whatever time gets me there, that’s what I’m going for.
I heard you try to avoid prerace routines. Is that accurate?
That’s something I’ve always gone with. It’s easy to get into superstition, but really the only thing that superstition can bring you is, say there is a mishap, say you don’t have your lucky socks, then what? You don’t want that in your head. You don’t want a negative vibe because this superstition went wrong, so you think, "I can’t do it." The only thing it can bring you is negativity.
What leg do you normally run on the relays?
The last three years, I had always been the anchor on the 4x100, but this year I’m pretty set in the second leg, which I really like. It’s a little added pressure because you have to not only receive the baton but also give it off. I’m comfortable with it. On the 4x400, I have run every single leg. It’s a lot more open than the 4x100.
What's an event you haven't tried, or maybe have only messed around with in practice that you would like to try at a meet?
When I was in high school, I did long jump* and I loved it. Last year the coaches opened the idea of me jumping again, but it’s such a different type of pressure on your body and a different type of technique that every time I got a little hurt they would take me out of it. I haven’t pushed long jump this year and I probably won’t ever do it. I understand that sprinting is what I’m here for. That’s what I’m best at and that’s how I can lead our team.
*As a high school junior, Blok finished second in the long jump at state.
Is there one race in your collegiate career that stands out to you?
Conference championships — those are events you’ll always remember. As far as other races, I’ve had the opportunity to race Carmelita Jeter and also Allyson Felix. Those races I’ll never forget because those are the fastest women in the world. Then you have the other side of races that you wish you could forget and you can’t. My freshman year, the 4x100 team missed the NCAA finals by one-hundredth of a second and I’m still heartbroken four years later. That’s a race I’ll never be able to forget.
Speaking of Felix, at last year’s U.S. Olympic Trials, she and Jenebe Tarmoh tied for the last qualifying spot in the 100 meters. How do you think you would handle that situation?
There’s a little bit of controversy behind that. I would hope to react like Allyson Felix did and say, "Absolutely, I want a run-off." I would want to earn my spot. But that situation is touchy, whether Allyson Felix really even tied her in the first place or if they said that a few seconds later because she’s more marketable. If I was Tarmoh, you can’t know unless you’re actually in that situation, but I would hope I would want to fight for my spot.
Since this is the Randall Cunningham Invite, what position would you play on the football field?
It’s funny you ask that because we talk about that on our team. “If we were a football team, what position would everybody play?” I have a little ball-catching skill, so I think I could be a wide receiver. Other girls on the team might be better running backs. I’ve thought about receiver or safety or cornerback. My secret crush is Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey; he’s been in my heart a long time, so I could see myself being No. 24 and playing corner.
You're a three-time member of the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Division I all-academic team. Going to make it four?
Yeah, I think so. Obviously classes get harder and harder. I’m looking to graduate in May as I finish up not only my degree but also some prerequisites for physical therapy school, which are absolutely my hardest classes. It’s gotten harder to maintain that GPA since my freshman year; those were the good old days. But I’m working as hard as I can, and I think it will be there. If it’s not, I can honestly say walking away from it I have worked as hard as I can in school and I’m planning to finish out that way.
Is physical therapy school the plan after graduation?
Absolutely. The application is coming around in December, so school would start next June. Until then I’m going to retake some biology classes and try to really boost my GPA to have the best chance of getting in. It’s an extremely competitive program. Physical therapy has been a dream of mine for a very long time and I can’t see myself doing anything else. Als,o the possibility of continuing running is absolutely an option I need to explore.
Is the physical therapy program here at UNLV?
Yes, that’s actually a big reason I chose UNLV. I knew I wanted to go into PT and a lot of schools don’t have that because it’s a doctorate-level program. I decided I wanted to be somewhere I could to my undergrad and my grad at the same place so I knew the credits would transfer and I would know the professors and make my connections early on. That was the plan and I still stand by that decision.
Since you’re from a small mountain town in Colorado, any special affinity for “South Park”?
My sister is actually getting married this summer to a guy from South Park. I don’t watch a whole lot of TV, but there are a few “South Park” episodes I’ve seen and they’re funny. Not only is the actual town of South Park only an hour away but the writers are from Conifer* and that’s a prideful thing because Conifer is so small. It hasn’t really made its mark on the map, but you can say, “You may not have heard of Conifer, but I bet you’ve heard of ‘South Park.'” That’s a fun fact I throw out about my hometown every once in awhile.
*According to an Internet search, only co-creator Trey Parker grew up in the area, although Matt Stone grew up in nearby Littleton.
What else do you know about “South Park”?
A lot of things I’ve seen in the show, they’re real towns and real counties. One episode I have seen, the characters started in South Park and had to go on a journey to Conifer*. They traveled through Bailey and then they got to Conifer, and people don’t know that’s real. That’s actually the way you go. There’s definitely some real-life little things they throw in there.
*“The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers,” Season 6, Episode 13. NSFW, but you should already know that.
I read you were an all-state clarinetist. When's the last time you played?
I actually used to play a few instruments. I was in jazz band and I played saxophone for a long time. I played the drums on the side. Clarinet was my first instrument. Freshman year I didn’t bring any of them out here and I really started to miss it. So now I live in a small apartment and there’s not room for drums, even the tenor sax is kind of big. However, I did bring my clarinet and I do still play it. When we’re in season I don’t find a lot of time for it, but in the offseason, absolutely I’ll pick it up. It’s a very good stress-relieving thing. It’s something I’ve been doing so long that I can go six months without it and then pick it up and still play it. I have that muscle memory. I have a passion for music, and some day when I’m not so busy, there’s no doubt in my mind I’ll get back to it.
Any other hidden talents?
Well, we actually had our student-athlete talent show recently. We were cheated.
I spoke with softball pitcher Amanda Oliveto about that last week. Everyone besides baseball seems to think they got robbed.
You’ll just have to watch the video and decide for yourself. The truth is track has the most YouTube hits of those three teams. It was so much fun. I wouldn’t say that dancing is one of my talents, but I think I can hold my own a little bit. Aside from that, I’m super, super fast at unwrapping Starburst wrappers in my mouth. I think my fastest time is five or six seconds.
What's playing in your car right now?
I’m a rocker at heart. I always have some type of classic rock in my mixes but some new rock, too. I’m into Mumford and Sons, Silversun Pickups, Passion Pit. Some newer things, but I’ve always been a fan of the true rockers: Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Eric Clapton, ZZ Top. Those are the kinds of bands I was raised with. I have a mix in there that most people wouldn’t think those songs all go together. Got some rap, alternative and even some reggae on the mix right now.
Tupac or Biggie?
Tupac all the way.