Chasing the Olympic Dream
I was not one of those kids who grew up saying "I want to be an Olympic athlete." I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up and didn't spend much time stressing out about it. I loved to dance, (tap, jazz, ballet, pointe) but had no interest in competition. Trying out for parts in musicals was out of the question; the fear of rejection was too great. Eventually I started playing soccer, but mainly for the team aspect, we were not competitive at all. It wasn't until freshman year of high school that I eventually succumbed to running as a sport. I did cross country in the fall to get in shape for soccer, but I was too afraid of soccer tryouts in the spring and track was no cut, so I just chose track. Even then, I wished I could just practice and not have to ever actually race. My dad was my coach in high school and although he saw potential in me to be a good runner, he never put pressure on me to perform. When I panicked, he was calm. When I beat myself up over a bad workout, he put everything in perspective. It wasn't until later that I realized how important a good high school coach is! He got me hooked on running without burning me out.
I never dreamed of running in college. By my senior year of high school I was missing 20-30 days of school a semester to travel the country and the world as a model for Wilhelmina Models. I planned to graduate and move to New York to pursue a career as a model. I was having a lot of fun going to new places, meeting new people, and playing dress up in someone else's clothes. It wasn't until the winter of my senior year that I had to call my modeling agency and let them know I had decided to travel a different path. Coach Harvey at Florida State stole my heart and I wanted to accept a full ride scholarship to run for her and be a Seminole. To this day I am sure this was the best decision I have made in my life.
Once at Florida State, I was so grateful to be there, and just excited to make the most out of my college experience. My freshman year was a whirlwind--I went from running 30-40 miles a week to 60+. I have never felt so sore. I finished 5th at NCAAs in the steeplechase that year and Coach Harvey looked me in the eye and told me I would be a National Champion one day. I thought she was crazy, but kept my eye on that goal for the next 3 years. At FSU I got involved in everything, took leadership roles, never skipped class, made amazing friends, and won a NCAA National Championship.
Again, I never dreamed of taking this running thing any further. My senior year lots of people started asking me if I was going to go pro. Professional runner? Me? Well, I never even considered it. I was going to graduate with a degree in dietetics, apply for a year-long internship in New York, then take an exam to be certified as a Registered Dietitian/Licensed Nutritionist (RD/LN). My boyfriend Kevin had graduated from Fordham and was working in New York as an investment banker. We would finally be able to live in the same zip code after 5 years of long-distance. Eventually, however, I decided to keep running and knew that my career would not land me in New York. Kevin decided he was ready for a change of scenery too, and accepted a job at a startup in San Francisco. At least we would be on the same coast and time zone!
The choice to join the Bowerman Track Club turned out to be a long process, but in the end fairly simple. I started out in January calling anyone and everyone I could who I admired to ask for advice. I spoke to Shalane Flanagan (!!) for a long time about the BTC but also just about her whole experience going pro. Emma Coburn was another person who I reached out to and she was able to give me a non-Nike perspective as well as a different perspective on agents since she didn't have one. I talked to coaches from the NJNY Track Club, the OTC, Furman Elite, and the BAA. I compiled all the information from everyone I spoke to and made a spreadsheet of pros and cons. I visited Portland during the indoor season and spent a couple nights at Shalane and her husband Steve's house. It felt so natural hanging out with them that I almost forgot I was in the presence of a Goddess! I knew this was the place for me. I signed with Kimbia Athletics, confident in Tom Ratcliffe's ability to represent my best interests. Soon after, I signed a contract with Nike and became an official member of the Bowerman Track Club!
From telling everyone that I wanted to be a dancer instead of a runner, to considering giving up running in order to become a professional model, to committing to Florida State, eventually becoming an NCAA Champion and even an Olympian... it has been a wild ride. Thank you to everyone along the way who have made it all possible, including so many not mentioned in this abbreviated version of the story. It's a crazy, wonderful life but I am so grateful to have the opportunity to do what I love for a living and have so many people cheering me on along the way. Thank you!