Karoline Skatteboe Keeps Improving
Oct. 28, 2013
DALLAS (SMU) - It could be said that Karoline Skatteboe takes a business-like approach to her sport of cross country at SMU.
Her fundamentals are: plan, invest and then expect returns and dividends.
She can sum it up in one sentence: "The amount of work a person is willing to put in is the amount of gain he or she should expect to receive, and that's why I love running."
Not only does the sophomore run for an SMU purpose, but she sets an example for young people back home in her native country of Norway, too. That's where she first learned to love the sport that brought her to the Hilltop.
As a freshman in 2012, Skatteboe finished in the top 10 in four events, including an eighth place finish at the Conference USA Championships. She was an important part of a squad that led SMU to its fourth C-USA title in five years. Skatteboe earned second-team All-C-USA honors and was named the conference's Athlete of the Week after her third-place finish at the first event of her collegiate career, the Baylor Invitational.
"Winning conference was a lot of fun. Our sport is all about each individual but it became about the team that day, and I really liked that," Skatteboe said. "Winning awards and getting recognition for a good finish is an American thing. I never had that growing up, but getting recognition for anything is fun and helps keep me motivated. I got something nice to put on my wall."
Skatteboe has been racing all her life but she has not always been a runner. At 16, she became a competitive cross country runner and prior to that she was a competitive skier. She also played other sports growing up but never knew running competitively was a sport. "I was always good at the endurance and running portion of training for skiing," Skatteboe said.
In skiing, success depends on having quality equipment -- including boots, skis and poles. Even the clothing worn by skiers can affect their results in a competition, because of aerodynamic factors.
There were times that the equipment situation in skiing frustrated Skatteboe. No matter how hard she trained, the results did not always reflect her effort. Then she realized that not only did she enjoy the running regimen necessary for skiing, but she was very good at it. So she began running cross country for a club team.
Her club coach was Eystein Enoksen, who became a mentor thanks to his experience and work as a professor in the Department of Physical Performance at the Norway School of Sport (NIH). Enoksen specializes in coaching, athletics and physical training, having earned a Ph.D. at NIH in 2002.
Skatteboe first understood the idea of individual effort and expected benefits from Enoksen. That motivated her to follow the training program he organized.
"Being a part of a club team was special as we were all there because we wanted to be," Skatteboe said. "Our club team worked as hard as each individual wanted, which helped create the motivation and drive to get better that I still have today."
Having taken up competitive running for the first time at 16, Skatteboe found herself behind most of the runners on her team. But that changed, even as early as in her first year as she saw improvements in every race. She still remembers, though, that she "finished last in almost every race" at the beginning.
In her second year, Skatteboe improved her PRs (personal record times) by more than 30 seconds and then continued training in the offseason. Her dedication paid its first dividend in qualifying for the Norwegian Junior Championships, where she won the event.
Once she earned that title, Skatteboe's goals changed as she saw club team friends and others consider the idea of coming to America to attend college and continue her sport.
However, she still had goals to achieve prior to graduating from Naddered Videregȧende in Norway.
Her next goal was to qualify for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Junior Championships in Barcelona. That would not be easy because she would only have six races in which to record the necessary time. She did not make it in the first five, but did not give up, and reached the goal in the last opportunity.
SMU Head Coach Cathy Casey said competing in the World Juniors still benefits her to this day and sets an example for her teammates.
"Running in that environment will help Karoline as she can draw on that experience whenever she needs," Casey said. "It also has allowed her teammates to grow a new respect for her as Karoline was able to share her experiences of being there. Karoline qualifying showed the rest of our team that they are capable of doing things on an international level as well."
The World Juniors experience led to phone calls and letters from colleges in the United States. As she thought about leaving Norway for her education, she created a checklist of items that were important to her:
(1) A city in warm weather. "If I wanted to run and live in the snow, then I would've have just stayed in Norway," she said.
(2) Becoming part of a team atmosphere where everyone would challenge each other competitively. "I wanted to attend a school where I knew I wasn't going to be the best walking in, to help keep my motivation to work hard every day."
(3) A quality academic environment. "I could have gone to school for free in Norway, so the scholarship aspect wasn't the selling point for me. I loved the idea of being a student-athlete, balancing training and my school work, so I can earn my degree in a challenging field of study that interests me." She is majoring in engineering management.
(4) She wanted a training program similar to Enoksen's guidelines on her club team. His plan "suited me very well and I excelled using it. So coming to college, I didn't want my routine to change drastically."
As it turned out, Dallas, SMU and Coach Casey's regimen fit all of the criteria.
Upon arriving in 2012, SMU senior Mary Alenbratt welcomed her as another Scandinavian. Alenbratt was from Bohus, Sweden. It made Skatteboe feel welcome right away. "Mary really helped me in my first few weeks here," Skatteboe said.
Skatteboe discovered a big difference about competing in America right from the start. "Back home, I knew almost every person that I was running against," Skatteboe said. "So I was always comparing myself to them in the middle of the race. Now, there are so many more runners and I have never seen any of them before, so I just worry about what I can control and try to execute my pre-race plan."
She has learned that in cross country, it is the athlete against the clock. In Norway, Skatteboe thought about the runners around her rather than concentrating on her previous personal record. Since arriving at SMU, she has focused on executing a pre-race plan in every event.
Skatteboe just broke her personal record in a 6K race at the Indiana State Pre-National Invitational where SMU defeated then-No. 19 ranked Oklahoma State. She finished 98th out of 340 runners in 21:27.3.
Skatteboe's best finish in 2013 so far came at the first meet of the season, the Baylor Invitational, where she finished 6th of 89 runners in a 4K race. She also helped SMU place eighth out of 24 schools at the Notre Dame Invitational where the Mustangs defeated then-No. 4 ranked Duke (10th) and regional rival Baylor (14th). She finished 51st of 198 total runners at Notre Dame.
Skatteboe credits her family upbringing for her success as an athlete, too. Her father, Rolf Skatteboe, was a Canada University of Saskatchewan speed skating coach for many years, a background that has influenced her.
She jokes that even though he was a coach at a high level in a sport, "I'm a lot better than he ever was."
But she added, "He knows about lap times and what it means to be an individual athlete so I know I can always go to him when I need to."
They talk frequently talk about race strategy and performance characteristics. Skatteboe said she also depends on her mother, Anne, and her sister, Sigrid, who she counts as her biggest fans. She said with a smile that her mother encourages her to get some rest because she says "I look so tired when I'm running."
Her parents have been able to attend a few meets this season.
Even though she is relatively new to her sport, Skatteboe's leadership qualities are being counted on by her coach and her teammates.
The Mustang freshmen and sophomores have been the leaders in each race so far in 2013.
Sophomore Melanie Stemper placed first overall at the UTA Invitational. At the North Texas Invite, freshmen Tova Magnusson and Agnes Sjöström finished second and fifth and sophomores Shanoah Souza and Holly Archer earned third and fourth, respectively.
"We have a lot of depth this year," Skatteboe said. "I am so excited about what the future holds for us, but we are focused on the conference meet coming up."
Skatteboe and the Mustangs looks to capture their fifth conference championship in six years on Saturday, Nov. 2 in Madison, Conn. at the inaugural American Athletic Conference Championships.