Gladees Prieur always knew she could run fast.
At least that’s what her brother, CJ Prieur, had to say about his older sister.
Gladees Prier (‘87, English) won a national championship in cross country in 1986 as well as two championships in the 1500 meters for track and field in 1985 and 1986. During her four years at Cal Poly, Gladees ran for the track and field and cross county teams. She also made the All-Time List for Track and Field, holding the fourth-best time in the 1500m (4:16.49), eighth-best time in the 800m (2:07.44) and ninth-best in the 5000m (16:30.34).
Despite her success in college and after, her work has not been formally recognized in the Cal Poly Hall of Fame, something Gladees’s coach Lance Harter said is long overdue.
“Hall of Fame?” Harter said. “I’m surprised she was never in it.”
Her national champion status was a result of her lifelong pursuit of sports. Growing up in a West Los Angeles neighborhood, Gladees was surrounded by boys playing baseball, basketball and football in the streets.
“When she was 12, she got tired of boys being boys and sought out a coach,” CJ said.
Though she attended a private French high school that was not focused on athletics, Gladees went through her PE teacher to find a coach at the Santa Monica Track Club. It provided her with a roundabout way to compete in Califonia Interscholastic Federation (CIF) and all-state competitions.
Running provided an outlet for her to express herself athletically, but for an academic outlet Gladees entered Cal Poly as a journalism major, reflecting on her childhood days putting together made-up newspapers for her neighborhood. However, Gladees found a better relationship with English and changed her major.
A shift in her academic career didn’t affect her athletic ability. Rather, running for all four years is what kept her centered.
“To have running and school, was a really good balance,” Gladees said. “It kept me disciplined.”
In the eyes of Coach Harter, she was ultimate student-athlete at Cal Poly.
“I think she’s a source of pride for what Cal Poly produces athletically and academically,” Harter said.
Her success did not go unnoticed, especially by her teammates. One teammate, Sydney Thatcher, was in awe of Gladees and the two remain friends today.
“Now watching the depth of this team and her individual performance was truly inspiring,” Thatcher said. “When I watched her glide across the course and win, my thoughts were, ‘fierce competitor and pure talent.’”
CJ thinks what Gladees excelled at, especially with cross country, was her ability to kick into high gear in the last leg of the race. This was particularly evident in her national championship-
“It was an amazing race that came down to the last 200 meters. [That’s] when she just turned on the after-burners and left the former champion with no answer,” CJ said. “It still gives me goose bumps when I think about that race.”
For Gladees, it was never about winning; her focus was on being the best she could be, shown through her national champion status.
“For me to say I wanted to be a national champion is for me to say that I wanted to be the best I could,” Gladees said.
While Gladees was national champion two years in a row for track and field, her cross country national championship was most important to her.
“The one I was really excited about was when I won the cross county championship,” Gladees said. “I never saw myself as a cross country runner, so I was really proud of that.”
While balancing various odd jobs, Gladees kept training for a few years after college but was unable to significantly improve.
But now? Gladees is putting her journalistic skill set to use.
When she moved to New York, she found a job as an assistant photo editor at a small sports magazine.
Despite recurring injuries, Gladees joined running clubs while living in New York. She moved on to ESPN where she worked for eight years before transferring to PEOPLE magazine in Los Angeles where she is currently working and has been for 11 years.
“It’s funny, I wish I would have gone further; I want to have run longer and improve[d] after college had I not been injured,” Gladees said. “But it’s easy to say that, because I did get injured.”
Despite her injuries, which provided setbacks, Gladees knew what it was time to shift her focus.
“I stopped on my own terms,” Gladees said. “I really got into surfing and that was it.”
Through it all, Gladees never stopped following her passion.
“Everyone should really follow their passions,” Gladees said. “You can’t do a million things but you can do what you love and you can do that well.”