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SA’s US-based ace Scott-Efurd on her college highs and the race to Rio
- Updated: July 7, 2016
South Africa’s Dominique Scott-Efurd has had a rollercoaster last 12 months which have seen her get married, run a qualifying time in the 10,000-metres for the Rio Olympics and wrap up a sparkling college career.
The tiny blonde Cape Town athlete stepped back from the excitement of the track, as well as her and college life to take Road to Rio 2016’s Mark Etheridge over this busy and groundbreaking time of her life.
What was your personal highlight of your college career?
‘Well, the highlight of my five years running for the Arkansas Razorbacks in the United States has to be 15 March 2015. That day I won my first individual NCAA Division 1 title in the 3000-metre in 8min 55min. My win also secured the NCAA team win for the Arkansas Razorbacks Women’s team. This was the first time that any Arkansas Razorback female team had won a NCAA team title in any sport. This win created history. Shortly after all of this excitement my then boyfriend, Cameron Efurd, proposed. It was the cherry on top of an incredible day!’
Were there any real low points?
‘The low point of my collegiate career was being so far away from my home, family and support system. It was very hard to adjust to living on a completely different continent and being seven hours apart from my family. I’m very close to my mom, dad and sister, so moving across the world to follow my dream was not an easy decision.’
What was the best thing you learned both athletics wise and career-wise as a college student?
‘One of the best things I learned during my time as a student athlete was to have balance in my life. To be happy, enjoy running and excel in running I needed to learn to have balance in my life between studies, running and social life. I would not have succeeded if I had purely focused on running. I needed to get my academics done and I needed to have friendships outside of running. Everything in moderation is how I like to put it.’
Would you advise an up-and-coming SA athlete to go the college route like you or do you think it’s not for everyone?
‘Coming to the United States opens up many opportunities for high school graduates. You are given all the tools to succeed in your sport and then it is your decision whether or not to take advantage of them. There is far more competition in the NCAA than collegiately in South Africa. College coaches in the United States are recruiting athletes from all over the globe to run for them. This is awesome because it gives young athletes like myself the opportunity to run and study. But for high schoolers who are used to being the best in their town or even country they need to realise that they most probably won’t be the golden star any more. I’ve seen many athletes crumble when this becomes a reality. Unfortunately you do not get to compete on home soil during your time in the States. This is purely due to racing so frequently in the States for your university. This can be a disadvantage when South African teams are selected. However after saying all of this, if I had to make the decision again knowing everything that I do now I would definitely come to the United States to be a college athlete in the NCAA. I have reached new heights in my running since training and racing here.’
What next now? Are you going to stay in Arkansas, going to work now or be a professional athlete for a while?
‘I am going to stay in Fayetteville, Arkansas and continue to train with my coach Lance Harter. I have had great success while training under him so we are going to keep most things the same. I will train with the Lady Razorbacks and one of my past teammates who is now running professionally too. I’m currently in the middle of sponsorship negotiations. Be on the look out for my sponsorship announcement.’
Long-term, do you see yourself coming back to live in SA or are you going to stay Stateside?
‘My husband and I would love to come back to South Africa. I plan to come home during the summer months to train and race. South Africa will always be my home!’
You’re no doubt looking ahead to Rio, if your name is in that final team announced on 14 July… will you link up with the team back in SA or join them in Rio from the US?
‘I would be joining the team in Rio. I made this decision as it is an easier flight and time adjustment traveling from North America to Rio, than South Africa to Rio. I am heading to Europe this month to race a few times before the Olympics. I will then fly back to the States and have about two weeks to train and taper for the 10,000m at the Olympics.’
Your expectations of the Olympics etc, what time would make you happy or would you prefer to race for a place etc?
‘My goal for the Olympics is to make my country proud. This will be my first time competing in a major international competition. It will be a great experience and learning opportunity for me. I hope to run a personal best and have the best race of my career while wearing the green and gold proudly.’
In the picture (left to right), Scott-Efurd’s uncle, Trevor, Dominque, father Mike, sister Tash, husband Cameron, mother Renée, aunt Lynda and cousin Gareth after last month’s 10,000m win at NCAA Championships. Picture courtesy of Robert Black.