September 28, 2005 - Picture a runner with world-class talent motivating herself for an upcoming meet in the most unusual fashion: by sitting on her couch.

It works for Emily McGregor.

"I'm the queen of running movies," said the former Mountain View High School cross country superstar. "Anything with running I'll watch."

Whether it's watching a flick about Steve Prefontaine or Billy Mills, the motivation inspires McGregor, now a red-shirt sophomore at the University of Arizona, to do great things.

McGregor has emerged a leader on a young Wildcats cross country squad, earning the title of team captain in just her second full season with the Tucson university.

With her new title, McGregor got her season off to a running start finishing fourth overall at the third annual Dave Murray Invitational with a time of 22 minutes, 52 seconds, Sept. 16 at UA.

But it hasn't been a smooth beeline toward collegiate success for McGregor. After a stellar career at Mountain View, where she won the team's most valuable athlete award her junior and senior year, McGregor followed her twin sister, Valerie, to Colorado State University where a spot on the Rams cross country team awaited them both.

Her freshman year didn't quite work the way she planned. She suffered from a bout of anemia. Longing for home and wishing to be close to her mother, who was waging a losing battle with breast cancer, McGregor decided it was time to come home. Her mother died in April.

Despite the transfer, McGregor said she is closer than ever to her sister.

"I think we even have a closer relationship now considering that we're apart," McGregor said about herself and her sister, who is nine minutes younger than she is. "We talk every single day."

Healthy now, the sophomore is beginning to leave opponents in her dust, and that spot at nationals on the horizon is getting closer with each step.

With an early season time hovering at about the 22-minute mark, McGregor is looking to shave close to two minutes off her time.

"If you want to be a national contender," she said, "you have to be in the low 21 or in the 20s.

"Training-wise, I'm running a lot faster than I did in all my previous years. Even though this is only my second year competing (on the NCAA level), I feel like I've gotten a lot better than last year."

Whether working with UA head coach and running guru James Li in college or running with rocks or soda bottles full of sand in each hand like Mountain View coach Dennis Hansen used to make her do to correct her form, McGregor is the model of hard work. Even after a morning workout and a full day of school - studying to be a dietitian - the sophomore will still find time to go for an easy afternoon jog, which is usually at a 10-minute-a-mile pace.

If the extra workouts don't help her conquer the Pac-10 competition, at least they will keep her on pace with her sister, who still runs for Colorado State. The two will square off against one another when UA and CSU head to the Notre Dame Invitational Sept. 30 in South Bend, Ind.

Competing against each other isn't anything new for the sisters. They've been doing it since they were young, when their late mother inspired them to run.

"She was always so motivating, she never pushed me or my sister to run," McGregor said about her mother, to whom she has dedicated her running career. "She would never get mad if we didn't do well. She was always there to support us and say, 'Hey, as long as you are having fun, just keep doing it.' That just motivates me so much."

And it all began with simple running.

Back when McGregor and her sisters were young, if they weren't running the mile loop around the neighborhood park with mom they would accept the challenge posed by their father.

"My dad would take us to the park and race us," McGregor said, laughing about the head start he would give them. "But still, he'd catch us in the end."

All that has changed. Not too many people are catching McGregor on the course anymore.

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