July 12, 2012
For immediate release

Former UCD standout credits funding from Sacramento Running Association

Kim Conley heads to London savoring the greatest moment of her running career. Now, she’s ready for the experience of a lifetime.

Conley, a member of the Sacramento Running Association’s Elite Team, stunned the track and field world with a dramatic third-place finish in the women’s 5,000 meters two weeks ago at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore.

The former UC Davis standout ran a personal-best 15 minutes, 19.79 seconds to edge crowd favorite Julia Lucas (15:19.83) and Abbey D’Agostino (15:19.98) and just beat the the Olympic ‘A’ standard of 15:20:00 needed to compete in the Games, set for July 27-Aug. 12 in London.

She joins U.S. teammates Julie Culley and Molly Huddle in a talented Olympic 5,000-meter field that includes 14 women who have run faster than 15 minutes. The preliminary rounds are set to begin on Aug.7.

“I am thrilled to be going to London to represent the U.S.,” Conley said. “My Mom is English and I was born just outside of London, so the fact that the Games are in London this year makes it that much more special for my family.”

Conley, 26, almost gave up competitive running after graduating from UC Davis. But her coach, Drew Wartenberg, encouraged her to continue. A $10,000 training grant from the Sacramento Running Association helped Conley step back from her assistant coaching duties with the Aggies and focus on reaching her potential.

“The entire experience, from the journey I have made over the last three years to the narrow margin by which I qualified for the Olympics, has been more exciting than I ever could have dreamed,” she said.

“I’m having the time of my life, and I can’t wait to get to London and let the adventure continue.”

Conley credits the Sacramento Running Association’s funding with helping her make the Olympic team. SRA executive director John Mansoor said his organization was happy to lend a hand.

“I think it’s a terrific use of our funds,” Mansoor said. “It (Conley’s success) already has impacted so many runners in this area. The number of texts and e-mails I’ve gotten, suddenly everybody thinks anything’s possible.

“Obviously we’re extremely happy for Kim.”

Mansoor said Conley reminds him of former UC Davis runner Linda Somers Smith, who wasn’t highly regarded coming out of college in 1983 but later blossomed into a star. Smith earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in 1996 at 34 after finishing second in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

“In both cases they just stuck with it,” Mansoor said. “That’s the most important part of SRA’s presence. Distance runners don’t hit their peak until the late 20s, even early 30s.

“We have a group of women and men who have the potential to become Olympians. Somehow, we have to find a way to keep them training, keep them inspired and maximize their potential.”

Mansoor hopes Conley’s success convinces more talented local runners to train in the Sacramento area on the road to becoming an Olympian.

“We’re glad the program had this quick of a result,” Mansoor said. “Hopefully it will inspire and create more Olympic athletes.

“We believe Sacramento is a great place to train, to run. There are so many trails, so many places to run. The weather has been consistently very good … We have excellent coaches in the Sacramento area to help runners train.

“We’re trying to keep Sacramento runners in Sacramento, develop with each other, keep the synergy, which inspires everybody in the community. It just becomes so much of a better running environment for everybody.”

The Sacramento Running Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to finding ways to encourage people of all ages and abilities to run. The SRA is committed to developing new, quality running events that appeal to a broad variety of runners.

SRA events include the California International Marathon, which celebrates its 30th anniversary on Dec. 2. More than 4,000 runners have already registered for the race.

Other SRA events include the Lake Natoma Four Bridges Half Marathon, The Super Bowl Sunday 10k Run and the Credit Union SACTOWN Ten-Mile Run.

SRA beneficiaries include the American River Parkway, youth fitness programs, local running venues and aspiring young runners.