Hard work, determination and desire. You find your comfort zone, then hold it for an extremely long period of time.
"The main thing is getting yourself prepared," explained Southeast Missouri State track coach Joey Haines. "And the only way to get yourself prepared is with hard work."
Whatever it takes, Amy Arteme has done it.
Over the last four years at SEMO, the Kelly High School grad has gone from being an above average 2A athlete to one of the premier distance runners in the Ohio Valley Conference.
She was OVC Cross County Athlete of the Year in 1999, and has been All-OVC numerous times in cross country, indoor and outdoor track.
"She definitely ranks among the best in the OVC," said Haines, who also coaches SEMO's cross country team. "She's usually in the top two or three in her event each year. It has been a storybook career for her. She has developed into an outstanding Division I athlete, and she hasn't made those gains because of outstanding ability. It has been from hard work and determination and always pushing herself to the limits."
Now a senior, Arteme looks to end her collegiate career on a high note as the 2002 outdoor season winds down. On Saturday, she competed at the Mississippi State Invitational. Her team will travel to the Pace Setter Invitational on April 20 in Terre Haute, Ind., before hosting the OVC outdoor championships on March 3.
"We're really excited about hosting the OVC at home," said Arteme. "I just want to have my best performance ever there and end (my career) on a good note."
In the outdoor season, Arteme runs the 3,000 meter, 5,000 meter and 10,000 meter races. She holds the ninth fastest times ever in two events at SEMO -- 17:43.39 in the 5K and 37:40.15 in the 10K.
"She has exceeded expectations ten times over," said Haines. "She was a good 2A runner in high school, but never was in the top two or three at the state meet. Now she runs the 5,000 at a faster (rate of speed) than she ran the mile in high school."
At Kelly, Arteme's best time in the 5K was 20 minutes. She now covers twice that distance at a faster pace, sometimes running the 10K in under 38 minutes.
Even Arteme has been surprised by her improvement.
"I just wanted to run somewhere, but I never dreamed I would be able to run in Division I," said Arteme. "I was shooting for Division III. I was really excited about the opportunity to be on a college Division I team and I'm happy with the improvement I have made. It was just a positive atmosphere, good coaching and a lot of hard training."
One of Arteme's best attributes has been her consistency. She wasn't red-shirted, and hasn't missed a meet in any season.
"Amy has consistently been very good," said Haines. "In four years, I think maybe she's had one or two bad races. When she's not at her best, she's very close to it. A lot of runners are up and down, but Amy never allows herself to have a bad race. She's had some nagging injuries that she has trained through. She has run through a lot of pain that a lot of people would've stopped for."
Arteme's resume is impressive. In 1999, she was OVC Cross Country Athlete of the Year, the OVC cross country individual champion and SEMO's cross country MVP. She was the 5K champion of the All Sport Relays and was a Junior USTF All-American in the 5K.
In 2000, she placed second in the OVC cross country championships, second in the OVC indoor 5K, third in the OVC indoor 3K, second in the OVC outdoor 5K, and third in the OVC outdoor 10K. She also won the 5K at the All Sport Classic.
In 2001 she guided Southeast to a third place OVC finish in cross country. In the indoor track season, she placed second in the OVC 5K and fourth in the OVC 3K.
In the 2001 outdoor season, she placed second in the OVC indoor 5K, fourth in the indoor 3K, second in the 10K and fourth in the outdoor 5K. She was also the 10K champion at the Alabama Invitational, against a field of 50 other schools.
This year in the indoor season, Arteme set a new meet record in the 5K at Arkansas State with a time of 18:38. She also finished fourth in the OVC 5K and fifth in the 3K.
The outdoor season opened on March 23, with Arteme placing third in the 10K at the Alabama Invitational.
She also recently took first in the 3K at the April Fools Invitational, and placed second in the 5K at the Mountain Dew Classic.
So what's left for Arteme to accomplish?
Winning an outdoor individual championship.
"It's a realistic goal because she's running really well," said Haines. "At this time last year and the year before, we could tell she was beginning to tire at this point in the season. It's a long season. Cross country starts in September and she races all the way until May. Sometimes you can run out of gas, but this year she is running a little faster. We can tell that she's still getting stronger and better. Her last race at Southeast will be her best race ever."
After the track season is over, Arteme has another semester, then will graduate in December. She is majoring in dietetics.
"It's going to be really different next year, not having practice," said Arteme. "I'm still going to support the team, but it's going to be hard to watch from the sidelines. I want to keep doing road races, then eventually, I want to start training for a marathon."
Whatever it takes, Amy Arteme will get it done.