See Chelsea Run

  • By Kelly Tuckwiller
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  • January 20, 2011 09:59 AM
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Standing at 5-foot-6, Buckhannon, W.Va., native and West Virginia University track star Chelsea Carrier does not seem like much of a threat. That is until she steps up to the line and blows away the competition, leaving opposing teams and fans in awe.

Born in a family of all-star athletes, it was from a young age that Carrier excelled in sports and was proving just how good she could be.

“I was in gymnastics until eighth grade and then I decided to quit so I started track,” Carrier remembered. “It was my dad who really wanted me to get involved, because he was a track and football athlete in college. I was making high school times when I started so I was kind of like ‘ok, I am a little faster than I thought.’ Then in high school, I won states a lot and that is when I decided that I wanted to run track in college.”

Luckily, Carrier made the decision to attend WVU.

A program that over the past few years has been known as a distance running powerhouse with numerous All-Americans, several BIG EAST champions and three straight seasons of top-10 finishes in cross country - Carrier entered the program as a non-distance runner and has surpassed expectations from the start.

“Coming out of high school, it was clear that Chelsea had the opportunity to be a good contributing member of our team,” coach Sean Cleary said. “She had set a couple of state records and things like that, but to be totally honest, I don’t think I could have predicted what she has done so far.”

Stepping onto the collegiate track scene as a freshman in 2008, Carrier won her first BIG EAST title at the outdoor championships with a victory in the 100-meter hurdles, while also winning the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.46 seconds at the ECAC Indoor Championships in Boston, Mass., with the fourth-best time in school history.

A year later, she took another step as she finished 15th in the semifinals of the 100-meter hurdles at the NCAA Outdoor Championships with a time of 13.55, placed fifth in the 100-meter hurdles at the NCAA Regionals to qualify for nationals and posted an NCAA Regional qualifying time of 13.30 in a first-place finish in the 100-meter hurdles at the ECAC Outdoor Championships.

However, it was at the BIG EAST Indoor Championships that Carrier solidified just how much of an impact she would have on the WVU track and field program.

“During her sophomore year, Chelsea woke up on Sunday morning of the BIG EAST Championships and could not bend over because of her back,” Cleary recalled. “She was in the blocks warming up doing her strides and that kind of stuff and when I walked over to her at the end of the track she was crying from pain. She could not bend over at all, so I told her she was done, and she was not going to run. I turned around, the gun fired, she ignored what I had said and took second in the race.

“I thought at that time that she was something special. There are very few in the history of this University who could have done that. To get into the blocks and explode like that and then competing in hurdles where it is all about smashing into the ground and putting pressure on your back. That was the day. It was a very impactful moment in my career.”

Not only did Carrier finish second, but she also posted an NCAA provisional time of 8.39, which at the time was a personal record and the fourth-best performance in WVU history.

A standout student-athlete in the hurdles, Carrier also has mastered the most difficult task in the sport - the multi-event competitions. The pentathlon, composed of five events, the 60-meter hurdles, the high jump, the long jump, the shot put and the 800-meter run, and the heptathlon, composed of the 100-meter hurdles, the high jump, the long jump, the shot put, the 200-meter dash, the javelin throw and the 800-meter run are specialties for Carrier.

“It is hard training for all of the events,” Carrier admitted. “Most people are training for one event. You just have to split it all up and make sure you have your speed down as well as your distance. You have to start from the fall and work on your distance to get the base and then go to speed. It was hard in the beginning, but now I am used to it.”

Last season, Carrier added to her resumé with one of the most memorable seasons in West Virginia history, winning two BIG EAST Championships and earning All-America honors with a fourth-place showing in the pentathlon and sixth-place finish in the 60-meter hurdles at the NCAA Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark.

She also was named Mid-Atlantic Region Field Athlete of the Year and broke the school record in the pentathlon at the Sykes-Sabock Challenge on Feb. 5, winning the event with 4,136 points to break the school record previously set by All-American Pat Itanyi in 1997 (4,111).

“Pat sent me a message to congratulate me after I broke the record,” Carrier said. “She told me that she followed me and what I had been doing. That was an honor. I had never talked to her, but I have always looked up to her. She had the school record and was an amazing athlete. We keep in touch now. She is a good role model.”

Entering the final stretch of her collegiate career, Carrier and her coaches have high expectations for what is to come in the future. A BIG EAST and Regional champion, Mid-Atlantic Field Athlete of the Year and an All-American, all that is left is to qualify for the Olympic trials – a very obtainable goal.

“Last year, Chelsea showed the nation that she is one of the best all-around student-athletes in collegiate track and field, and I expect her to build upon that this year,” said assistant coach Shelly Gallimore, who works with the jumpers. “She put in good work in the offseason to put herself in a position to show that she is in the elite top three or four of the multi-events field this year. Her work ethic, determination and attitude are the driving factors that set her apart from her other competitors, so when Chelsea steps out onto the track you get everything she's got. You get the best of Chelsea."

From her freshman year as the surprise champion, to one of the most recognized names in track and field, look for Carrier to continue to pose a threat to the competition as she works toward her goal of the Olympic Trials.

“She is a giant,” Cleary ended. “She is the little girl from West Virginia who can never, ever be counted out of any race.”