From Irish green to Cal Poly green and gold, track athlete Deirdre Byrne’s journey to San Luis Obispo has been a long one.
After an Irish upbringing and a four-year stint at Providence College in Rhode Island, a change of scenery attracted Byrne, 23, to California for her last year as a college athlete.
While at Providence, Byrne suffered a stress fracture in her foot that cut her East Coast running days short but still allowed for an extra year of eligibility.
“When I got hurt last year I figured I might as well use my eligibility for NCAA,” she said, her Irish brogue still recognizable. “I wanted to see a different part of the country and California kind of stuck out in my head.”
Byrne, who runs the 800 meter and 1500 meter races, is looking to elongate her final season with a trip to nationals, which will be dependent on her times at regionals.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to get into nationals, that would be the goal,” she said. “And to stay injury free, that’s another goal.”
Director of track and field Terry Crawford has high expectations for Byrne’s final season. She called Byrne a “national-caliber runner,” giving the Mustangs strength in middle-distance events.
“I think she’s brought a level of maturity as an older, accomplished athlete,” Crawford said.
Byrne said she would like to beat her personal record in the 1500, which currently stands at 4:16. However, she is not as confident when it comes to breaking her 2:06 personal best in the 800.
Despite competing in events less than a mile in length, Byrne estimates her weekly training regimen includes running between 45 and 50 miles. She said the San Luis Obispo climate has increased her motivation to train.
“The weather’s just brilliant,” she said. “It just makes it easier to do the training. If it’s not raining or snowing outside it’s easier to make yourself get out the door and go for a run.”
Byrne was first introduced to track at age nine when she joined a local running club in her hometown, about an hour from Dublin.
At first she ran for fun, but began taking the sport seriously in her late teens. During secondary school, the Irish equivalent of high school, Byrne traveled to Italy to compete in the European Track and Field Championships.
Upon completion of secondary school, Byrne was recruited to Providence College by the track coach there, also a native of Ireland.
Although she has competed in cross country as well as track, Byrne says she favors the 800 and 1500 because “personally, they’re the events I can compete in the best.”
“Cross country is so long. It’s a 6K, that’s way too far,” she said.
Byrne claims the most difficult aspect of her move to Cal Poly is the distance between her and family and friends.
But even thousands of miles from her native country, Byrne has discovered the perks of running as a Mustang.
“I love just running around Poly Canyon,” she said. “Obviously, I like the competition as well. I suppose you have to be somewhat competitive to be in the sport.”
Byrne remained in San Luis Obispo this past weekend as a portion of the track team traveled to UCLA for the Rafer Johnson/Jackie Joyner Invitational.
She will compete in the Big West Championships May 10-13 in Northridge and the NCAA West Regionals May 26-27 in Utah.