ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – When Colleen Quigley first returned home to train with runners at her alma mater, Nerinx Hall High School, the girls were at first too timid to speak to the representative of Team USA who went to Brazil this past summer.
“It wasn’t long ago that I was in their shoes and never dreaming that this would be me now,” Quigley says.
She finished eighth at the 2016 Summer Olympics in the 3,000M steeplechase, a long-distance race which adds short barriers to jump over and shallow water to land in. But now she fits right back in with the Markers cross country and track teams, talking about classic YouTube videos and getting updates on everyone’s holiday plans.
“At first they would be like ‘Oh my god we saw you on T.V.’ or something and they would get nervous,” Quigley says. “But then they would kinda get over it and be like ‘Oh it’s just Colleen we can like talk like normal.’”
Her father, Gaylerd Quigley, has coached at Nerinx since 2008, and Colleen says it’s a priority for her to be with the team when she returns to St. Louis. But she receives updates about the team, from her dad, year round.
“I know what’s going on with them so when I come home it’s like how’s that going how’s your recovery from the stress fracture what’s happening with so and so,” Quigley says.
Quigley didn’t image a running career until her senior year of high school. Before that point she didn’t even think about running in college. And she likes to remind the current team of that.
“I wasn’t like some crazy phoneme that was just killing everyone right off the bat,” Quigley says. “It took a long time to get there adn lot of hard work and a lot of small sacrifices along the way, and so I think that’s really important for them. And I just like hanging out with them and kinda being still apart of that group.”
Then she received a scholarship offer from Florida State. And since her graduation in 2011, Quigley went on to be an NCAA Champion at Florida State and Team USA representative. Now, she’s a professional champion after winning a USA Cross Country Championship in Tallassahee this month.
“I feel like I had this gradual peak and I’m not even hopefully at that peak yet, but it just kept getting better and better,” Quigley says. “I was never like a young sensation. And I think that’s really important to just do whatever you love to do.”
And through the love of hundreds of thousands of instagram and twitter followers, there are of course always a few skeptics.
“Some people have said ‘Oh well you are only an Olympian this summer.’ And I’m like ‘I’m an Olympian for the rest of my life.’”
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