Arizona distance runner Maria Larsson lived in Sweden her entire life.
One day, her life suddenly changed when she received a call from cross country coaches Mo Huber and James Li. For some, leaving a familiar territory could be a tough decision. But for Larsson, it was a given.
“It was not difficult for me to commit,” Larsson said. “As soon as Arizona offered me a scholarship, I wanted to come.”
Larsson credits the competitive squad and Arizona’s great reputation for making the decision so easy.
“I heard from Coach Li and I liked his philosophy and training method, “ Larsson said. “Also, I was attracted to come here, because the team is very competitive.”
Huber is no stranger to foreign athletes. She has four additional international student athletes on the team.
“Larsson’s transition was fairly easy because of her outgoing personality and her willingness to speak English,” Larsson said. “Most international students are very tentative to speak a foreign language.”
In addition to adjusting to a new country, Larsson is also running with a team for the first time in her life.
“There was no actual team in Sweden,” Larsson said. “Just a club team and I only ran with a couple girls. Now I am running with 10-15 girls on my team. They are very competitive and I love it.”
Running with the team isn’t the only difference that Larsson has experienced since the move from Sweden. She is also adjusting to the new school system and the American mentality.
“It is a lot more competitive here,” said Larsson. “For example, in my last run in Minnesota, there were 300 girls running. I have never seen such a long starting line, but that is why I came to Arizona, to compete on a stage like this.”
Looking to the future, the talented freshman has set lofty expectations for herself.
“I want to be an All-American,” said Larsson. “Also, I want to place in the top 40 at nationals.”
Huber knows Larsson’s goals are in reach and believes she has a chance to be one of the best runners in Arizona history.
“Larsson is a very talented runner,” Huber said. “She has a great personality and brings a lot of energy to the team. She has a great drive and she wants to be the best in the country. I believe in time she could be a National Champion.”
While some athletes look forward to their lighter days, Larsson sees them as challenging. Huber knows that this is something she has to work on with Larsson.
“Holding her back and having her take it easy on her lighter days is the hardest part,” Huber said. “But she needs those lighter days so that she can recover better from her previous training periods and be more fresh for her future hard training days.”
In addition to contributing great talent to the team, Larsson also brings energy and a lot of personality.
“The team loves Maria, she has a very unique personality and everyone likes being around her,” Huber said. “The team feeds off her great energy and leadership.”
The Arizona women’s track team is thrilled that Larsson took the journey to a new country. They are excited to see the positive attributes that Larsson brings to the table now and in years to come.