Name: Bridget Franek
Sport/Event: 3,000m Steeplechase
Hometown: Hiram, Ohio
Current Residence: Eugene, OR
Years competing: This is only my sixth year running the Steeplechase, but it’s my tenth year running organized track. I have run organized cross-country (high school and college) for six years and have participated in “fun runs” since I could walk.
How did you get started in your sport?
My parents met on their college track team and, when I was born, they were still into running road races. I naturally wanted to do what they did because I saw how much fun it was for them. They never pushed me into the sport and encouraged me to try everything else as I made my way through grade school. I played fast-pitch softball, soccer, volleyball, basketball and swam before I eventually found myself drawn back to running.
What are some notable highs from your career?
In high school, I won six Ohio state titles (one in cross-country and five more on the track, including four during the same meet in 2006). I was awarded a scholarship and the opportunity to run for the Penn State Nittany Lions, and I accepted. I ended my career there with ten All-American titles and one NCAA national championship in the steeplechase. I also helped my team win five Big Ten Conference titles. My junior year, I placed third at the USA National Championships and earned a spot on Team USA at the World Championships in Berlin. In 2011, I again qualified for this honor and represented the nation at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.
What is the lowest point you’ve experienced? How did you bounce back?
I have been very lucky to not be injured much in my career, and that is a great testament to the amazing people I have supporting and guiding me—my parents, Beth Alford-Sullivan (my college coach), and Mark Rowland (my current coach). I have always struggled to balance running with the rest of my life. Last year was the toughest year of my training and on top of that, I moved across the country by myself without knowing anyone. Thanks to my teammates, coaches and the Eugene running community, I have been able to sneak by with as little harm as possible.
What are your goals, both short term and long term?
Obviously, the goal right now is making the Olympic team this year. I have a ton of faith in coach Rowland and have seen how far he has already brought me. This has made me realize how much more I have within me, and I am confident that whatever I do this summer, I am capable of even more down the road. I would like to continue and see how much more I can actually accpomlish. I would love to get as close to the American record in the steeplechase as possible, if not break it by the time I am done.
What surprises have you experienced in your career?
My whole career has been a surprise. I never expected to get as great a scholarship from Penn State as I did. Before I made the World Championships team my junior year in college, I never thought I could be good enough to run professionally. Getting a contract with Nike and a call from coach Rowland and the Oregon Track Club was all a huge, unexpected dream come true.
What brought you to Oregon?
Running! Specifically the Oregon Track Club Elite program in Eugene.
What is your favorite thing about Oregon athletically?
The great weather—rain is way better than snow for training in the winter and the summers are perfect by anyone’s standards. The people here value health and fitness more than where I’m from too, which is really fun for me. There are more people with similar interests.
When you’re not training or competing, what do you like to do?
I like to cook, get together with friends, write, make jewelry, explore, hike, do any outdoor activity (when I’m not training, of course), and try new restaurants, local breweries and wineries that I have never tried. The list goes on and on.
Favorite restaurant? Favorite hangout?
Specifically in Eugene I love the Saturday Market, Laughing Planet, Holy Cow, any ice cream or frozen yogurt place, and the David Minor Theatre. I really love all the special festivals that Eugene puts on so often—Eugene Weekly is my favorite resource.
Follow Bridget’s journey to London on her blog, bridgetfranek.blogspot.com