Q&A: Joslin Sellers engineers final success on the track


Joslin Sellers will graduate from Pitt this spring with the school mile record and a degree in chemical engineering. Courtesy of Pitt Athletics

By Mackenzie Rodrigues | Staff Writer

Senior distance runner Joslin Sellers has been carving out her spot on the track since the seventh grade.

This year, as she finishes up a nearly ten-year running career, she solidified a high-ranking position in Pitt history after finishing the 2016-17 indoor season with not one but two record-breaking performances.

Sellers broke Pitt’s program record in the mile with a time of 4:43.33 — beating Maureen McCandless’ 2005 record of 4:44.00 — at the ACC Indoor Championships on Saturday, Feb. 25. At the same competition, she ran as the anchor for the distance medley relay team that set the school record with a time of 11:18.78, previously 11:31.99 from 2016.

Although she’s a senior, Sellers took time off to participate in Pitt’s co-op engineering program— meaning she still has one more year of eligibility as a Pitt athlete. She will race in her final season for the Panthers’ cross country team next fall as she finishes up her degree in chemical engineering, works toward joining the workforce and plans to pursue a business degree.

The Pitt News talked to Sellers about balancing her time as a student athlete with a rigorous major and about reaching the apex of her fast-paced career: setting a record in Notre Dame, Indiana.

The Pitt News: When did you get into distance running? And what made you want to start cross country?

Joslin Sellers: I’ve been running track since seventh grade, but I wasn’t a distance runner until my sophomore year of high school, when I started running cross country.

I did cheerleading, but then I fell in love with running. I started running the 400 meters and the 800 meters a little bit, and my track coach convinced me to run cross country because he saw potential in me as a distance runner as well.

TPN: In high school you were also an MVP, team captain and the 2013 athlete of the year at your high school. How do you think high school track prepared you for college track?

JS: High school really prepared me for the racing aspect. The thing that was hardest transitioning from high school to college was that in high school you’re a big fish in a small pond. Then going to a Division 1 school, you’re a small fish in a really large pond. Especially my freshman year, it was really hard not being the best one on the team and not winning a bunch of races. I think that was definitely the hardest part. High school definitely prepared me for college because it prepared me for the work ethic that was required to excel in a Division 1 sport.

TPN: Have you ever had an injury that kept you off the track?

JS: I had two stress fractures in high school, and I had a stress fracture last track season, so I didn’t get to run outdoor track last year.

TPN: Why did you choose engineering and how do you balance being an engineering student and an athlete?

JS: I originally applied to Pitt as a pre-med student because I wanted to be a doctor, but I decided that I didn’t think I wanted to go into the medical field at the last minute, so I reapplied to the engineering school. I‘ve always been pretty good at math and science, so I figured it would be a good fit for me. Then I decided to go into engineering, and I definitely think I made the right decision.

It’s definitely a lot of time management. I have to plan out my schedule, sometimes weeks in advance, especially during track season. We are traveling usually every weekend, and I’ll miss sometimes two or three days of class. It’s definitely a lot of time management and a lot of grit. A lot of times I can’t do what I want, can’t watch TV, relax because I have to be in the library or the training room or on the track. But I love my classes, and I love engineering and I really love running so I make it work.

TPN: Who would you say is your biggest support system?

JS: My family is a huge support system. They’ve supported me since day one. My parents and my two brothers are great. Also, Coach [Adam] Bray has been an amazing coach. I kind of struggled last track season after taking a year off for co-op. I had a lot of doubts about whether I wanted to continue running or not, and he really convinced me to stick with the sport, and he saw potential in me and told me that I had what it took, I just needed some confidence. That really helped me get through and continue to improve.

TPN: How have you seen yourself grow from your first season to now?

JS: My confidence is definitely the biggest thing that has changed. I’ve always tried to work hard and put in the work, but my confidence definitely improved this track season as I started to see my times improve, and I had some good races. That fueled the fire and allowed me to reevaluate my goals for the season. I would say that my love for running is the same. I’ve loved running ever since I started.

TPN: You recently set the record for the mile. What was that race like?

JS: That race was awesome. It was actually exhausting because it was my third race for that meet already. We ran the [Distance Medley Relay] on Thursday night and set the school record for that, and then I had to qualify for the finals in the mile. So, I ran the qualifying mile and then qualified. For the final, I was a little tired, but there was so much adrenaline, and I just did what I had been doing the whole season. I just needed to lay it all on the track and try to really kick the last couple laps. I had no idea that I did break the school record until I looked up on the board afterwards and saw my time. I was so happy. It was awesome.

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