Hello, this is Shalaya. I’m so excited to be here, I’ve never been part of a flock before! And what an amazing flock I get to join! I’ve been an avid bird watcher for some time, but now I get to put my binoculars down and sprout some feathers!
Call me a waterfowl because I do my racing on the track and most of the time with obstacles in the way - I’m a steeplechaser. For those of you who are not familiar with the steeplechase it is a track event ran at the 3000-meter distance with five barriers (hurdles that do not fall down) per lap. One of the barriers is followed by a 12-foot-long pit of water called the “water jump,” it's the best place to capture awkward face photos.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, let me begin with who I am.
I am, of course, a runner...and like many runners who each have their own reason to run, each just a valid as the other, I have my own. On some level, I run because I want to do what hasn't been done before, even if its just for myself. There's a new place to see, a new journey to be taken, on every run. I think all runners feel excitement of preeminent adventure by just starting a watch on a trail that's never seen my footprints before, even if they are footprints on the moon. That's why they call it a personal record. Because even if you're not the fastest, there's nothing else like pushing yourself past that frontier of what you were previously capable of. What even matches that sense of accomplishment from running faster than you were before, than everyone in your age group, than everyone in your state, or than anyone who has ever tried that run before?
Maybe now you sort of understand why seven years ago, I ambitiously told my high school cross country coach, Tom Porter, that I not only wanted to win the state cross country championships, but I wanted to break the Utah state course record while doing it. Nevermind that the record at the time, 17:40, was the 30 seconds faster than the time I ran it the previous year.
I've always been ambitious, when I was in 4th grade I filled out my homework sections on goals as: wanting to make the Olympics. I had already memorized the color and order of the Olympic rings a year earlier.
I get that tenacious drive from my mom, who's one awesome mama. When I was a toddler, she'd let me play in the long-jump pit (it's a giant sandbox, you know) while she did intervals around the Skyline high school track where I'd spend so much of my time preparing for the state meet.
On the day of the Utah high school state cross country championships, I felt in shape, healthy, and in other words, ready to run faster than I or any other Utah high school girl had ever run before on that course. But as all runners also know, not every race plays out how you plan. I crossed the finish line in 17:43, three seconds off of the record, and two seconds behind the finishline tape breaker. But it was still more than a 30 seconds faster from the year before on that course.
I was already down, I had been focused on this goal for so long and I came so close. Then the PA system blairs for the Skyline coach to report to the officials, and Coach Porter return news that would make me feel even worse. I had been disqualified because I had rolled the waistband of my shorts to make them fit tighter, and I was the only girl in the race to be DQ'd for such a violation.
Since I was a freshman, our team had these big, baggy track shorts we called parachute shorts for the drag they must of produced when anyone tried to run on them. Let's just say MC Hammer would have digged them. What's worse is that they also chafed wickedly. All the girls on the team rolled them up to make the best out of what was so obviously small men's shorts, and girls on other teams unfortunate enough to have the same race-day shorts in a different color also rolled them. When the newspaper published their story about the cross country race, and how the second place finisher was disqualified for rolling her shorts, the main image had an image of girls running where half a dozen girls with rolled shorts.
But afterwards, Coach Porter told me something I haven't forgotten:
No matter how bad your race goes, even if you're DQ'd for something as trivial as rolling your shorts, there are going to be other, bigger, and better races in the future. And instead of feeling sorry for yourself, now is the best time time to start getting ready for those. In running, there's a new adventure around every turn.
And he was right. I've worked hard enough and been lucky enough to wear University of Colorado Buffalo race shorts at the NCAA championships and wear red shorts reading USA at the 2012 London Olympic Games and again at the 2013 Moscow World Championships. As of now, I'll proudly be wearing Oiselle shorts at the US championships this summer and hoping to get into another pair of USA shorts at the 2015 Beijing World Championships and again at the 2016 Rio Games. But I've never, ever, ever rolled my shorts for a race again. :)
I’m so excited to join this new team and hope this little anecdote has helped you to get to know me better! I can’t wait for the new journey ahead!