Photos: A Visit to an Olympian

UC Davis Kim Conley Runner Sacramento

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (August 14, 2018) – Earlier this summer, on the far end of a cross-country road trip, I visited the Sacramento and Davis areas of Northern California. There I spent time with Olympian Kim Conley, and her husband/coach Drew Wartenburg.

The first stop in joining the tandem was at Sacramento’s 23-mile American River Parkway (below). The Parkway is comprised of multiple segments, including the paved Jedidiah Smith Memorial Trail, which winds from Folsom to Old Sacramento, and is a leg regularly frequented by Conley in her training. It cuts a green, often-shaded swath through the capital city, and on the morning we visited hosted runners and cyclists taking advantage of a rare traffic-free respite in a major urban center.

American River Parkway Kim Conley Olympic Runner ConleyAmerican River Parkway Kim Conley Olympic Runner Conley Green

Later we traveled to  UC-Davis (below) some twenty miles west of Sacramento. The University is the alma mater of Conley, and also where Wartenburg got his head coaching start in the college ranks, after a stint as an assistant at Oregon State, and before moving on to the professional ranks.

Conley became one the program’s first standouts at the DI level in both cross country and track & field, while offering only the smallest of glimpses into the success that awaited her on the professional level including two USATF national championships and spots on consecutive USA Olympic teams (2012, 2016).

Wartenburg played a key role in continuing the Aggies’ transition from a highly-successful NCAA Division II program to its current place in the Division I Big West Conference.

Conley makes an appearance on the East Coast this weekend, when she travels to compete in the 46th running of the New Balance Falmouth Road Race on Cape Cod on Sunday. (photos T. Flynn)

UC Davis Campus Beautiful Shot 2.jpgUC Davis Aggies UC Davis Campus Kim Conley Aggies UC DavisUC Davis Aggies UC Davis Conley UC Davis Football UC Davis TrackDSC_0718

Check back here, and at @tomflynn51 (twitter) and @tom_flynn_writing (Instagram) next month for an exciting announcement on the two-time Olympian.

Kim Conley UC Davis Olympics Rio 2016 London 2012 Olympian
Conley as a UC-Davis undergraduate  (photo – K.Conley/UC-Davis)

UNCA’s Nichols Garners Big South Honor

Kayli Nichols UNC Asheville Bulldogs Running Asheville Big South Woman of the Year

UNCA’s Kayli Nichols (photo – UNCA Athletics)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (August 6, 2018) – UNC Asheville graduate Kayli Nichols has been selected as the Big South Conference’s Woman of the Year. She shares the honor with Winthrop lacrosse player, Katherine Judge.

There were nine candidates for the award within the Big South, based on service & leadership, academic achievement, athletics excellence, and a personal statement from each candidate.

Nichols double-majored in German and Political Science, and minored in Spanish. She graduated with a 3.974 GPA and is the UNCA record holder in the outdoor 100-meter hurdles, indoor 60-meter hurdles, and indoor 500 meters. She was a member of a 4X400-meter relay team that holds school records for the event both indoors and outdoors. Nichols is also second-ranked in Bulldogs’ history in the 400-meter hurdles.  

Nichols is now one of 581 nominees among all three divisions for the NCAA’s Woman of the Year, to be selected in late October in Indianapolis.

Photos: A Visit to Jayhawk Country


001 Allen Fieldhouse Lobby
Inside the entrance to the Allen Fieldhouse (photo – T.Flynn)

LAWRENCE, Kan. (June 27, 2018)  The home of the University of Kansas Jayhawks looks the part, as KU venues and colors run throughout the small city of Lawrence, Kansas (pop. 87,643 – 2010).

Most famous among its athletic venues is the 1955 Allen Fieldhouse, home to the Jayhawks’ basketball program. The men’s basketball team at KU has won or shared the regular season Big-XII title for 14 consecutive seasons and 16 of the last 17 years. The Jayhawks also captured the national championship in 2008, the third time they’ve done so since the NCAA tournament began in 1939.

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Rim Rock Farm is just over 10 miles north of downtown Lawrence and is home to the Kansas cross country program. Former head track and field and cross country coach Bob Timmons donated the property to the University in 2004.

The 1965 and 1966 NCAA Division I National Championships were held at Rim Rock. The only Kansas national championship in men’s cross country came in 1953, when National Track and Field Hall of Famer Wes Santee was a member of the Jayhawks’ squad. Santee was also the individual winner that year.

Rim Rock hosted both the women’s and men’s national championships in 1998. 

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Although the KU football program has struggled in the last decade, Kansas Memorial Stadium has hosted its fair share of football history since it opened in 1921. To date, the Jayhawks have 12 bowl games on their resumé, with an even 6-6 record. Their biggest win was a 2008 Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech. That year they also achieved their highest national ranking ever (#2) and finished the season at #7, the same spot that they finished in 1968.

KU has yet to win a Big-XII title and posted six Big-Eight titles between 1908-1968. The most famous player to come out of a Jayhawks’ huddle is Gale Sayers, who earned All-American honors in 1963 and 1964 and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Sayers played seven seasons for the Chicago Bears and was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977 at age 34. He is the youngest inductee in its history. 

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001 Memorial Stadium 2001 KU Football Memorial Stadium



Furman Five in NCAA Championships

Steeple Jennings and Gear
Gabbi Jennings (15) and Kristlin Gear (14) earned honorable mention All-American accolades on Thursday. (photo / Furman Athletics)

GREENVILLE, S.C. (June 7, 2018) – The Furman Paladins’ track & field teams sent a total of five representatives to the 2018 NCAA Track & Field Championships currently underway in Eugene, Oregon.

Senior Frank Lara competed in the men’s 10,000m finals on Wednesday night after finishing 11th with a semifinal time of 29:33.95 in late May. He closed out the year with a 29:42.87 in the finals, good for 15th in the country and second team All-American honors.

Freshman Kristlin Gear and sophomore Gabrielle Jennings garnered honorable mention All-American honors in the 3,000m Steeplechase tonight. Gear entered the race with the school record time of 9:52.71 and posted a 10:35.42 in Eugene. Jennings had a personal-best of 10:02.67 and posted a 10:18.10 on Thursday night.

Buchalski Carnahan Furman Track
Allie Buchalski (1) and Savannah Carnahan (2) will represent Furman in the 5000 meters. (photo / Furman Athletics)

On Saturday, senior Allie Buchalski and sophomore Savannah Carnahan will run in the 5,000m finals at 8:25 p.m.

Buchalski’s best time this season is a 15:39.17 that she recorded at the Virginia Challenge. In 2017, she earned All-American recognition as the sixth-place finisher in the event. 

Carnahan, posted the ninth-best time in the semis to advance to the finals. Last year, she finished 20th in the event at the NCAA East Preliminaries. Her best mark this season is a 15:49.89 time that she posted at the Raleigh Relays.  

The first eight finishers in each event at the NCAA Championships earn All-American honors, while the nine-through 16 finishers earn a spot as second team All-Americans. The 17-24 place finishers garner honorable mention All-American citations.



WCU Women Complete SoCon Sweep

Cullowhee, N.C. (May 30, 2018) On May 11, Western Carolina University’s men’s and women’s track and field teams swept the Southern Conference Championships that they hosted at the Catamount Athletic Complex.

It was the third straight SoCon title for the men’s side while the women captured the league championship for the third time in four years. For the women, it was also their fifth conference championship in the past ten years as they’ve emerged as the dominant track & field program of the SoCon this decade.

The Southern Conference was established in 1921 and effectively spawned the modern SEC and ACC, with original members including Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, UNC, NC State, Tennessee, Virginia, and Virginia Tech, among others.  (photos courtesy of WCU Athletics)

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Outdoors: Running WNC’s Point Lookout Trail

The c. 1885 Andrews Geyser (Photo / T. Flynn)

OLD FORT, N.C. – Twenty miles east of Asheville is the McDowell County town of Old Fort, North Carolina. It’s tucked just inside the Eastern Continental Divide as it’s intersected by US I-40.

Before I-40 existed there were two incarnations of NC Highway 70 that provided an East-West route through the western portion of the state. On the outskirts of Old Fort a stretch of the original has been closed down, turned into a trail (of sorts), and renamed Point Lookout Trail. Point Lookout was a tourist stop on the highway that Model-T’s and their drivers could pause for a scenic respite from their ascent. Surely, many of those same cars gave up the ghost beneath the strain. Hopefully they reached Point Lookout first.

On Saturday, I set out for a run on the roughly 3.7 mile stretch of pavement that constitutes the trail. Due to little research beyond how to find it, I didn’t realize that it’s entirely uphill when undertaken from the Old Fort side. A silver lining is that the second leg of an out and back is all downhill.

An alternate route back along Mill Creek Road yields an excellent view of Andrews Geyser, an 1885 fountain built by a no-longer existent hotel. It signaled to passing train passengers that they had reached the Blue Ridge Mountains. It remains as an impressive a sight now as it surely was then.

It is a win/win in return choices as running back down Point Lookout Trail could readily yield a PR in the 5k if you clock out at 3.1 miles. As you return downhill, stay to your left as you will have plenty of time to see bikes laboring uphill (as they will to see you), but little if any notice if a cyclist enjoying a deserved breakneck descent approaches from behind. – TF

Johns Hopkins Women’s XC Takes Fourth National Title

The Johns Hopkins Blue Jays captured their fourth NCAA XC 
National Championship in November (Photo / JHU)

BALTIMORE (December 19, 2016) – On November 19, the Johns Hopkins University women’s cross country team won its fourth NCAA Division III national championship in five years. All four have come under head coach Bobby Van Allen, who also leads the Blue Jays’ men’s cross country team and men’s and women’s track teams.

Van Allen joined the Hopkins staff in 1999 as an assistant coach and was promoted to head coach later that year. He is a former University of Maryland runner, where he earned All-East cross country honors and was also an ACC finalist in the 1,500-meters. Four days after JHU captured the national championship, he was named the USTFCCCA Coach of the Year. It was the fourth time Van Allen has earned the honor.

The head coach recently shared his thoughts with Fieldhouse on how Hopkins develops a cross country champion in a major city, the unique facility partnership it has with Loyola University Maryland, and how by placing academics first his runners also become better competitors. The interview was conducted over the phone and edited for length and clarity. – TF

Fieldhouse: For the second time in three years, I’ve been at a Hopkins football playoff game and heard the crowd roar when they announced over the loudspeaker that the women’s cross country team had just won the national championship. 

Van Allen: I certainly never thought that this would be happening one day, but we’ll take it.

Fieldhouse: When did you first start to get the feeling that Hopkins could be an upper echelon program? Now you’ve even surpassed that and are the top team in the country. 

Van Allen: It was probably right in the 2009-2010 range when we started to see a change in the culture of our program. The girls were really buying into the training and committing themselves to succeeding. At that point, winning our conference championship wasn’t good enough for them.

We made our first trip to the NCAAs in 2007 and then started becoming regulars there. The team then really started to focus on getting onto the podium. We wanted to “finish” and we were able to do that for the first time in 2012. That set a new bar that became our goal every year.

No matter who you have, and this crew is completely different from when we won our first one, that’s still the goal that we have going into the season.

Fieldhouse: What are your primary running routes in Baltimore City and what would you say makes for a good urban runner?

Van Allen: Fortunately Hopkins is nestled in that very northern part of the city. So we pretty much run in every direction but south because we’d be stuck on the sidewalk and behind traffic lights. There are really a lot of places to run in all three other directions.

We do a lot of stuff on the Stony Run Trail; that’s a nice dirt trail that runs from Hopkins north up to Gilman School and southwest over to Druid Hill Park. So that four-mile stretch we incorporate into a lot of our distance runs.

There is a lot of stuff at Lake Roland Park; there are about 10 miles of trails back in there. Most of our cross country workouts are over in Druid Hill. We’ve got three different grass sections where we have anywhere from 800-meter to 2,000-meter loops that we use.

We also have Lake Montebello, Druid Hill Lake, and all the neighborhoods, through Roland Park, down Cold Spring, and to the Arboretum. There is quite a lot that we have to choose from compared to most city schools that are more downtown-based.

Hopkins’ runners at the 2016 NCAA DIII Championships (photo / JHU)

Fieldhouse: Is there a hurdle in trying to describe to a potential recruit a city that they may think of as a pretty industrial place and not conducive to running distance?

Van Allen: The biggest thing that we try to do is to get them on campus and show them first-hand. If they’re interested in the school, or if they’re looking at top academic schools, we hope that we’d be in the mix. The combined success of the track & field and cross country programs means that I can usually get them on campus to show them everything and the places that we run.

We try to talk about the opportunities that they would have with research internships within the city that they might not have at more remote campuses.

We have a diversity of trails to run, and we certainly showcase the best of what Baltimore can offer. The biggest part is trying to get them here on campus so I can explain my philosophy and training expectations and how it coincides with their academic priorities.

If we can do that, I think we have at least a good chance of having them come here. The biggest obstacle is getting them accepted.

Fieldhouse: Johns Hopkins built a track facility with Loyola University Maryland. How did that come about? Are you able to train with Loyola?

Van Allen: I started in 1999, and at that point we had a four-lane track around Homewood Field. It was very challenging to get our workouts in without getting hit by footballs or lacrosse balls or soccer balls at times. When there were games or competitions, we couldn’t use the track at all.

In 2004, we renovated all of Homewood Field. We put that artificial turf in, we widened the field, and that’s when [athletic director] Tom Calder talked to me about trying to look for a place to build a new track and get rid of the one at Homewood.

So those talks started that year. Loyola came into the picture because at the same time they were trying to fund a project of building a track themselves off [Baltimore’s] Northern Parkway. It was going to be very expensive, so it made sense for both them and us. We can now both run to the facility.

As far as training with one another, that doesn’t happen. Even when we’re sharing a track with Loyola, there are different NCAA parameters that we have to follow that would prohibit us from practicing with them.

Fieldhouse: What are the limitations? That you’re not competing?

Van Allen: Yes. We can talk, we can be there together, but if we’re doing the same workout together, then in a sense we’re competing against one another.

Fieldhouse: Baltimore weather can vary quite a bit during one cross-country season, from brutally hot to cold. You get kids coming to Hopkins from all over the country. How do you acclimate them to running there?

Van Allen: You nailed it as far as our kids coming from all different places. We’ve had a couple from Alaska and a couple from Hawaii as well.

A lot of adjusting is just trying to have the flexibility to train earlier or later in the day when it’s cooler. It becomes a little more difficult after classes get started, and we’re really at the mercy of the class schedule. That puts us practicing around 4 o’clock most days, and that end of August – early part of September period is pretty challenging.

On our most intense days, early in the year, we’re trying to do a lot of those in the morning. We get up and start things around 6:30 AM and get them done before it gets too hot.

Fieldhouse: At Hopkins, they’re facing a heavy academic load in the classroom. How do you balance that with running? 

Van Allen: We start talking about this very early in the recruiting process. We emphasize that we’re not really trying to get them to have equal time or have them balance their academics and athletics. They hear it from me early on – their academics or anything related to career goals or to internships or research are really their top priorities.

It really reduces the amount of stress by allowing our team to be that second priority after they’ve gotten everything done. I think a lot of it is managing stress levels and we have a great support system with our office of academic advising, study groups, and pilot programs. I just try to help encourage and foster that.

Southland: Abilene & ACU Challenge for Tracktown Honors

ACU T&F’s Rosen Daniel (photo / ACU Athletics for ASN)

It’s hard to argue that Eugene, Oregon merits the moniker of Tracktown, USA given its place as the home of the University of Oregon track program and its storied Hayward Field.

Still, with the ascent of Abilene Christian University (ACU) to full NCAA Division I status in the next academic year, a case could be made for its West Texas hometown challenging the leader on the Left Coast. In a recent article for the American Sports Network, I wrote of some of the merits of Abilene and its own considerable history in the sport. – TF

Abilene Christian Standout on American Sports Network

Abilene Christian’s Diana Garcia Munoz (Photo / Randy Bergeron/ACU

Abilene – If you’re looking for an excuse not to work out, don’t turn to Diana Garcia Munoz. The Abilene Christian junior is both a tremendous athlete and student and wakes up before dawn to get it all done. She was a pleasure to speak with and her story is on the American Sports Network website today.TF