Alm's Dedication Paying Off For No. 2 CU Women
BOULDER — Somewhere out there, Maddie Alm believes, is a high school cross country runner waiting to excel, waiting to run with the best. That girl is waiting for a chance to grow, to improve and to thrive in a program that will give her that opportunity.
She might not be among the best today, but given the chance, she will someday prove she belongs. She’ll work hard, be patient and know that success doesn’t come overnight.
And when the opportunity arrives, she’ll grab it and — well, she’ll run with it. Run to a top-10 finish in one of the nation’s toughest conferences as a junior, run to an NCAA Championships appearance that same year and maybe — just maybe — help her team run to a podium finish in the national championships in her senior year.
Maddie Alm is that runner, and she likes to think her story might just provide a little inspiration for others out there just like her.
Saturday morning, Alm ran to a second-place finish behind teammate Erin Clark in the Rocky Mountain Shootout cross country meet, helping the No. 2-ranked Colorado Buffaloes claim yet another team title in their home meet. It was by no means a surprising finish for Alm, as she’s been among CU’s best runners for the last year.
In 2014, Alm finished seventh in the Pac-12 Championships, seventh in the NCAA Mountain Region Championships and 51st in the NCAA Championships, where the Buffs finished seventh in the team standings. This year, her goal is to move up in the individual standings and help the Buffs to a top-three finish.
Not bad for a runner who never even qualified for the Colorado high school cross country state meet.
“I didn’t have a great high school background,” said Alm, who attended nearby Monarch High School in Louisville. “I never ran at Footlocker (the prep national championship meet) or anything like that. I never even made it to state individually in track or in cross country.
“But when I made the team here, I had great coaches and teammates who pushed me to be my best. I think it shows that if you have the motivation and mindset that you can do it, and if you’re willing to work hard enough, you’ll get there. It might not be immediate, which is why some people probably don’t want to put in the work. But it’s definitely rewarding when you get to that point.”
Alm’s transformation into a national caliber runner for one of the best programs in the nation didn’t happen overnight. Rather, it took years, literally.
Alm didn’t even make the CU team as a freshman when she attempted to walk on. She returned as a sophomore and earned a spot on the team, but even then, had an injury-plagued year that saw her season end at the Pac-12 meet.
But she finally saw all her work and effort pay off last year. After finishing as CU’s No. 4 runner in the Shootout, she moved up to No. 3 at the Pre-Nationals, then to No. 2 behind Clark in the Pac-12, regionals and NCAAs.
CU associate head coach Heather Burroughs called Alm the “perfect example” of the Buffs’ culture of excellence.
“Maddie wasn’t even a walk-on in the beginning,” Burroughs said. “Yet there’s a very talented runner inside her, and she just needed a little more time, good teammates and a program with a certain culture.
“It’s a message to all the women not just on our team, but to all the women we recruit. You don’t have to be a superstar out of high school to be successful here.”
“It’s been nice,” Alm said of her late-blooming success. “It’s rewarding to keep working and kind of come out of nowhere and surprise people.”
And she credits the CU coaching staff and culture with helping her reach this point.
“There’s this mentality on the team that you come here to become good and you know you’re going to have to work hard to get there,” Alm said. “No one is just handed anything. You have to work hard to earn your success and the coaches push you to do that. It makes for some really successful runners who had no spotlight on them before.”
Alm and Clark earlier this week were selected as team co-captains for the Buffs, who were ranked No. 2 in the nation in the most recent coaches’ poll.
CU’s next major meet will be the Oct. 17 Pre-Nationals meet in Louisville, Ky. After that, it’s the Oct. 30 Pac-12 Championships in Colfax, Wash.; the Nov. 13 NCAA Mountain Region meet in Albuquerque and the Nov. 21 NCAA Championships in Louisville.
“We definitely have a chance to ‘podium,’” Alm said. “We have a talented team and we’re putting in a lot of work. If we keep doing what we’re doing and keep listening to our coaches, we have a chance to be there.”