Running w/ the Ducks: Conlon reflects on All-American seasonBecoming an All-American for the Oregon Ducks took a while to sink in for Katie Conlon. It was certainly understandable for the former Jimmie and Blue Jay standout. It’d be like a basketball player excelling at Duke. Or a football player going to Alabama or Ohio State.
By: By Dave Selvig, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
Becoming an All-American for the Oregon Ducks took a while to sink in for Katie Conlon.
It was certainly understandable for the former Jimmie and Blue Jay standout. It’d be like a basketball player excelling at Duke. Or a football player going to Alabama or Ohio State.
Eugene, Ore., is Track Town, USA — or as Conlon put it, “The Mecca for distance runners. … The holy grail.”
So when Conlon placed 39th — the top 40 runners earn All-American status — at the NCAA national championships Nov. 17 at Louisville, even she needed a little time to digest it.
A week later, back home in Jamestown, it was still hard to believe.
“If you would have told me at the beginning of the season, I would have laughed at you,” she said. “It just wasn’t in my line of thinking.
“As the season was progressing I started realizing it wasn’t completely out of my reach, but I still never would have thought it happened until it actually did.”
Conlon’s season and career best time of 20 minutes, 15 seconds in the 6,000-meter race was largely credited with helping push the Ducks over the top to win their first national title since 1987. Standing on the podium with her teammates and receiving the championship trophy was something she’ll never forget.
“It was kind of an out-of-body experience. It’s not one of things you ever expect to happen. It was pretty incredible,” she said.
Conlon earned 11 All-American honors at Jamestown College, including the 2011 NAIA national championship in the steeplechase.
She graduated from Jamestown College in just three years, but still had one year of track and cross country eligibility. After her successful career with the Jimmies, she was looking for another challenge and found it in another North Dakota high school star.
“I knew Laura Roesler from high school. She was kind of my reference point in terms of getting a lot of information and what I should do,” she said of the former Fargo South standout, now at Oregon. “When I started out, it seemed like a pipe dream, but everything kind of came together and it worked out.”
Conlon competed in one track meet last spring for the Ducks and has one indoor and outdoor season of eligibility remaining. The indoor season will be used as more of a warm-up for outdoor, where she expects to compete in the steeplechase and maybe a “1,500 or 5K here and there.”
Conlon spoke fondly of her days at Jamestown College where she ran for her uncle (Jim Clark) and where cousin Madey Hornung was another successful Jimmie.
Going from JC to the essentially limitless facilities and tools for success at Nike founder Phil Knight’s alma mater was an eye-opener, but something she appreciated because of her roots.
“I was so lucky to have what I did at Jamestown College. That was a great experience in every way imaginable,” she said. “Obviously, things are a lot different now. The amount of resources available to athletes (at Oregon) is incredible. … It made it seem like more of an accomplishment to get to this point.”
Eugene, Ore., also offers several professional running opportunities after her collegiate career ends. She’s also working on her master’s degree in international studies with the goal of working with a non-profit international group in the future. But before that, there’s more work on the track to be done.
“It’s been a pretty big jump, but I was ready for another challenge,” she said. “Coach Clark prepared me and I was ready to see what else was out there and how I would stack up. This is a great opportunity and I’m trying to make the most of it.”
Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org