Pilot in the Spotlight: Merel van Steenbergen

By The Beacon | September 21, 2011 9:00pm

Sophomore harrier Merel van Steenbergen talks cross country with The Beacon

(Jackie Jeffers -- The Beacon)

By Jason Hortsch Staff Writer hortsch12@up.edu

Sophomore cross country runner Merel van Steenbergen, a transfer student from Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, won the Pier Park Invitational individual title earlier this month. The Netherlands native shares her thoughts on running cross country for UP with The Beacon.

Q: How long have you been running?

I joined my track and field club back home when I was seven. Sports are all through clubs in Europe. From my 13th birthday on I only did cross country and track.

Q: Why did you transfer to UP?

Mainly because the academics weren't what I was looking for at Robert Morris. It was either go back home and continue my studies at a university there or try to transfer to another school. I really wanted to stay in the U.S. so that's what I did.

Q: How do you like UP so far?

I love it. I love the area, the school, the campus and Portland. I really, really like the city. There's always something going on, like the Saturday Market or other activities. Also, Forest Park is so close. There's so much to do and to see. I like that. It's easy to get around as well.

Q: What are some differences between Pittsburgh and Portland?

Pittsburgh is not a city you'd go to to hang out. It's mainly companies around there. There are not really any shops and restaurants – no markets or activities. There's not much to do in Pittsburgh. It's easier to run around here. It's safer also because there are sidewalks here.

Q: What are the biggest differences between the U.S. and the Netherlands?

The Netherlands is very, very tiny compared to the U.S. Everything is very close by. Schools are very different. At university, for example, sports and school are not combined. You don't become a member of a sport through the school. It's always been separate. Many people when they go to a university have to give up their sports. I really liked the U.S. system since I could come here and continue to do my sport and study at the same time. Also, everyone in the Netherlands has a bike, and everyone uses it. From when we're 4-years-old we take our bike to get somewhere. Everybody does that.

Q: What's something people might not know about the Netherlands?

It's entirely flat. We're below sea level in most parts. Along every street there is a canal. It's crazy how much water our country has.

Q: How do you like the team here?

I love the team. I like it better than last year actually. I feel like this team is closer. We'll do a lot of things together like team dinners and just hanging out together. We're supportive to each other. I think that's very important. If you're supportive to each other and get along with each other, it helps.

Q: What is something most people might not realize about running?

There's a lot of mental toughness involved. You have to be mentally tough. Sometimes it's hard because you're tired and your body tells you to stop. You just want to stop, but mentally you know you can't. You have to have that mental toughness. It's not just running. There's a lot of thinking and mental processes involved.