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Emily Infeld Heading Into 2016 With Confidence

After a breakout 2015 season, the 25-year-old won't sneak up on anyone this year.

At this time last year, Emily Infeld was rehabilitating a sacral stress fracture and not running on land. Now she’s a world championships medalist who hopes to set a 5,000-meter personal best at her season opener in the Millrose Games on Saturday.

“I am hoping for a PR,” the 25-year-old Infeld said the other day while finishing up an altitude-training stint in Flagstaff, Arizona. “I don’t know exactly what kind of shape I’m in but I would love to run under 15:00.” Her best is 15:07.18, set at the Portland Track Festival last June.

After Millrose, Infeld plans to run the 3,000 on March 11 at the U.S. indoor championships, with an eye toward making the team for the following week’s world indoor championships.

If she dons the U.S. jersey for the world meet in Portland, she’ll do so with different expectations—from herself and others—than when she ran the 10,000 at the world championships in Beijing last August.

Infeld emerged from that meet, of course, with a bronze medal after nipping teammate Molly Huddle at the line. For Emily, the performance was both an eye-opener and a game-changer.

“Worlds really gave me the confidence to run with anyone and put myself in a good position in the race,” she says. “I learned to push myself out of my comfort zone—only then could you have the possibility to truly surprise yourself and achieve something great. I would rather go after a fast time in a race and die than not give myself a shot.”

Infeld took some down time in the fall before resuming full training for this Olympic year. Things have been going well since December, she says, in part because of new Bowerman Track Club members.

“It has been great with the addition of Shelby Houlihan, Colleen Quigley and Betsy Saina to the group,” Infeld says. “We haven’t overlapped with Amy Hastings or Shalane for more than easy runs in their buildup [to last Saturday’s Olympic Marathon Trials], but it is great having them around to look up to and learn from.”

Infeld is well aware that there will be no more “surprise” performances now that she has a medal from a global championships. She’s using that recognition as another source of motivation as she launches her 2016 campaign.

“I definitely feel pressure, especially as a lot of people think I lucked into the medal because the race was slow,” Infeld says. “I want to prove that I can run fast times and be competitive with the best at their best, not just in a tactical race.

“I have definitely upped my training game and am very motivated this year,” she says. “That being said, I know that you need consistency in training in order to make big leaps, so I am being cautious in the sense that I want to ensure I can get to the start line healthy. Getting through [coach] Jerry [Schumacher]’s training is grueling, and I know he can get me to maximize my potential as an athlete, but I have to be smart and listen to my body.”

RELATED: Infeld Wins Bronze Medal at World Championships