"No worries" is a popular saying for the people of New Zealand. For Washington State cross country runner Ryan Gilmore, the simple philosophy means a lot more.
Gilmore, a junior from Seattle, spent the spring semester of her freshman year studying in New Zealand. The trip had a lasting impression on the laid-back junior.
"It was an awesome experience," Gilmore said with a huge smile. "It was one of the best learning experiences of my life. I fell in love with that country and how beautiful it was. It's so natural. I love the culture and the way of life. I think going there made me a much more relaxed person."
Gilmore has been extremely relaxed this season. The first win of her college career pushed the Cougar women to victory over a strong Idaho team in the Cougars' only home meet of the season. Washington State coach James Li was impressed with her running.
"Ryan has improved so much this season," said Li. "The win did a lot to boost her confidence. She will make herself known before the season is over."
The victory was huge for Gilmore, both mentally and emotionally.
"I've never won a cross country meet before because I've never really had the mental strength to win a race," Gilmore said. "I never had the courage to take the lead, stay ahead and have the big kick in the end. I knew at sometime I was going to have to do that in order to keep improving. When I was ahead toward the end I was like, `I'm just going to win this thing.' It really helped my confidence knowing that I do have more in me."
Gilmore, who also runs track for the Cougars, has made huge strides since high school in terms of improvement. Her hard work has not gone unnoticed.
"She began running stronger throughout last cross country season and had a major breakthrough during the outdoor track season," Li said. "Ryan was running very strong week after week. She was making so much improvement. It was not uncommon for her to improve by one minute in the 5000m or 30 seconds in the 3000m."
With a promising season already underway, Gilmore has some goals she wants to accomplish before her time at WSU is through.
"I'm going to run the 10,000m in track and I want to hold a time of 82 seconds per lap," Gilmore said. "I also want to place well in the Pac-10 Championships. My goal for the cross country team is that we go to nationals. Personally, I want to stay healthy and never give up. That was a goal I set for myself last year, and since then, I haven't given up in a workout."
Coach Li is impressed with the work ethic of Gilmore, and he expects great things from her.
"I think she will be one of the top runners in the Pac-10," Li said. "She is a key member of the women's team. Hopefully, she can help us achieve a higher success than we've had over the past few seasons."
Gilmore, a biology education major, has aspirations to become a teacher on the west side of the state, but not in a large city like Seattle.
"I want to teach biology," she said. "Probably high school or maybe middle school. Coming here, I thought I was a city person, but I like living in a small town more. I don't like being stressed out and feeling overwhelmed with people. I like being with the people I know like my family."
Since she had such a great time with her family in New Zealand, Gilmore has a plan to go back, but next time will be a little different.
"Whenever I think about New Zealand, I just smile because it was such a neat experience," Gilmore said. "I really want to go back and stay with people from the country. I feel I had a good experience, but it would be a lot different if I stayed with a native family."
With the thrill of victory fresh in her mind, Gilmore is motivated to keep winning.
"It's really exciting to me," Gilmore said. "I've been improving so much since my senior year of high school. That might be the reason I love running so much. I'm always proving to myself that there's so much more in me."
With Gilmore competing for Washington State, the Cougars will have no worries when it comes to facing difficult competition because they already have a winner on their team.