Category Archives: EMPIRE ALL STARS

Stories about the awesome runners that hail from Sonoma County.

Student Grant Fund Recipients 2018

The Empire Runners club has a long-standing commitment to providing scholarships to deserving student athletes of Sonoma County making the transition from high school to college. Made possible by dues and contributions from our members, we are giving our 4 recipients a total of $4250 in scholarship awards this year. All club members should be proud of the part they play in this most wonderful of traditions through generous donations.

These four student-athletes will be formally introduced and awarded their scholarship checks at the Kenwood Footrace on July 4th. Please join us in congratulating these outstanding young members of our running community.

 

Our first recipient began her running career with an 8 minute mile during PE in middle school.  The accolades from her teacher lit a fire under the young runner and led to her running four years of cross country in high school.  Her freshman year her ability led her to run between 2 training groups.   Much of her training then was of a solo variety and the long hours spent chasing the front group led to much improvement but more importantly to develop what she calls, “grit”.  This grit and continued hard work was displayed in moving to the ‘front of the pack’ and becoming one of the top runners in league (CMC) and qualifying for the Division V state championships her next 3 years.  She not only represented her self and her league well, she put her school on the XC map.

This outstanding runner received many local accolades, including: Athlete of the Week (Heart and Sole) twice, All league 3 times, All Empire 3 times including 1st team in 2017, 4-time Scholar Athlete.  She also had many school accolades and is the school record holder on the Spring Lake Course with a 19:31 time.

She saved her best for last by medaling (7th Place overall) at a tough NCS course this year with a huge PR of 18:38.  She followed this with a 19th Place overall at the D5 State Championship on a very tough 5K course with a PR of 19:20.

Our recipient is also an outstanding student with many scholar and scholar athlete awards.  She has maintained a nearly 4.0 unweighted GPA (3.98) and much like her impact on her XC team she has been a great addition in the classroom.  Both her coaches and teachers agree her involvement in any activity brings up the level of those around her and her positive attitude and easy laugh is infectious.

This excellent choice for the ER Student Grant will be continuing her education and running career wearing the Purple and Gold of Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois.  This future Prairie Fire will be a ‘diamond in the rough’ for Coach Alex Moreno and his strong D3 ladies running program.  While there she will major in Theater with emphasis in stagecraft, technical theater (sets, costumes, etc.) and practical effects (stunts, flight, pyrotechnics) and Acting. Please welcome to the stage, from Tech High School, the gritty and accomplished:

IRIS  BERTO

 

Our second scholar athlete began his running career the summer before freshman year with summer training with his new high school.  When he arrived he was shy and knew nobody.  But after completing summer training the daunting thought of starting at a new school was gone and he began a 4-year sojourn with his XC and Track teams.  This runner started in the back of the pack but with hard work and dedication he developed into a 2-year varsity performer with a multi league championship team.

This scholar athlete has found running and his team to be the most impactful experience of his life.  He has found the bond of running with teammates has strengthened not only his physical skills but plays a major role in his scholastic achievement as well.

While running both XC and Track all 4 years he has found time to be actively involved in multiple school clubs, volunteer with the ER, Food Bank, Math Tutor and Spanish tutor.  He has received many scholastic awards including: Outstanding Scholar (Top 8 students), Gold GPA award and 8-time scholar athlete award winner.  He has maintained an unweighted 3.7 GPA.

Although beginning his running career as a JV runner (most improved) he continued to work and improve and was chosen by his coach and peers as a Captain of the XC team.  His PR on the Spring Lake Course is 18:00 and he travelled with his team to the State XC Championships this past year.  Because he works so hard and has the mindset for continued improvement I don’t feel he has tapped out his running potential.  I also think his leadership skills and running knowledge would translate to being a great coach if he were to choose that path.

Our second recipient will be attending UC Davis in the fall.  This future Aggie will be continuing his education in International Relations and running with the Aggie Running Club. Please give a big hand for this former Piner Prospector:

BEN SOMMA

 

Our 3rd ER Grant recipient began her high school career with some accolades from middle school XC and continued that, achieving Varsity status as a freshman, running a season PR of 20:36 and 3rd team All league.  Sophomore year showed continued improvement with a 19:34 PR and 2nd team All league.  Junior year was more of the same with a 19:44 PR and 1st team All league.  Our recipient also made All Empire sophomore and junior years.  Senior year had her making second team all league with a number of sub 20min Spring Lake Course races.  This scholar athlete also had success on the track with a best 2-mile time of 11:43 during track season and at the HOKA 2-mile madness junior and senior years.  Her best year in track was junior year when she qualified for the Redwood Empire meet in the 800, 1600 and 3200.

With those results you might think everything was easy for our recipient, but that would be far from the truth.  She hardly had a season that wasn’t negatively impacted by a myriad of ailments including bone development problems, severe anemia and pneumonia.  This illness history has kept her from meeting her potential.  Her illnesses would have had a weaker individual possibly quitting the sport but she came back from each setback working harder, very positive and responding with excellent results.

This scholar athlete’s excellent attitude is beyond reproach and has a positive impact on her teammates resulting in multiple Captain awards in both Track and XC.  That being said, her favorite may be her Most Inspirational Award voted by her teammates last XC year (2017).  Her coaches were impressed at her leadership skills including regular motivational speeches prior to races often leading to improved performances.  I truly feel lucky that I was one of those coaches that experienced the “Jazzy effect”.

On the scholarly side our athlete was an NCS scholar athlete 8 times, recipient of the MHS Boosters Scholarship, NCS Foundation Scholarship and a perfect unweighted GPA of 4.0 while taking a mixed IB/AP Honors curriculum.  She was also a finalist for the Redwood Empire Scholar Athlete Award.  This was accomplished with a full slate of volunteer opportunities and a part time job at a local Engineering firm.  It was said best by one of her teachers; “she will crawl inside your heart, make herself comfortable and while there remodel the place making room for more.”

Our scholar athlete will continue her education and running career on a partial scholarship at Division 2, Academy of the Arts University in San Francisco majoring in Fashion Design.  I expect to see her continue to achieve in both her running and scholarship. This Fall she will be running in the black and red colors of the Urban Knights. Please give a warm welcome to the former MHS Viking:

JASMINE ‘JAZZY’ BECKER

 

Our final ER scholarship recipient almost doesn’t need an introduction.  She has spent more time on the sports pages of the Press Democrat than almost any other high school athlete in the last 30 years.  She also happens to be arguably the greatest combi track and field athlete ever in the Redwood Empire and maybe the state; boy or girl.  Our recipient finished her high school career #1 All-Time Redwood Empire in the 100(11.87), 200(24.17), 400(54.07), 300LH(42.68) and the 400LH(62.18).  These are State Meet level times and she medaled at that meet in the 200, 400 qualifying in at least one event all 4 years.  Her 300LH time was run early in the season and was about 0.5 sec behind the eventual state meet winner.  Her 400H time run only once this year at Stanford in early April was #2 in the nation. Per her coach, “she is willing to perform any event except the PV to get points for the team”.  Anything includes both relays where she led her 400R team to #2 AT in 3:55 qualifying for the State Meet, the DT and SP where she not only produced valuable points but finished 25th and 45th AT in the RE.  She also ended up #3 AT in the LJ (18’11”) which she jumped freshman year only.

If that body of work doesn’t impress you she also ran XC Soph/JR and was her school’s top runner both years, finishing 1st team All League and All RE her junior year with a PR of 19:34 on SLC.  Winning races from 100M to 5K is virtually unheard of in California.  If that isn’t impressive her coach noted how inspirational she is as a team leader both in XC and in Track especially tutoring the new runners in baton passing.

One might think that our scholar athlete is just physically gifted but she also had health issues after her freshman year and worked hard to recover and come back stronger and better while finding great solace with her team; training and racing.  While performing at the highest level athletically our student grant recipient also performed admirably in the classroom with an unweighted GPA of 3.6 in an honors level curriculum, including Spanish and Italian all the while a member of the symphonic band in the School of Arts.  She not only succeeds in the classroom she also peer tutors in Sports Medicine class.

kirstin carter 2 all empire 2018

Her high school experience has prepared her for success at the next level both in sports and academically.  She has accepted a scholarship to attend UC Davis in the Fall and plans to major in Political Science with a minor in Spanish.  Picking her events may be difficult and will probably include a relay or two and the 400H but don’t be surprised if she doesn’t follow her fellow alumni, Wendi Simmons and end up a national level heptathlete. Whatever happens she has a clear plan with multiple short-term goals to improve consistently throughout college and minimize the stress.  Our final scholarship winner will be trading the orange and black of SRHS for the blue and white and becoming a lifelong Aggie.  I am proud to present to you:

KIRSTEN CARTER

 

This article written by Brad Zanetti,

co-chair along with Paul Berg of the ER Student Grant Fund.

 

Sara Bei-Hall: Empire All Star, by Alex Wolf-Root

(An ongoing series of interviews of redwood empire runners by Alex Wolf-Root)

Feb16WolfRoot01The Redwood Empire has been familiar with Sara Bei (Hall) since her earliest days as a Montgomery HS Viking. She was the first girl to win four CA XC State Championships, she was the 2000 Footlocker National Champion, and still holds the Empire 3,200m record. As a professional, she’s represented the USA in cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track (including a PanAm Gold), and has now turned her attention to the roads. She’ll be racing the Marathon at the upcoming Olympic Trials on February 13th, so be sure to tune in to watch!

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today Sara! I know you’re busy, so let’s get right to it: In just about two weeks you’ll toe the line at the US Olympic Trials in the Marathon. When did you know you wanted to be a marathoner, and why do you think it took so long for you to turn to the marathon?

Trying a marathon was always something on my bucket list, but not something I felt I would really be good at until I ran my first half marathon back in Sonoma County in Healdsburg. It was just for fun, not a fast course, but I loved it and made me wonder how much faster I could go! Then I started the training for it later in the year and really loved the training. Unfortunately my appendix burst and I had to delay my debut but it affirmed in my mind I wanted to try the distance.

While your debut at the LA Marathon didn’t give the results that were expected, you bounced back incredibly well in your next attempt at Chicago. To what do you attribute this change? And should we expect to see similar improvement at the Trials?

I’m not sure if it’s possible to take that much time off again 🙂 but I felt I finished Chicago curious how much more was there. The Chicago course and conditions were much more forgiving, and I learned that I do really love the distance as I thought I would. I just had too many weakness exposed in my first one. The LA Marathon was the most I’ve ever hurt, and I’m stronger for it.

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And it’s not just the marathon that you’ve excelled at. If anything, the roads may be your least successful terrain thus far. You’ve won a national title in XC and earned PanAm gold in the steeplechase, so you’re clearly a very versatile athlete. What is it about yourself that makes you excel across the disciplines?

I played a lot of sports growing up and feel like I have more of a general athletic gifting by God than having a specific endurance pedigree. I’ve always been willing to work really hard and not be afraid to try new things. All those successes came with an equal number of failures of events I tried that didn’t go well! I’m not afraid to fail and I enjoy mixing it up.

 On that topic, if you could be a legitimate contender for the best in the world in any event in Athletics, which would it be?

Good question. I don’t think I’m near that in any event but my best may be the half marathon… With a few hurdles and mud thrown in 🙂


Stepping back a bit, let’s talk about your (Montgomery HS) Viking days. You made history by being the first athlete to win the CA State XC meet all 4 years. Additionally, you were a Footlocker National Champ. What do you think led to such incredible success during your prep career?

I had great coaches at Montgomery in Larry and Tori Meredith and later help from Shannon Sweeney that gave me a good foundational base. Larry gave out summer schedules before my freshman year that were “beginning, intermediate, advanced” so being the over-achiever personality I was I followed the “advanced” to a T even though it had me running 15 mile long runs, etc. I’ve always loved challenging myself. Plus living across the street from Annadel didn’t hurt! 🙂

Beyond your coaches, was there anyone else who had an extra special impact while in HS?

Early on, Julia (Stamps) Mallon set the bar high for me in all my races from local to national, so I’m grateful for that. Later my Stanford teammate Lauren Fleshman really mentored me thoroughout my college career, and after that Deena Kastor in the 5 years I spent in Mammoth Lakes was very influential.

What about any favorite memories or races from your time as a Viking?

It’s hard to top winning the state championship as a team! It began as kind of a pipe dream and I almost couldn’t believe it when it happened.

And while you had a great career at Stanford as a many-time All-American, you weren’t quite the world-beater you were in HS. How was this transition back to being great, but not the best?

The level of competition is much higher. It’s easy to succeed in high school just by working really hard, especially because when I was in school that wasn’t the norm. I think I placed 2nd at NCAA nationals like 4 or 5 times. And the time I was most likely to win I got tripped in the final sprint. There just wasn’t a lot of room for error and yet I am thankful for all the 2nd place finishes and leading our team to a NCAA XC title.

Feb16WolfRoot04While at Stanford, you met your husband, who’s also an elite distance runner. How has that relationship helped your performance on the roads/dirt/oval?

I would definitely not still be running if it wasn’t for Ryan’s inspiration and support. He has believed in me at times when I gave up on myself and he is my biggest fan. Now he coaches me, which has made for a fun new season!  Of course there are times I’ve had to sacrifice my career for his and vice-versa, but we are a team.

While obviously Ryan is a marathon great, some were surprised to hear of this coaching change. How did that come about?

Yeah, it just made sense when we were taking on the adoption of 4 girls from Ethiopia. I would need to be more flexible and have someone present to adjust things. Plus, he knows the marathon inside and out and now that he took a step back from competing has more time to be present at my workouts.

The biggest news there has to be your starting a new family. Congrats! What led to the decision to adopt, especially as you’re in the prime of your athletic career?

It was a leap of faith and far from a career move, but one we felt called in our hearts and have not regretted it for one minute. We wanted to grow our family through adopting kids that may not otherwise have a home and that are typically older kids and are special needs kids. Our girls are amazing and have added so much joy to our lives! For more details on our story becoming a family, see the Press Democrat article 🙂

And that’s hardly the first way you’ve done good for Ethiopia and her children, thanks to your Steps Foundation. Can you tell our readers a little bit about how this came about, and about it’s current mission?

Seeing extreme poverty first hand in Africa and other areas totally changed me as a person and the trajectory of my life. I thought I’d go straight into development work after college but had the opportunity to still run and here we are 10.5 years later, enjoying it more than ever! But I haven’t forgotten about the calling I feel is on my life to bring justice in these areas, and engage the running community to do the same. Currently our funds are focused on famine relief and orphan care in Ethiopia.

Well thank you for doing your part to help those in need. Hopefully many of our readers will check out the Steps Foundation website and do their part, too.

Now, some flash questions:

Favorite trail in Annadel: Spring Creek

Favorite workout: Hard long runs

Favorite race distance: Half marathon

Favorite post-workout meal: Chocolate Muscle Milk pancake

What final words of advice would you have for those reading this, especially for current Empire Prep’s gearing up for their T&F season?

Enjoy the team aspect of the sport! That is one thing that changes after school. Eat well – don’t look for shortcuts by losing weight – or you may not be able to enjoy running later in life. Be “you” to the fullest rather than comparing yourself to other people. Find your identity in who God made you to be; root yourself in that and you can run free of fearing failure.

Thanks for the chat Sara, and good luck in LA! All of the Redwood Empire will be rooting for you!

 

REESEY BYERS: EMPIRE ALL STAR, BY ALEX WOLF-ROOT

(An ongoing series of interviews of redwood empire runners by Alex Wolf-Root)

Today we switch over to the men’s side, starting with Reesey Byers from Santa Rosa HS. Reesey was the first Redwood Empire prep to crack the 9-minute barrier for 3,200m, and then went on to set D1 school records at Sacramento State. Reesey is currently training in Sacramento where he represents SRA Elite.

Dec15Byers_Alex005Let’s start with your record-breaking 3,200m. Was sub-9 expected? How did it feel accomplishing such a goal?

I definitely wanted to break 9 minutes, though I was very disappointed with my end result. My proudest race was when I ran 8:19 in the 3,000m and that indicated that I was ready to run low or sub 8:50, but the race did not go as planned at Arcadia. It was still a great experience.

And how does it feel having that record broken just one year later?

I expected Luis [Luna] to break it. I knew he had the talent and the drive. It was great to watch him beat it live. I was happy for him.

Well you certainly had talent and drive as well. You were a stud at SRHS from the start. How did your time as a Panther turn you into the standout runner you are today?

Dec15Byers_Alex002The better I got, the more driven I became. One person I definitely give credit for my success today is Rory McLeod. He was my inspiration and a great teammate. I looked up to him so much and watching him run I thought “Wow, I would love to be as fast as him one day!” I had other great teammates as well and we pushed each other day after day. Also I had amazing high school coaches. They invested a lot of time in me and helped me grow each year.

In your mind, what are the highlights of your Panther career? What, if anything, did you not accomplish that you thought you could, or should?

Dec15Byers_Alex003My highlights were definitely when I ran 8:19 in the 3,000m and 4:11 in the 1,600m. Those were my favorite races by far and also my best performances. They really gave me a lot of confidence. Also making it to state for the first time my junior year in the 3,200m. It was my first time running at that level, and that year I had nearly a minute drop in my best time (despite running 9:06 in lane 3!). As stated before, I definitely think I could have run a faster 3,200m, as well as going sub 4:10 in the 1,600m, but I’m not complaining. I am very happy with my career as a Panther.

And due to it being such a great career, some were a bit surprised that you chose to go to Sacramento State instead of a “bigger” athletic power. How’d that decision come about?

I know, a lot of people were confused, but I knew I would be much happier at Sac State. The decision was between UC Berkeley and Sac State. I felt a stronger team bond with Sac State’s team, and the coaches really showed a lot of interest in me and promised to give individual help as well. I don’t regret my decision to go to Sac State at all.

Dec15Byers_Alex007

Well that decision certainly worked out! What was it about that program that brought out the best in you?

My teammates definitely brought out the best in me. I made some of my closest relationships through Sac State’s XC and track teams. I became a better person from the people I met while on the team. And Sac State had a very good track team. We were conference champions across many seasons.

From my point of view in the stands, one highlight was your 5,000m win at the 2013 Stanford Invite. Tell us a bit about that barrier-breaking moment.
Dec15Byers_Alex008It was definitely a mixed feeling. From the workouts I knew I was fit enough to break 14, but actually doing it and winning the race was unbelievable. It was the greatest feeling ever. Although many think I was in 13:30’s shape that year (having closed mile repeats in 4:10-4:15 etc),,,

Despite some great accomplishments, especially your first two years, you had a rough second half of college. Can you tell us a bit about those struggles?

There were several factors that played a roll in the rocky end to my collegiate career. Right after my sub-14 season, I found myself undergoing a coaching change that was very difficult on me mentally, especially right after a very successful season. I then had a life changing illness in the fall of my last year. I had a staph infection that was in the bones and disks of my lower back and in my blood stream. It was literally killing me from the inside, and it was misdiagnosed for six weeks. Eventually I had to be rushed to the emergency room and was hospitalized for about a week. I was then given a central line for another few months and was without exercise for 4 months. Once I was healthy, I tried to save my last track season but, due to missing 4 months of base, I did not have the strength necessary to run very well. I also suffered from a slightly torn hamstring and am still dealing with it to some extent. It’s been a rough ride since last year.

Dec15Byers_Alex006But things seem to be smoothing out now that you’re running post-collegiately. After first running for Strava you’re now with SRA Elite. What’s the post-collegiate journey been like so far?

I knew a few friends that ran for Strava and they really were interested in me, so I joined Strava and loved it. Unfortunately I did not have the immediate access to the support I needed. Being in Sacramento made it difficult for me to take advantage of what they had to offer. I then realized it would be much more beneficial for me to join SRA Elite. I would have immediate access to the support they provided and I would have a team to train with. I am really loving it so far and they take great care of their athletes. I am currently getting some coaching guidance from them and it is working well. I am just getting over my hamstring injury and getting back into great shape.

Going back to the Redwood Empire, we’ve had quite the history of distance runners. Why do you think this small area has turned out so many solid athletes?

That’s a good question. I think part of it is because there are so many good places to run. Running is a popular sport in that area as well. There are many races that are put on in that area that encourage people of all levels to go out, test themselves and have fun.

Dec15Byers_Alex004What would you tell the HS athletes reading this now?

I would tell them to be patient, not to give up, and just have fun. Running takes a lot of hard work but it’s important not to think of it as a job. Have fun with it. Go places that interest you. Chase your dreams. If you want it bad enough, it will come in time. Just keep plugging away, day in day out. There is always room to grow in the sport. Do the little things. To be a successful runner, it’s important to take good care of your body.

What should we expect from Reesey Byers in the future?

I definitely am very driven. My goal is to make the Olympic Trials in the 5,000m. That is my dream. Expect a fast 5,000m this year. Now that I am healthy and taking the right steps to be the best I can be, I think I can really do something special.

Anything else that you want to add?

I just want to say thank you to everyone who has supported me in my journey to be a successful athlete. It has been a bumpy road but it’s how you deal with and get through the adversities of life that make you a better person, both athletically and in general. I have gone through a lot but my drive and determination keep me going. It is also important to stay hungry and stay humble, because there is no telling what life will throw at you, but as long as you are determined enough, your body will achieve what your mind believes.

Thanks again Reesey, and we can’t wait to see what you do this season, especially come Independence Day!

Dec15Byers_Alex009

Kim Conley: Empire All Star, By Alex Wolf-Root

Nov15Alex_Kimmy02(An ongoing series of interviews of redwood empire runners by Alex Wolf-Root)

To be honest, this intro blurb is likely a bit unnecessary; who in the running world, especially our Redwood Empire running world, doesn’t know Kim Conley? Excuse me, Olympian Kim Conley. Her dramatic finish in the 5,000m at the 2012 Olympic Trials will be forever etched in the history books, as will that look of excited disbelief. However, Kimmy is far from a one-race wonder. As a prep at Montgomery HS, she was a member of the Viking’s State Championship team (2000), a two-time NBL champion on the track, a state qualifier in the 1,600m, and still 6th all-time in that event. While at UC Davis, she was the first Aggie to qualify for the NCAA XC Nationals since they moved to Division I, and since her Olympic experience has captured US titles in the 10,000m and half-marathon.

However, the last 10 months she has been a bit off of the radar…

Question: After many years of consistent, steady improvements, this year you’ve finally seemed mortal. Can you tell us a little bit about how the year has played out since your injury earlier this spring?

Answer: I spent the winter and spring doing everything I could get healthy and be ready to toe the line at the U.S. [Track & Field] Championships. There were a lot of stressful moments as I travelled around the country seeking medical advice and looking for the “magic bullet” (that doesn’t exist!) all while trying to build fitness cross training and on the Alter-G. The more I pushed myself, the more it seemed my body pushed back against me and eventually I had to take a step back and look at the big picture of what I was doing to myself and how it could affect my goals in the long term, specifically looking beyond the World Championships and into the Olympic year.

Nov15Alex_Kimmy05

Being the reigning 10,000m National Champion and having made the finals in the 5,000m two years ago, this couldn’t have been easy. How tough was it to make the call?

It was very difficult to make the decision to not have a track season and give up the opportunity to compete for the US at the World Championships. Putting on the USA singlet is always a huge honor and what I look forward to most when I set my goals.

I am fortunate to be surrounded by a great support network, and between conversations with New Balance and [Coach] Drew [Wartenburg] I was finally able to decide to forego the track season and allow my body to heal on its own time. It still took longer than I had hoped, but fortunately I am past that rough patch and moving forward.

Notably, you’ve PR’d on the track every year of your career. While clearly not as big a deal as qualifying for Worlds, it’d be sad seeing that streak end!

We still have a few months of 2015 left and I have a track 10,000m scheduled for December 6th, the Pacific 10,000m Pursuit, so there is still a chance I can keep the PR streak alive!

Track in December?! While not common in the US, it’s great to see your club NorCal Distance step up to change that. Care to tell us a bit more?

The Pacific 10,000m Pursuit is intended to fill a hole in the schedule for distance athletes who are coming off fall road seasons or getting ready for the Olympic Trials in the marathon. We’ve found over the past couple years that early December is a time when my fitness is very good but I don’t have a race on the schedule to use it, so Drew reached out to several coaches across the country to see if there were other athletes out there who had found themselves in similar situations. The feedback was very positive, so he went about creating this opportunity for us.

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And it looks like you’re priming yourself to be ready for that opportunity, as you’ve shown some useful fitness at the recent US 5K and 10mi championships. How do those play into this 10,000m, and the upcoming year as a whole?

I am using the fall road season to simply compete against other top U.S. athletes and integrate myself back in the competitive arena. In December I’ll run the Pacific 10,000m Pursuit with the hope of putting up a decent track 10,000m time while we’re still in the 2015 calendar year. At that point I will turn my attention to the track and race a couple indoor races (probably a mile and a 5,000m), before hitting reset and then gearing up for the 2016 outdoor season.

Speaking of the mile, you ran a ridiculous middle-distance indoor campaign in 2014, including a scintillating 4:24 mile. Do you have any desire to drop down in distance sometime and focus on the 1,500m? Or will you continue to view those middle distances as support events?

I don’t think I will ever fully focus my training and racing around the 1,500m, but I definitely think there is a place for it in making me a more competitive athlete over 5,000m and 10,000m. From a big picture view, it will always be a secondary event, however in the moment when I am racing a 1,500m or doing a mile specific workout I approach it as though that is my primary event and try not limit myself by not completely owning it.

Well what about the other side of the spectrum? Obviously your 1:09:44 got people talking about the marathon, and you’ve made clear that you’d like to run one someday. Should fans keep an eye out at LA 2016 just incase, or, assuming not (I assume not!), when do you think you may make your debut?

I really enjoyed racing the US Half Marathon Championships last January, and the experience definitely made me excited for a future where I can continue to move up in distance. There isn’t a definite time line set, other than that it will be sometime in the next Olympic cycle. As long as I take well to the training and the race, I would love to be in the 2020 Olympic Trials for the marathon and competing as a marathoner in Tokyo.

Well for now we’ll just have to keep our eyes on the track! Speaking of the oval, the US just went 3-4-5 in the 10,000m at Worlds, the best finish I can remember. How was it watching that?

It was very awesome! When I watched the 10,000m at USAs I knew we were sending a great team to the World Championships. In championship races you have to be open to the possibility that anything can happen. To watch Emily [Infield] finish third in the US and then finish third in the world confirmed that women’s distance running in the US is in a great place and made me very excited to be a part of it.

And much of that greatness is now flocking to Sacramento, California, in the form of your NorCal Distance Project. Can you tell us a little about how this group has grown from just Drew coaching you post-graduation to now having top post-collegiate women moving down to train in your squad?

I guess you could say it began when Lauren Wallace graduated from UC Davis, decided to continue running as a professional, and asked Drew to coach her. Drew and I already had developed a routine and it was easy to integrate her into that system. Once there were two of us running well in that system other athletes took interest. It didn’t take long for us to desire more formality, in terms of being an official group with a name, logo, website etc rather than simply a group of professional runners training together. Creating that formal, professional environment is a full-time commitment though, and so the biggest evolution came when Drew decided to resign from his position as the director of track and field at UC Davis to pursue developing a post-collegiate group. The group continues to evolve, but the core principles of creating a professional environment to develop athletes to compete on a national and international level will remain constant.

Nov15Alex_Kimmy04

And unlike other groups, yours has the ability to compete in a wide range of events, from Lauren at 800m, to Kate Grace at the 1,500m, all the way up to you in the half. How is it working with athletes who excel at the shorter stuff instead of just working out with other long distance women?

Our training is designed such that we touch a variety of paces throughout a week and training cycle so we often have room for overlap. I enjoy any opportunity to be pushed and love it when I get the chance to workout with both Lauren and Kate.

But before you had such a strong group, and before you were an Olympian, you were living the tough post-collegiate life. What were those years between June ’09 and July ’12 like, without a major sponsor or team?

Nov15Alex_Kimmy06

Looking back on it now, I can see how hard it was (especially compared to my current situation), but at the time I didn’t know any better and I was very happy to be chasing that dream. Each year I ran much faster than I had the year before and I was quietly working my way up the ranks of US distance running, and I was enjoying that process of improving and having a big picture vision that culminated with the 2012 Olympic Trials.

And it was at those 2012 Trials where we first saw that New Balance logo on you, and now we see they’ve joined forces with your squad as a whole. (Though you do let athletes have other sponsors, like Oiselle, which is pretty awesome.) How is it having such a huge brand so intimately involved with you and your squad?

I have had a great relationship with New Balance since partnering with them in 2012. Putting on their singlet at the Olympic Trials was an important component of what helped me believe that I belonged in that field and contending for a spot on the Olympic team. Since then, they have been extremely supportive of the vision Drew and I have for my career, in terms of experimenting with different distances, expanding my range, and developing a post-collegiate group. Their support of the group allows us to give the developmental athletes with us access to resources that I didn’t have at that stage to help make their path a little smoother in pursuit of the Olympic Dream.

While you’re clearing making waves in the national scene, to this audience back home you’ll always be a Viking. Let’s go back to those HS days. As many know, you were a freshman on that amazing Montgomery HS team led by Sara Bei (now Hall, look for her interview in future months!) that captured the California D1 Title in 2000. How did that introduction to running effect the trajectory of your running career.

Winning the state title in 2000 was a great introduction to the sport of cross country. That season taught me right off the bat about the importance of setting goals, working with and for teammates, and maintains belief in ourselves and those goals even in the face of obstacles. Those lessons have served me throughout my career and I can still call upon my experiences that season for motivation to this day.

Thinking back to those prep days, who would you say were some of your biggest role models or positive influences?

My coaches, from my youth days with Santa Rosa Express, to Jr. High at Slater Middle School, and of course at Montgomery High School, definitely had the most profound affect on my career. I will never forget when I was graduating from Montgomery and looking forward to running at UC Davis, a conversation with Larry Meredith where he asked me to promise him that no matter how rigorous or challenging running became in college, to never lose my love for the sport. I never have, and even though I treat running very much as a profession now, at the core I train and compete because it’s what I love to do and I love what it brings out in me.

Nov15Alex_Kimmy07

To what would you attribute your transformation from that new Viking runner back in 2000 to the world class runner you are today? What advice would you give to the current prep runners reading this today who want to see how far they can go?

The trajectory of my career is due to steady progress over many years. I have been fortunate to have sustained very few injuries and I have stacked together weeks, months, and years of consistent training. I am always learning about myself and looking into ways to continue to refine my approach and get more out of myself. It is a process I really enjoy and makes me excited for my continued development.

And the question I’m expecting most of the club wants me to ask: when will you come back and reclaim your Kenwood 3K title?!

One day! July 4th falls in the heart of the track season, so as long as I’m competing as a professional track athlete it’s unlikely I’ll toe the line in Kenwood. Once I have retired it will make it back into the rotation.

Thanks for the chat Kimmy, and I can’t wait to see what you do on the oval in the near future, be it in Sacramento or Rio!

To follow Kimmy as she continues on her amazing journey, your best bet is really to just pop on over to the American River Trail in Sacramento! But for the rest of us all around the world, you can follow her journey on Twitter, Facebook, and her personal blog, complete with discussions and all!

EMPIRE WOMEN ALL-STARS: ALIA GRAY, BY ALEX WOLF-ROOT

Today I sat down with Maria Carrillo ’07 grad at one of her favorite Boulder coffee shops, OZO Coffee. Despite not starting her competitive running career until well into HS, Gray has worked her way up to the top of all-time Empire lists. She’s currently the Empire Record-Holder in the marathon, thanks to a 2:39:43 at NYCM, where she was 16th overall and 5th American. Other PR’s include 15:35.86 for 5,000m, 32:57.85 for 10,000m, and 1:13:34 for the half marathon, and she has placed in the top-10 at USATF National Championships for Cross Country, the Half Marathon, and 10,000m.

Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule Alia! While you’re one of the top women in Empire history, many reading this may not know about you as you weren’t a prep super-star. Can you tell us a bit about that HS career of yours?

I ran cross country my junior and senior year, and only ran track my senior year. I got a stress fracture in what would have been my junior year. I think I got a stress fracture because I got really excited about the sport, but I had next to no lifetime miles on me.

Oct15WolfRoot03
Maria Carrillo High School team photo.

 Before I started running, I was a soccer player. I had a couple knee surgeries, and I started running because my friend Michaela Baer, encouraged me to come to some runs. I just loved the people and wanted to be around the people. I joke around that I joined the team because I wanted to go to the team pasta feeds. It’s partially true and food is a big part of my life! But I liked the people and as many runners know the running community can be such a positive place in spite of being so directly competitive that as a highschooler it’s partially a social decision.

 While it may have started as a social event, you did become a very successful, competitive runner. How’d that change come about?

I think I got really lucky having people like [coaches] Danny [Aldridge] and Greg [Fogg] and Richard Flores around early in my running career. I didn’t realize at the time how knowledgeable they were. They were all so encouraging, but they weren’t pushy, which is a big thing with young athletes. They know that the athlete has to love it first. They were there to give me the work when I wanted to do it.

2014 Houston Marathon Weekend Chevron Houston Marathon Aramco Half Marathon Aramco USA Half Marthon Championship ABB 5000 Houston, TX January 19, 2014 Photo: Victah Sailer@PhotoRun Victah1111@aol.com 631-291-3409 www.photorun.NET
2014 Houston Marathon Weekend
Chevron Houston Marathon
Aramco Half Marathon
Aramco USA Half Marthon Championship
ABB 5000
Houston, TX January 19, 2014
Photo: Victah Sailer@PhotoRun
Victah1111@aol.com
631-291-3409
http://www.photorun.NET

I remember Danny a couple times telling me I could be good. I got into it because of the people, but I ended up loving it and wanted to be really good at it. I remember Danny telling me after one race I was in a lot of pain and on the verge of tears and he’s just laughing and he’s just like “oh my god you don’t know how good you can be”. I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back you realize how valuable it is having people who can see things you couldn’t yet see for yourself.

And you certainly got good at Chico while under the tutelage of Gary Towne. How did you end up a Wildcat, and how did that influence your trajectory as a runner?

I knew I wanted to keep running and that I had a lot of development to do, but I was hesitant to go D1 because it could chew me up and spit me out. Greg [Fogg] brought up Chico, and mentioned something about me to Gary. What stuck out to me about Gary was that we talked for over an hour in our first conversation. The time that he took with me was just so valuable, especially knowing I wasn’t a big deal. That gave me a lot of faith that he had built something that was a good place to grow.

Oct15WolfRoot04
With coach Gary Towne after her last collegiate Outdoor Track Championships in Pueblo, CO.

Gary knows how to develop runners, and his ability to give so many kids individual attention, I have no idea how he does it. Each of us would sit down at the beginning of the season to lay out mileage, races, etc, and then do a meeting at the end of the season too. I was always looking forward to those; that was the equivalent of going to a teachers office hours. Getting that one on one time with the coach was really valuable and having someone in your life who could foresee things that you’d want to see but don’t have the courage to see quite yet.

I remember him telling me “I think you can run sub 17 in the 5k” and at that time in my head that was like a huge, huge deal, and now I look back and like, of course I could! Goodness!

2014 Philly Rock n Roll Half Marathon Philadelphia, Pa September 21, 2014 Photo: Victah Sailer@PhotoRun Victah1111@aol.com 631-291-3409 www.photorun.NET
2014 Philly Rock n Roll Half Marathon
Philadelphia, Pa September 21, 2014
Photo: Victah Sailer@PhotoRun
Victah1111@aol.com
631-291-3409
http://www.photorun.NET

Even from a young age, before I was ready for the marathon distance, he said I think you can be a really good marathoner. He was great at developing athletes throughout the collegiate career but he obviously loves running and that naturally becomes instilled in a lot of his athletes. He has you thinking about running not just as a college athlete but as a person as your lifelong love.

And a lifelong love it’s become. After bouncing around a bit, you’ve now found yourself in Boulder running for Brooks, coached by the legendary Joe Vigil. How’s that new relationship been working out?

The first couple weeks I had to get over being a bit star-struck to be honest. He notoriously prescribes really difficult work, and I’m notoriously my harshest critic. What’s been really great working with him is that he’s the first one to lift me up after a hard session. But, he’s not one to hold your hand; he’s not going to give you work to make you feel good about yourself. But he’s very uplifting and he loves his runners and he knows that them being excited is a big part of the work.

He constantly reminds me that I’m still a work in progress. He tells me “you’re just a puppy,” at 26 years old! He reminds me that this is something that I’ll be doing my whole life.

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2015 US Outdoor 10K Championships.

 Great though Vigil may be, he doesn’t live in Boulder, so you’re being coached day-to-day by someone else. While many may know Richey Hansen as a great chiropractor, you not only know him as a coach but also as your boyfriend. How’s that whole combo-relationship working out?

He deals with wearing many hats really well. He’s been able to be that in-person coaching influence as well as the emotional support. Not easy to balance! Lots of coaches may be happier if it was just black and white and numbers and that was that, but Richey manages me on the emotional side of running, which can be one of the more frustrating and challenging things in the world of running. He’s kinda there to tell me when something should be better when I don’t want to hear it and I’m hurting and ¾ into a workout and I’m slipping and need someone to get me back on it. Not an easy position for someone with that sort of emotional tie to do. He’s also the first one to build me up when I do something really worthwhile and the first to build my confidence. It’s just been an incredibly positive experience. It’s amazing, I used to say I’d never date a runner, that I wanted those lives totally separate, but I’m surprised the impact of someone so close to you and someone so incredibly supportive can have. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without the way that we work together.

Well I’m excited to see where that partnership continues to take you! So tell us, what’s on tap for the rest of 2015 into 2016?

2014 USA XC Championships Boulder, CO Febuary 15, 2014 Photo: Andrew McClanahan@PhotoRun Victah1111@aol.com 631-291-3409 www.photorun.NET
2014 USA XC Championships
Boulder, CO Febuary 15, 2014
Photo: Andrew McClanahan@PhotoRun
Victah1111@aol.com
631-291-3409
http://www.photorun.NET

It’s gonna be so busy. I’m really excited but I’m at a point where I took some time off after USA’s [Alia finished 10th in the 10,000m and 12th in the 5,000m), starting back at Minneapolis for the USA 10mi Champs, and there’s gonna be a fall racing campaign. The Olympic Trials are in February in LA; that’s the big one. It’ll be my first time at the Olympic Trials, which is really exciting. And then I’ll turn my attention to track and try to knock out some qualifiers for the track Trials, and hopefully compete in some track Olympic Trials at the end of July. It’ll be a fast moving next 9 months. But it won’t lack excitement!

 And if all that excitement isn’t enough, you work quite a bit outside your running. Why not just stick with training?

Everyone finds a different way to piece together life and running. I’m really proud that I still work and that I’m pursuing a freelance career. In some way pursuing a freelance career is like trying to start a small business, which has its ups and downs, absolutely. I’m proud of the hard work I do running, but I’m also proud of my steps forward as a professional while pursuing running too.

I think my dream situation is to have a sponsorship to do with running that would allow me to only pick up work that I really want to do. I do enjoy having work and that does help keep me a little more sane.

So with this well-balanced life you’ve found yourself in, what should we expect from Alia Gray the runner in the future?

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The NYC Marathon!

As cliché as it sounds, I just want to be the best that I can be. I think I’ve kinda been surprised by how much I loved running. The last time I was home my mom kinda jokingly looked at me and said “will you just admit you’re a runner already?! I feel that you spend so much time pretending that you’re something else.” It’s fun to embrace it a bit more. I don’t have an end goal in sight, and my goals keep changing and growing bigger as I get more mature in the sport. I don’t know what my cap is, but I know when I’m working hard and when I’m doing all that I can with my capabilities to be the best runner I can be.

Any last thoughts or advice for the next generation of runners reading this today?

I would just tell them that if they love it, there’s always a way. Not to be super cliché and cheesy, but that’s gotta be at the heart of it. You really have to love it and different challenges come up in the pursuit of that; in college it’s classes, and maybe social life sometimes. For me running is what I always came back to. If I was stressed out running is what made me feel better. A lot of the most positive, influential people have been those that have supported me throughout running.

To follow Alia on her journey, check out her blog at aliagray.com, and follow her on twitter @aliatgray

EMPIRE WOMEN ALL-STARS: SARAH SUMPTER, BY ALEX WOLF-ROOT

Today we chat with Sarah “Stump” Sumpter, a graduate of Healdsburg HS. Despite some major challenges on the way, Stump has had much success in the sport. She captured a California D4 XC title while in HS before going to UC Davis and earning some D1 Conference Titles for the Aggies. She’s now back in Healdsburg as she preps for her marathon debut this fall.

Hey Stump, thanks for taking time out of your busy marathon training schedule to chat! Let’s start with that; what’s the plan for the debut, and what was your inspiration for running a marathon in the first place?

I’m geared towards debuting some time in the fall, with my eyes on a U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier-worthy time (between 2:37 and 2:43). I’ve dreamed of running the marathon since I was a freshman in high school when I caught a televised women’s world championship marathon on ESPN. It sounds incredibly corny, but I remember watching the competitors complete the final lap of the race inside a huge stadium, some nearly flailing as they ground out that last 400m, and I was nearly in tears. I had only recently discovered my love of running long as well as hard, and seeing the kind of heart and commitment it took for those women to pull through…I just said to myself “that’s it; that’s what I want to do.” I’m more than a decade older now, but I still get chills every time I think of that 26.2.

 While I’m sure you’re going to crush the marathon, you’ve unquestionably had success in the shorter distances as well, including your State Championship for Healdsburg HS. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience, both as far as the race itself was concerned, but also more generally about running for Healdsburg HS?

Without mitigating the importance of it (it was a big step up from even just qualifying for state for the first time the year prior), it was more the journey to that state championship race and the opportunities it presented to me afterward that defined that experience for me. That entire season I had only just developed an instinct for competition and where my strengths were in a race or in running in general, so it was both exciting and a little overwhelming to have so much success so late in my high school career. I was a total underdog and while I enjoyed winning (who doesn’t) the truest test for me was pushing myself faster and harder in every successive race that I ran. I didn’t just want to come through the finish line first; I wanted to come through better than I had started. I was blessed enough to have coaches who, though they let me loose come race day to follow those instincts, made sure that day-to-day training during competition season had enough structure and a clearly explained purpose to rein me in a bit and foster those skills.

To John Linker and Carlos Quiroga, I owe you more than you know, and I can always find a little bit of your wisdom in the back pocket of my stubborn Stumpy brain when I am facing a challenge, either in training or in life. And Coach Q, you were right. Running really is “one of the most honest sports there are”– you get from it what you are willing and able to put in, no more and no less.

The Kenwood Footrace, July 4th,  2015. Photo by Douglas Murdoch
The Kenwood Footrace, July 4th, 2015. Photo by Douglas Murdoch

 Unfortunately, not everything in HS went smoothly, specifically with regards to your eating disorder. When did you know something was amiss, and what helped you overcome your illness?
The tricky nature of eating disorders is that they create a very warped perception of body and self in general – I was so convinced that what I was doing in terms of food restriction was simply proper discipline for someone dedicated to my sport – and that it was working for me (after all, I had all of this new-found success to validate it, right?) that it took a serious slap in the face (in my case, a hit to the thing that I was so determined to “stay disciplined/fit” for – my running) to make me come to terms with the fact that I had a problem. I was weak, constantly cold and tired, and the one thing that had given me so much joy, empowerment, and such a powerful sense of self in so many ways (again, my running) had become a chore that I dreaded and only further drained me, rather than an experience that I thrived off of. Something had to be wrong for something so beautiful to turn so sour, and I knew I had to get help. Some people have tried to point to running as the springboard for my disorder, when in reality it was my sport that, while it became entangled in the web of my illness ultimately, as in so many ways then and now, saved me and motivated me to tackle the demons in my life.

 Well we’re all very glad you were able to overcome that illness and be able to share your story with others who may be suffering from something similar. And you’ve proved you were able to come back as you achieved much while at UC Davis. What are some of your highlights from your Aggie career?

I will never forget coming through the finish chute at the 2009 Big West Cross Country Conference Championship race. Beforehand, I’d given our had coach, Deanne Vochatzer, a good-luck hug, looked at her, and said “I’m gonna get it.” And I did, I won the damn race, and the satisfaction of being able to give that to her, let alone prove it to myself… it was beautiful. The feeling was similar if not bigger than being a part of the Women’s Cross Country team’s first Conference Championship win in 2011 and the UCD Women’s Track & Field team’s first D1 Conference title in 2012, especially after myself and two of my teammates swept the podium for the 10,000m on the first night of the competition, and took first and second in the 5,000m the following evening. Shared joy is the best joy, and it was certainly true then.

August15WolfRootbazu-6549164

 As many know, there was more difficulty lying ahead while at Davis… Can you tell us about first finding out about your cancer, and how that impacted, well, everything?

I’ll be brief about it, because it’s something I’ve talked about publicly many times (and it gets boring hearing myself talk about it, haha). It was terrifying, maddening, frustrating, and depressing in different intervals at different times, but ultimately I was not and am not willing to take a backseat to life (running, school, or otherwise) because a giant wad of angry cells decided to take up non-leased residence in my brain. I’m too damn stubborn to go down without a fight, and true to my namesake, I’m hard to uproot.

What’s the status of the cancer at the moment?

Unfortunately, after having a recurrence in January of last year and some precarious periods since, I’m still undergoing chemotherapy. With patience, balance, and communication between myself, my doctors, and my coach, however, I’m able to run a decent amount (and well!) while making progress my doctors are thus far very pleased with. It can be wearying at times, for sure, and there are times where I have to make peace with being more conservative than I’d like, but so far so good.

Well you have a great outlook on this, and will certainly get through this rough patch as you’ve gotten through so many others!

To cap us off, and given that this is a series about the badass women of the Redwood Empire, I should ask, in virtue of what do you think the Redwood Empire has produced so many amazing athletes?

I think the Redwood Empire fosters a great sense of pride and support in its athletes that extends beyond our time in high school jerseys. Years after the fact, I still have as much an advocate in Bob Padecky, Val Sell, “Starter Bob” (Shore), and any number of coaches (of runners or otherwise) as I did when I first put on a pair of spikes. It makes us humble, and perhaps above all else grateful and motivated to pursue excellence for the sake of those who have given so much to make our careers possible.

Thanks for taking the time to chat Stump. Any last advice for the next crop of Empire runners or your fans world-wide?

Live what you love. Don’t waste your time doing anything short of that, because time we have to live is just that – short.

The Kenwood Footrace, July 4th,  2015. Photo by Douglas Murdoch
The Kenwood Footrace, July 4th, 2015. Photo by Douglas Murdoch

Empire Women All-Stars: Lauren Wallace, by Alex Wolf-Root

(Lead photo courtesy of Zach Hetrick, http://www.zachhetrick.com)

In the second edition of Empire Women All-Stars, we touch base with the Redwood Empire’s most recent National Champion, Lauren Wallace. Lauren captured a historic 1,000m indoor title earlier this year, despite beginning her T&F career as a sprinter while at Ukiah High School. We chat with Lauren about the move up in distance, her journey as a professional, and what lies ahead.

Despite being the Redwood Empire’s most recent middle-distance star, you took a different trajectory than many others. Can you tell us a little bit about your introduction to the sport?

I owe my beginnings of the sport to three people –  my mom and dad, Lisa Cortina and Scott Wallace, who both ran high school track and cross country, and my high school coach and mentor Dan Jurado. My mom and dad laid the foundation, and Dan helped develop me as a sprinter. My parents always knew that I would eventually gravitate towards the distances,  both being long distance runners. But I loved the sprints, and Coach Dan encouraged me to develop as much speed as I could in those early stages.

2015 USA Indoor Track & Field Championships Boston, Massachusetts  Feb 28 - Mar 1, 2015 Photo: Andrew McClanahan@PhotoRun Victah1111@aol.com 631-291-3409 www.photorun.NET
2015 USA Indoor Track & Field Championships
Boston, Massachusetts Feb 28 – Mar 1, 2015
Photo: Andrew McClanahan@PhotoRun
Victah1111@aol.com
631-291-3409
http://www.photorun.NET

 Despite having success in the shorter distances, including being the 2008 NBL 100m/200m Champion, things changed when you went to UC Davis. How did that transition happen?

The transition happened at the end of my freshman year in college. My coach at the time, Deanne Vochatzer, pulled me aside and asked if I would be interested in running the 800m. I was a walk-on for the program and probably would have done anything they asked, so long as I stayed on the team. I obliged and my mother was thrilled (laughs).

 In 2013 you made the jump to the national level, competing at NCAA’s and the US Championships. What was it like performing at such a big stage in such a (relatively) new event?

Both of those events were such incredible opportunities for me. The NCAA championship didn’t end exactly how I wanted it to. I placed 8th but ran away with a personal best. The US Championships were on an entirely different level.  I had never raced against women that I had looked up to for so long. To toe the line against those incredible women solidified that I wanted to live this life for some time to come.

2015 USA Indoor Track & Field Championships Boston, Massachusetts  Feb 28 - Mar 1, 2015 Photo: Andrew McClanahan@PhotoRun Victah1111@aol.com 631-291-3409 www.photorun.NET
2015 USA Indoor Track & Field Championships
Boston, Massachusetts Feb 28 – Mar 1, 2015
Photo: Andrew McClanahan@PhotoRun
Victah1111@aol.com
631-291-3409
http://www.photorun.NET

 What would “high school” Lauren say if you were told that one day you’d be a National Champion – in the 1,000m?

I wouldn’t have believed myself. High school Lauren didn’t envision herself running after college. I didn’t know what the NCAA regional meet was until I was a sophomore in college (the year that I qualified). High school Lauren wanted to join the Peace Corps.

 How has this breakout year changed things for you?

Earning the US National Indoor title did change some things for me both on and off the track. Oiselle re-signed me through 2016 and expanded my contract. They made it possible for me to no longer have to work my part time job and instead allocate my time to training and recovering full time.

Despite that 1,000m victory, you’re primarily an 800m runner. The United States is arguably the best country in the world at 800m. How has that depth helped you, and how is it a challenge?

It is an honor to be able to compete with the best in the world right here in the United States. Having this much depth in the 800m always keeps you hungry for more. It’s really easy to refocus during a tough track workout or long run when I think about all the other talented women I get to toe the line with. It definitely is challenging as well though. It’s going to be extremely tough making World and Olympic teams in the coming years when really anyone in the final could run away with a top three spot.

 You’ve dabbled in the 1,500m, including a nice PR just this week. Any thoughts on eventually moving up, or at least adding it as a more serious secondary event?

I don’t know if I’ll ever move up permanently, but I wouldn’t write it off by any means. I am already starting to consider it a more serious event for myself. I’d like to be nationally competitive in both the 800m and the 1500m. It’s always nice to have options.

Well, you’re unquestionably competitive at that 800m, and you’ll prove it yet again at the USATF Outdoor Championships coming up in Eugene on June 25th.  What should your fans expect to see there?

My preliminary goal is to earn a lane in the final.  As we talked about earlier, any woman in the final has the ability to contend for a spot on the team.

Lauren Wallace runs professionally for Oiselle and the NorCal Distance Project, and is the reigning USATF Indoor National 1,000m Champion. Personal bests include a 2:01.13 800m and a 4:13.47 1,500m.

You can follow Lauren on twitter @lmwallace800 and on instagram: lmwallace800

2015 USA Indoor Track & Field Championships Boston, Massachusetts  Feb 28 - Mar 1, 2015 Photo: Andrew McClanahan@PhotoRun Victah1111@aol.com 631-291-3409 www.photorun.NET
2015 USA Indoor Track & Field Championships
Boston, Massachusetts Feb 28 – Mar 1, 2015
Photo: Andrew McClanahan@PhotoRun
Victah1111@aol.com
631-291-3409
http://www.photorun.NET

Empire Women All Stars: Julia Stamps, by Alex Wolf-Root

In this first installment of Empire Women All Stars, we chat with Julia Stamps of Santa Rosa HS, arguably one of the greatest HS XC runners in U.S. history. While there are many applicable titles for her – CA XC Champion, National Champion, Spring Lake course record holder, etc – the most fitting may be simply “Trail Lover”.

Hey Julia, thanks for taking the time to chat! There’s no question that Sonoma County has a great history of fast females, and many wonder why. Any thoughts?

We have Annadel State Park. How can you not get in shape running the trails of Annadel?! Also, we have a phenomenally supportive community. We’re not telling people not to run hard. Lots of others say don’t run hard, don’t over-train – they focus on over-training while forgetting that you need to train! I think the bar is set higher in our community in terms of what is good and what is not. Eventually the females just realized “oh wait; that’s totally attainable. So and so did it. I know her. She did that run. I did that run. I should be able to do it!”

You’ve clearly accomplished a ton during your prep career. In your mind, what are some highlights?

One is probably my freshman year when I qualified for the Junior World Cross Country Championships after I ruptured my appendix. I was facing adversity, going through not being able to run for several months, and then getting myself to qualify for the World Championships. Such an injury becomes a real pivotal point in anyone’s career, whether you’re going to give up or whether you’re going to focus on getting in shape and give it everything. And that was my first World’s experience, which was really quite entertaining Another would be Footlocker National Champs when I won my sophomore year. It was probably the strongest I’ve ever felt in my life. It just felt easy to click off the pace. Obviously it was a big moment. It was just an easy race, and really, really fun.

IF

What would your competitors think if they heard winning a national title was easy?!

They weren’t all easy! I passed out the next 2 years in a row! Of course I gotta brag about the one that was easy. I don’t remember if I even finished or not the next two years. The tough ones make you appreciate the easy ones. My third highlight would be coming in 9th in the Junior World Championships in the 3,000m my junior year. I PR’d in the trials and then again in the finals. That was pretty exciting because at the time the U.S. wasn’t as competitive as it is now, so making finals was a big deal.

Well those are certainly some impressive highlights! To what would you attribute such success?

I love the park. I love Ananadel. It makes it easy to go out there for a 10 mile run; all those trails and beauty makes time go by fast. You have a connection between nature and yourself. I lived in Annadel growing up. If I wasn’t running I was hiking, if not hiking I was playing in streams, and if doing none of those I was bike riding. Weekends I would only come home to shower and sleep; the rest of my time was in the park. The park was my home. It’s easy when it’s fun and the park to me is fun. Also, I had phenomenal support having Danny (Aldridge) and Doug (Courtemache) as my coaches. They have a well-rounded perspective of the overall health of the athlete. Having coaches who see you as an individual and want the best for you as a person is key. That’s truly what we have in Sonoma County.

What advice would you give to all the current young runners who may be reading this?

Just love it. Love the sport. It’s a sport that if you love it then it’ll love you and you’ll have it for a lifetime. All you need is a pair of running shoes and you have the sport for the rest of your life. Love the sport and it will love you.

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Julia Stamps at Santa Rosa High School: Spring Lake course record holder, former Woodward Park (state) course record holder (2nd all time as of this writing), Footlocker National champion,  Three-Time State D1 champion, 3rd all time 800m, 1st all time 1,600m, 2nd all time 3,200m,  Three time 3,200m state champion (2nd one), One time 1600m champion.