After a lot of sweat, tears and devastation following her withdrawal from the Boston Marathon in April, Shalane Flanagan made history. Flanagan was the first American woman to win the New York City Marathon in 40 years.
“I knew that it was possible. I believe in amazing things and I believe amazing things can happen,” Flanagan said in her post-race press conference.
Flanagan caught America’s eye Nov. 5, 2017 when she took the lead in the New York City Marathon from Kenya’s three-time reigning champion Mary Keitany with only three miles left in the race. With an official finish time of 2:26:53, Flanagan beat Keitany by about one minute.
People from all over the world watched Flanagan cross the finish line, accomplishing something she dreamed of since she was a child. In interviews following her win, Flanagan talked about her seven years of training leading up to that moment. It is clear that Flanagan was determined: she set her mind on a goal and put in the work she needed to accomplish it.
“It took me seven years to do this. A lot of work went into this one moment,” Flanagan said in an interview with the New York Times.
However, her accomplishment was not only a personal success. Flanagan played a significant role in breaking boundaries for women in distance running, both nationally and globally.
In 2009, Flanagan joined a running group in Oregon where she began to train under her current coach, Jerry Schumacher. At the time, Flanagan was the only woman on the team. It wasn’t long before Schumacher and Flanagan recruited professional women runners that began to outperform the men. These strides added to Flanagan’s impact on bringing women onto the frontlines of the professional racing sphere.
“Hopefully it inspires the next generation of women to just be patient,” Flanagan said to the New York Times.
Cal Poly has had some of its own Flanagan-like runners who made waves in cross country and track alike, elevating women’s athletics at the university.
Here are a few standout female runners who have made an impact on Cal Poly athletics, both past and present:
Psychology junior Miranda Daschian has only been running since her sophomore year of high school, yet her success reflects an athlete who has been running much longer. Daschian, a transfer from Cuesta College, is currently the number one runner on the women’s cross country team, a position she never would have thought she could attain two years ago.
Daschian described herself as having been “a pretty average runner” in high school. During her senior year of high school, she was told her times weren’t good enough for Cal Poly’s team, even to be a walk-on runner.
This didn’t stop Daschian; she had made up her mind. She joined Cuesta’s team instead and her running career began. She won the state cross country meet last year and was undefeated the entire season. Then, she won the 5K for track at State and was again undefeated by any community college runner that season.
“It definitely helps in just having a really big resource network in the running community in San Luis [Obispo]; it has definitely helped contribute to where I am now,” Daschian said.
Two years later and with new experiences under her belt, Daschian made the team at Cal Poly and continued to impress. At her second race at Cal Poly, Daschian placed second in the Big West Conference.
“I got second place, which was better than I had expected to do, and I think my coaches were pretty happy with it,” Daschian said.
Daschian’s passion for running is revealed in her work ethic and determination. She said she truly loves to run and has benefited a lot from it.
“For myself, I feel like I have become a lot more confident through running and it has helped me be able to focus more and just find something to center myself,” Daschian said.
Biology junior Peyton Bilo has been running for Cal Poly for two years. However, this season she is redshirting — meaning she is still on the team but will not compete — because of a stress fracture in her sacrum. Despite this setback, she is continuing to practice the sport she loves.
“Running is what I love and I haven’t been able to do it since coming back here after summer training … it’s just made me realize that I love it more than I ever thought I did,” Bilo said.
Bilo said one of the most memorable moments in her athletic career at Cal Poly was racing at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships last fall. This was her first performance in which she became an All-American runner, meaning she finished in the top 40 at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.
“It was just like freezing cold, I think it was like 15 degrees plus like 30-mile-an-hour winds and something about it was just really, really exciting,” Bilo said. “I don’t know, the weather was horrible, but it just made it really intense and, I don’t know, it was just really, really fun.”
Bilo said she is extremely grateful to her team at Cal Poly. Her number one goal right now is for her team to run at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships next year.
“I have an awesome team to run with — it’s like all my best friends — so practice is really like my fun part of the day because I can just spend time with my friends doing what I love,” Bilo said.
Sharon Day-Monroe started school at Cal Poly in 2003. She played soccer and competed in high jump and the heptathlon, a contest made up of seven track and field events. Her biggest success came in 2005 when she won the NCAA outdoor championship for high jump.
After her Track and Field career at Cal Poly, Day-Monroe made her first Olympic team as a high jumper in 2008. Four years later, she made her second Olympic team as a heptathlete. Day-Monroe said she attributes a lot of her success to her mentors at Cal Poly.
“Obviously you don’t become an Olympian by not working hard … I’ve had a lot of great coaches and other people helping me throughout the years from my Cal Poly coaches to our athletic training staff,” Day-Monroe said.
Day-Monroe’s accomplishments did not stop at the Olympics. In 2014, she set the American record for the women’s indoor pentathlon, a competition comprised of five track events. The following year Day-Monroe was inducted into the Cal Poly Hall of Fame for track and field and soccer.
“I really enjoyed my time at Cal Poly. I think it was an invaluable college experience and life experience I wouldn’t change it,” Day-Monroe said.
While she considered retiring from track and field after her last season, Day-Monroe decided to continue training for javelin instead of heptathlon.
“I just decided that I’m not really ready for that yet, not ready to be done with track and field completely, so I am going to be doing javelin this year and just going to see how that goes,” Day-Monroe said.
Day-Monroe said she is unsure how much longer she will continue to train, but her love for the sport pushes her to keep training in track and field.
“After I reach one goal or one milestone I want to see what more I can do … the sky’s the limit,” Day-Monroe said.
This year, Gladees Prieur was inducted into the Cal Poly Hall of Fame for her performance in cross country and track and field. Prieur began her running career at Cal Poly in 1983 when she was a freshman. Her biggest accomplishments while at Cal Poly began with winning the track and field NCAA Division II Championships two years in a row in the 1,500 meter. Prieur also won the cross country NCAA Division II Championships in 1986.
In 1985, Prieur set the California Collegiate Athletic Association record in the 3,000 meters, which still holds today.
Prieur attributes her success to the team she had while she was at Cal Poly. Prieur said she loved being a part of a team that supported each other and helped make each other stronger.
“We knew we were together, it wasn’t like everybody was competing against each other at all … we were really running as a team and it gives you a lot of strength,” Prieur said.
Prieur said her biggest challenges were learning how to race and have confidence in herself. However, she noted that after her freshman year at Cal Poly she felt she was really able to relax and find that confidence.
“I just kind of did my workouts and then knew that all I had to do was go out and do my best and just that kind of calmness really, really helped,” Prieur said.
Prieur said she wants to advise young athletes to pursue sports they love and practice them with confidence. She also said athletes can learn a lot from their own mistakes, which will help them in their sport and in life.
“[Y]ou’re doing it for your teammates but you’re also doing it for yourself … stick with it and do the best you can … keep doing it, keep learning,” Prieur said.