by Rachel Finkbeiner, Staff writer
Last weekend, Elk River alumni Emma Bates snagged two First Team All-American titles at the 2013 NCAA Division 1 Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
“It is very surreal. I am very proud of what I accomplished,” said Bates.
The first All-American title was the result of a third-place finish in the women’s 10,000 meters. Bates beat her own school record by nearly 13 seconds.
The second title was captured in the 5,000 meters with a last minute drive to the finish. Bates hung back in ninth place but in the last 800 meters made a move up to seventh, according to the Boise Bronco website.
Staying back in the pack for the 5,000 meter race was not the original game plan. Bates said her legs were a bit tired from the 10k just two days prior.
“Something in that last lap snapped in me and I wanted to fight to the finish and claim another All-American spot. I had nothing to lose so I went for it.”
Bates is now the first female in Bronco history to win two First Team All-American titles in the same meet.
Despite all the success as a D1 athlete over her three years at Boise, the redshirt junior didn’t actually know if D1 track was in the cards for her.
“I thought I could maybe do well at a D2 level, but I didn’t think I was good enough to run D1.”
Even being a bit unsure about D1 track, the Elk River native found the transition to be exactly what she expected.
“I knew I would have to train harder than I ever had before and I knew that there would be ups and downs,” said the 20-year-old.
The one thing that surprised her most about entering college track was that she was the top runner her freshman year. In that first 2010-2011 season she led the Broncos in five meets and was named WAC freshman of the year after a third place finish with a time of 17:43 in the 5K.
Making the 1,400 mile trek out to Boise wasn’t a big challenge either. Bates said she wasn’t homesick at all the first couple years. “I was just really caught up in all the new adventures I was having.” And being a D-I athlete proved to be a whole new adventure.
For distance runners, the college season is year round. In the fall is cross country, in the winter is indoor track, and the spring is outdoor track. The only downtime is a few weeks in between seasons.
For Bates, her least favorite season is indoor track where she finds the lack in a change of scenery for 25 laps around a 200 meter track pretty dull.
What is the daily life like for a D-I athlete? Pretty Busy. Bates said her typical day begins at 6 a.m. with a five- to 10-mile run. After that it’s class from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., then another run of a “simple” six to 10 miles.
The day concludes with a home-cooked meal which according to Bates has played a major role in her running success. After freshman year she decided to become vegetarian and also discovered that she was gluten intolerant. Now her favorite meals to cook are stir fry and lettuce wraps.
The night ends with homework, than bed by 10 o’clock only to repeat the same thing the next day.
It may seem like a long grueling schedule but for the exercise physiology major there are more pros then cons to running track in college.
“We get to travel, serve the community, get recognized for our accomplishments and get to challenge ourselves every day,” she points out.
The one downside to D-1 track is the injuries that can happen at any time. Bates feels she is lucky to only have a few minor injuries such as shin splints.
This injury is the reason she decided to red-shirt for her freshman 2011 outdoor season. This past fall, cross country season was put on hold due to plantar fasciitis, which is swelling of soft tissue in the heel.
These setbacks seem to be very minor as Bates is now an All-American and very happy to have two years left to compete at Boise.
Bates attributes all the success this year to a multitude of factors, with the one being confidence.
“I really just needed to get some experience in racing with the best women in the nation,” said Bates, “Once I knew I could hang with them I became even more motivated to train hard and race fast.”
But family has been the most important reason for her success.
“They have been there for me every step of the way, believing in me and motivating me to do my best.”
For Bates, running appears to be as natural as breathing and it has found a way into every aspect of her life. It is only logical that among all the various activities Boise has to offer from Saturday markets, hiking, mountain climbing and floating down the Boise river, that her favorite is to run in the foothills.
“It’s so peaceful and serene,” said Bates.
On these long runs, instead of listening to Macklemore’s newest single, Bates prefers to listen to the sounds around her and enjoy nature. Reflecting on these runs Bates mentioned she has had some very inspirational moments while in the foothills.
As for her future seasons, Bates is still planning on climbing uphill. Before she graduates, the junior hopes to better all her times and win a national championship. After coming in third this year Bates is more confident that she will be closer to winning it next year.
Although career-wise Bates hopes to go to grad school and get a masters in dietetics so that she can become a dietician, running after college would be OK too. Currently the focus is the next two years at Boise, but Bates admits she would really like to run professionally.
“Having a job that I so thoroughly enjoy such as running would be a dream.”
For now Bates settles for more runs through the scenic foothills as she takes summer classes in Boise so that she can have a lighter school load during the season. Many might claim that’s not much of a summer vacation but Bates doesn’t seem to mind.
“I am so lucky to have running as part of my life and I am even more lucky to have people to share it with.”