Katie LaValley to be inducted to FHC Athletic Hall of Fame

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Aran Kessler

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Sam Hopkins, Staff Writer

Having an impressive career in both academics and track at FHC, Katie LaValley departed from FHC and moved on to bigger and better things at the University of Michigan.  Continuing her track career at the U of M, Katie graduated as a four time All-Academic Big Ten honoree.  Continuing to pursue her love of track after graduation, Katie went on to join the track coaching staff at Valparaiso University.  Achieving impressive accomplishments and reaching great heights, Katie LaValley will be back at FHC on Friday, May 13th to be inducted into the prestigious FHC Athletic Hall of Fame.

Q: During your time at FHC, what was the track experience which you treasure most to this day?

A: Wow – tough question! I think my fondest FHC track & field memory was running up to my coach, Ty Starling, in total shock after I won my first state championship in 2003. I don’t think either one of us believed what had happened! It felt great to celebrate with someone who had played such an integral role in my success.

Q: Leaving FHC as a running prospect, what drove you to Michigan to continue both your educational and running career?

A: I chose to attend the University of Michigan because of its excellence in both academics and athletics. I immediately connected with the athletes and coaching staff on my recruiting visit and knew that it would be the right environment for me to thrive as a student-athlete.

Q: You finished your collegiate career in 2009 as a four-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree.  How important was it for you to keep a balanced schedule, and how did you excel in both the classroom and on the track?

A: Michigan Women’s Track & Field has a long tradition of excelling academically and we were expected to work as hard in the classroom as we did at practice. It didn’t hurt to be surrounded by many highly motivated individuals sharing dual aspirations – we helped keep each other accountable.

Q: During your time at Michigan, I understand you earned All-American honors in 2009.  How much credit do you give to the Michigan coaching staff, and how were you able to prepare for those big races?

A: I feel very lucky that throughout my athletic career, from FHC to Michigan, I fully trusted in the coaches with which I worked. I truly felt that every workout was designed to get me to peak performance as part of our seasonal training plan. My training partners were game changing – they pushed me through workouts daily and we challenged each other to be better so we could excel as a team. I prepared for all of my races the same way – warmup routines that were so habitual I could have done them in my sleep. Having a routine helped me focus my mind and calm my nerves.

Q: What was your experience like at the Olympic Trials in 2008, and how did you finish up among the competition?

A: Qualifying for the Olympic Trials was unexpected and turned out to be an amazing experience. The 2008 trails were held in Eugene, Oregon and during that trip I got to spend some time in Portland, where I now live. The energy and passion for running and track & field is unparalleled in Oregon — it felt incredible to be in front of so many enthusiastic fans while competing against the best athletes in the United States. It wasn’t my best performance but I was honored to be part of the competition.

Q: With a bachelor’s degree in movement science, what do you have in terms of future plans once your days of coaching track are over?

A: I coached track from 2010-2012, after which I moved to Portland, Oregon and started working for Nike, Inc. I am currently a Transition Manager in the Technology department and my job is to help employees through change. A lot of my job requires coaching and communicating with individuals – so while I’m no longer coaching on a track, I feel like there are so many aspects of coaching that are woven into my everyday job.

Q: Mentoring Julian Smith at Valparaiso University, what was your most fond memory, during your time coaching him?

A: Julian was a fierce competitor and hard worker, just as you’d imagine from an elite athlete. My fondest memory of mentoring Julian, and my overall coaching experience, was being part of his journey and the journey of all of the athletes I coached. It’s hard to put into words how cool it is to be on the other side of athletics – I was no longer competing but rather creating the environment for student-athletes to excel.

Q: What piece of advice would you give to young athletes looking to compete at the Division one level?

A: I think it’s important to have a balance as NCAA athletics at any Division can become all-consuming if you let it. I’d recommend aspiring athletes prioritize what matters most to them while leaving enough space to be open to all the unique opportunities afforded to being a college student.

Q: How do you feel, knowing that you’ve been selected to enter the prestigious FHC athletics Hall of Fame?

A: FHC has a long tradition of athletic excellence and I’m very flattered to be picked for this honor. It’s easy to keep moving ahead in life without taking time to reflect or celebrate previous achievements. I’m feeling humbled and gracious – thank you!