by MCKENZIE DEAN
University of Utah’s Alyssa Abbott, 22, nears her final season for the Running’ Utes as one of Utah’s finest women’s distance runners.
Abbot began as a sprinter in high school. It was her coach at Galena High School in Reno, Nev., who inspired her to pick up distance running. It helped motivate her in school as she developed a great balance between academics and running.
With no college scholarships offers coming her way and her telephone silent Abbott stayed positive and began dialing numbers.
A phone call to Kyle Kepler, the U’s head women’s track and field/cross country coach, allowed her to become a Runnin’ Ute.
“Alyssa’s greatest attribute from a coach’s point of view is how self-motivated she is. I know that she does all the little things to get better on a daily basis. As a coach you have to have athletes who want success more than you want it for them because they ultimately hold all the cards,” Kepler said.
With Abbott’s motivation, desire to achieve her goals and a solid training schedule; she was well on her way toward a successful college career.
During her freshman year she received daily doses of what college distance running was all about. Abbott led the team as top finisher in both the conference and regional meets in cross-country. Competing in the 800-meter run, Abbott received an invitation to compete at the U.S. Junior Championships at the end of the 2009 outdoor season.
“After my first year I knew then I was a distance runner. I have developed such a strong love and passion for it. I decided to move up the distance I was running and compete in the 1500-meter for the next season,” said Abbott.
Moving to the 1500-meter played in her favor. She was an NCAA regional qualifier in that event and the 800-meter for outdoor track in the 2008 season. Abbott went on to claim a spot in the NCAA national championship for cross-country, with a ninth-place overall finish at the regional championships.
“Going to nationals was a very exciting and fun experience. It was great to compete against the top girls in the nation I had read about. It really motivated me even more after that,” Abbott said.
During the next few seasons she was struck with multiple injuries and surgeries on her knees and feet that set her back.
“Alyssa has been a warrior. She has fought through adversity with chronic injuries, but has never given up or complained,” said Mary Bowman, Associate Athletic Director at the U.
With her outstanding running career and an award–winning past outdoor track season, she is just as successful academically. Abbott has earned multiple conference student-athlete awards, academic all-conference honors and has been named to ESPN magazine’s Academic All-District Team.
“She has had success as a student athlete on the track as well as in the classroom. I will miss her contagious smile,” Bowman said.
Abbott will receive a degree in exercise sports science in May. She is currently interning at a senior center, and helping patients increase their physical activity. Still waiting to hear back on to where her new life will take her, Abbott’s leadership and success on the field will continue to carry over to new paths.
Again struggling with an injury, this time rehabbing a ligament in her knee, Abbot puts on a Utah uniform in her last season as a Ute. Her success continues to build throughout this spring season.
“She will graduate as one of the University of Utah’s most successful female track and cross country athletes as both a student and an athlete,” Kepler said.