We recently talked with Wolfpack track and cross country legend Julie Shea Sutton, who’s also a member of the NC State Athletic Hall of Fame’s inaugural class, for a story in the special winter issue of NC State magazine, which should be arriving in mailboxes later this week. But there wasn’t room in the magazine for our complete interview, so here are more of Shea Sutton’s answers to our questions about running and her time at NC State:
Life as a student in the College of Design: I enjoyed the design school, but I had absolutely no personal or social time. My life was totally studies.
A shocking class at NC State: I remember taking a life drawing class in summer school, not realizing that life drawing was nude drawing. I came in with all my supplies and stuff, and I had missed the whole first week of summer school because I had to run in Japan. I came back, and there was this male model, nude male, up on this platform. I thought it was going to be still life, you know, drawing plants and stuff, maybe a cow or two, and there’s this guy—this kind of Atlas, really well-muscled guy—and I drop my sketch pad and pencils. I’m hyperventilating. I’m drawing everything but, you know, the private parts. The teacher is like, ‘This is life drawing. Get over it. Grow up.’
Meals in the cafeteria: I used to actually eat with the football players, because I could match them bite for bite. I would burn calories. I’d get plate after plate and several glasses of milk in a sitting. They were like, ‘Damn, girl.’
Her weekly running regimen while at NC State: I would run hundred-mile weeks for multiple weeks.
Overcoming adversity: My junior year I had arthroscopic surgery on both knees after I barely got through the cross country season. I was really hurting. Somebody gave me this key to the Coliseum (after the surgery). I could use the Cybex machine, which is for resistance training. And I worked and worked and worked on that. I saw the football players come and go, and I was in my little corner on the Cybex, doing intervals with that machine, and it built my quads up. So I was getting really fit.
Winning the 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000-meter races within 24 hours at the NCAA nationals after the surgery: I was pretty happy, and no one has ever done that since, so that probably was my best running feat ever. Now the races are spread out, but they still haven’t done it. I mean, it was insane.
Being recognized for her accomplishments: The ACC Award (as athlete of the year, in 1980 and 1981) was huge. Probably bigger was the Broderick Cup for being the outstanding woman athlete in all the United States, and going to New York City and going on The Today Show and meeting Bryant Gumbel.
Her favorite running spot when she was a student: Lake Raleigh. It was a wonderful loop. That was one of my favorite tromping grounds. It’s all gone and developed now.
Her running hero: My childhood running hero was Wilma Rudolph. I met her and she was lovely and just very nice and composed. She overcame a lot of adversity to win her gold meals. I thought she was a strong, beautiful woman.
On the use of performance enhancing drugs by runners: That is just plain cheating. I think that’s like a capital crime. It really is, and I think they ought to be prosecuted like criminals.