Oregon State's Carlyle Rising To The Top

by Rachel Caton

Oregon State junior Laura Carlyle is a versatile athlete who has proven she can pick up a sport and compete at a very high level in no time. The Kelowna, British Columbia, native has only been running cross country for about three years, yet she has proven to be a consistent, strong runner for the Beavers.

"A little more than three years ago I could barely run for 30 minutes at a time," Carlyle says. "I was a swimmer growing up, so we would run for cross training sometimes, but that was about the extent to my running."

Right after Carlyle's senior year of high school, her family moved from Canada to Bellingham, Wash. She joined them in the Northern Washington town and since it was too late to begin at a four-year university, she enrolled at Whatcom Community College in Bellingham.

Her brother, a star high school cross country runner at Bellingham's Sehome High School, informed his cross country coach that his older sister was attending Whatcom and his coach encouraged the elder Carlyle to go out for the new cross country program at the community college. The move turned out to be magic for Carlyle, who blossomed as a runner in the newly minted Whatcom cross country program. Carlyle won the NWACC Cross Country Championships and was named a community college All-American in 2007.

Under the tutelage of head coach Joel Pearson at Whatcom, Carlyle inquired about where he saw her future in the sport after community college. Pearson mentioned that Oregon State and its program, which was reinstated in 2004 after a 16 year hiatus, might be a great fit. And he was right. Carlyle took a visit to Corvallis and instantly fell in love with the school.

"I knew right away that this was where I wanted to be. I liked the girls and head coach Kelly Sullivan. It just fit right," Carlyle explained.

The transition was not too difficult for Carlyle, but there were some major differences between Whatcom and Oregon State that took some getting used to.

 "At Oregon State I have learned how to train with a group of girls and feed off each other's energy and learn from my teammates' experiences. At the community college there wasn't a solid team feeling, so that took some getting used to, but now I love it."

Coach Sullivan also had a big impact on Carlyle, as she soaked up his knowledge and experience.

"The training with Coach Sullivan and the squad was more challenging and serious than it was at the community college, but I have really embraced that to become a better runner," Carlyle explains. 

Now Carlyle and her team are ready to take on the challenge of the Pac-10 Championships as a team.

"We are feeling good, the team has had some unforeseen illnesses this season, but we are as healthy as we have been all season going into the championships."

Carlyle will try to improve upon her Pac-10 finish of 38th in 2009, the highest finish of any Beaver.

"The Pac-10s are unlike any cross country race. The environment is intense and fun with everyone in the Conference coming together. It is a bit overwhelming, but the Pac-10 is such a tough conference, it is a privilege to be out there with so many great runners."

Carlyle will also draw upon her success from track last year, where she excelled and set the school record in the indoor mile with a time of 4:50.90. She only ran the indoor mile three times last season, again showing her versatility and ability to pick up a sport and excel in it in a short period of time.

"It was a really fun race," Carlyle explains of the Husky Classic, "and setting the record was a very nice surprise."

In outdoor track, Carlyle advanced to the NCAA West Regional at the 1,500 meter run, with her season-best time of 4:23.86 coming at the Pac-10 Championships.

Off the race course, Carlyle is a business and merchandise management major and hopes to use her studies to work in the athletic apparel business, possibly in finance.

But for now, Carlyle is focusing on the upcoming Pac-10 Championship and the prospect of NCAA competition as she leads a healthy Beaver squad into the postseason.

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