Ariel Tian races toward future goals and tough challenges

Senior sprinter and mid-distance runner Ariel Tian keeps her focus toward the future, rather than previous feats. (credit: Ariel Tian) Senior sprinter and mid-distance runner Ariel Tian keeps her focus toward the future, rather than previous feats. (credit: Ariel Tian)

Life presents a series of challenges to tackle, overcome, and move past. For senior sprinter and mid-distance runner Ariel Tian, her choices in sports and academics define her desire to continuously pursue and conquer new challenges to improve herself to be the best she can be.

Rather than remain content with what she has already achieved, the computer science major with a creative writing minor from Acton, MA always has her eyes looking forward to the next opportunity for improvement.

“It just kind of happened,” Tian said regarding how she first got into sports.

“I did soccer and figure skating when I was really young. When I was eight, I started swimming competitively.”

It wasn’t until she reached high school that she reached the sport she would pursue in college. “My sophomore year in high school I started track.”

At first, the sport was for fun since she enjoys partaking in physical activities in her free time, but she soon began to view the sport as the next challenge she wanted to pursue. “One thing that happens in sports is that you hit a plateau, and that’s what happened to me in swimming. I thought I had more potential in track.”

Tian gives her craft a year round commitment. “Track trains all year round. In the fall, we don’t have meets, so we train to stay in shape and get better. In the winter, we go to Pitt since they have an indoor track.”

She added that the team would appreciate getting an indoor track to reduce the travelling they must do. “In the spring, it’s hectic. It’s a couple hours a day, sometimes longer. We have to go to a lot of places.”

While the physical training is something Tian is used to, she feels that the mental preparations are just as, if not more, important. “Getting ready for meets, most of it is mental. You get to a certain point where you know what to expect. It’s not pretty. You know you have to fight, push through, and beat your own times. Once you get over that anxiety, everything follows.”

The determination to push through and succeed carries through into her academic life. Describing her college application process as “semi-random,” she pursued many schools and programs from various disciplines.

“The computer science program was the best program I got accepted to, period.” Though she hadn’t specialized in learning computer science, Tian described herself as ready to take on the challenge. “I feel like I was one of the more well-balanced people. Even though I wasn’t particularly good with computer science, I chose it, and it turned out to be a very good choice.”

Tian is not the type of person to gush over her previous awards and accomplishments. When asked, she never even hinted at the indoor school record in the 4x400-meter relay during her junior year, the outdoor school record in the 4x100-meter relay and the 4x800-meter relay during her sophomore year, or even placing third in the 4x100-meter relay at the 2014-15 University Athletic Association (UAA) Outdoor Championships.

Rather, she singled out the process that drives her each and every time she steps out onto the track. “In sports, I think it’s pretty easy to say that time I got my best time as my proudest accomplishment. But I would say, sometimes when you line up, you get overwhelmed with doubt. It’s scary to go out and always try to beat the marks you’ve already set. Whenever I get on the line and overcome that doubt, that makes me feel very accomplished.”

She did, however, point out a time she won a coloring contest that netted a trip to Disney World as a singular accomplishment she was proud of, highlighting the fact that Tian is far more than just a runner.

In keeping to her view of constantly pursuing the next challenge, she expressed that her goals were things she likely would never accomplish but would nevertheless continue to pursue.

“Someone once told me you need to have soft and hard goals. Hard goals are very specific and tangible. I want to reach this time. I want to break a minute in the 400[-meter dash]. I think what really keeps you in check are the soft goals. You can’t really finish them, and they keep you going when you reach your hard goals. I want to stay fit or I want to contribute more to the team. These are things you keep working on. You’re never really finished.”

Tian and the Carnegie Mellon women’s track and field team continue their season this Saturday, Feb. 25, at the UAA Indoor Championships at Brandeis University.