When it comes to legendary female hurdlers in IHSA annals, the names ring out like a Hollywood A-list with superstars Dawn Harper (E. St. Louis Sr.) and Shalina Clarke (Evanston) leading the way. However, there was an emerging starlet in the making from Downers Grove South High School. Eglė Staišiūnaitė (pronounced “egg-la” “stay-shoe-nai-ta”) was determined to make a name for herself; she would go on to sweep state titles in both hurdles during her senior season. Staišiūnaitė would go on to have an outstanding career at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and finally reached the mountaintop at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Staišiūnaitė took a moment to discuss her past, current, and future goals.
Illinois Prepster: Let’s start in the beginning- the humble beginning. How long did you live in your native Lithuania before moving to the United States?
Egle: I was born and raised in Klaipeda, Lithuania. That is where I started my track career. At age 14, I moved to the U.S. with my mom, dad and my brother.
IP: You enjoyed a stellar prep career at DGS which culminated in two state track titles (100H & 300H). You beat two all-time greats Shakeia Pinnick and Natalie Tartar (Batavia) along the way. Could you highlight your senior year including that monster 41.67 300H victory over Pinnick and Tartar?
ES: My performances were mediocre my freshman, sophomore, and junior year at DGS. However, my senior year was exceptional. It was right from the beginning of my last track season at DGS that I saw huge improvements in practice and competition. For example, I dropped like ten-seconds from a workout that we did my junior year. It was then that I knew my senior year was going to be my best one; but I never expected to be that good. I actually exceeded my own expectations. I agree that competition with Pinnick and Tarter was a great motivator and always pushed me to go further.
IP: After high school, you chose to compete at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It is a great academic and athletic institution, but you could have gone to a school in a warmer climate or one with a higher profile setting. In retrospect, was UW the right place for you?
ES: I wasn’t recruited heavily by other colleges and my outstanding performance in the IHSA state championship came at the end of my senior year. I actually already signed with Wisconsin before the state meet. I chose Wisconsin because they recruited me the best and I am glad they did. UW-Madison is a great institution and I had a blast. I enjoyed every aspect of my collegiate experience: athletic, academic, and social.
IP: You are having a solid post-collegiate career with appearances in the European championships and the 2012 London Olympic Games. Can you detail your Olympic experience?
ES: The experience of qualifying and going to Olympic Games is indescribable!!! It was very emotional for me. My emotions were mostly positive ones such as excitement, a sense of accomplishment, and pride. But I also felt a ton of tension, nervousness, and pressure. Even though I didn’t perform as well as I wanted in the Olympics Games, it was still a very positive experience. I gained valuable experience and enjoyed every moment. Also, I can say that the day when I raced at the Olympics, it was one of the best days of my life!
IP: Congratulations on your recent appointment as the head girls DGS track and field coach. What are your short and long-term goals for the program? Also, how do you intend on coaching and competing simultaneously?
ES: My main goal for the team is to teach the girls how to work hard and smart. I would also like to take a large number of girls to the state meet. I am not sure how long I will be coaching and competing, but coaching does not interfere with my own training and competition. High school season is done in May and my competition season starts in June.
IP: What does Coach Staišiūnaitė like to do outside of coaching and competing?
ES: I love yoga, movies, biking, spending time with my family and friends. I’m kind of an artsy person too. I love going to galleries and concerts. I also love nature and traveling.
IP: Every great athlete has vices. It’s usually in the form of food. What kind of junk food that you absolutely refuse to give up?
IP: What advice do you have for young female coaches out there?
ES: I think I am the one who needs the advice! It is my first year as a head coach and I have no idea what I am getting into, but I am glad that I have coaches who support me and help me out a lot.
Thank you Egle for the interview and best wishes in your future endeavors!