Trial Times

GVL Archive
Betsy Graney (middle)

GVL Archives

GVL Archive Betsy Graney (middle)

Brady Fredericksen

After a record-breaking first season at Grand Valley State University, graduate student Betsy Graney’s season came down to one race — precisely 9 minutes, 59.76 seconds — in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials.

She finished ninth in her heat and No. 18 overall in the race held at Heyward Field at the University of Oregon. While she missed out on qualifying for this month’s London Olympic games, it wasn’t all about qualifying for Graney – it was about the experiences, too.

“Heyward Field up at the University of Oregon, is kind of like a track mecca, so it was just a great experience to be there in that atmosphere and to compete at such a high level,” she said. “I was just really grateful that I had that experience and now moving forward I can just be more confident and ready to take on bigger challenges.”

Graney entered the race with a time of 9:53.85, a Division II record. The race, which pitted the Division II United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s National Women’s Track Athlete of the Year against the top American competition, gave Graney a chance to not only show her skill, but also interact with and be around athletes like soon-to-be Olympian Emma Coburn, a senior at the University of Colorado.

“It’s crazy to compare myself to them, I feel like they’re on this whole other level,” Graney said. “I try not to be too star struck — try not to be a crazy fan. They’re the best at what they do, but there’s nothing insanely special about them. They warm up like everyone else and do the pre-race drives and you see that they’re not idols, they’re just people too.”

The race itself didn’t go as well as the rest of the experience for Graney, who said she wasn’t intimidated by the moment.

“I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I was going to be,” she said. “Looking back, I was really pleased with how I handled the stresses of the situation around me, but I just felt kind of off through the whole race and never quite got in a good rhythm, It just kind of felt off from the start.”

Despite never finding that rhythm, Graney did find time to reflect on the fact that she was running with the best, competing on the same track as legendary runners like Steve Prefontaine, just one step away from the Olympics.

“I had to stop and stop thinking about the race and just think about where I was and what I was doing,” she said. “It was awesome to be where I wanted to be at that moment, and just to really try to enjoy it as best as I could.”

Graney competed in the trials with GVSU teammate Sam Lockhart, who finished 19th in the discus. The experience that both gained is something GVSU head coach Jerry Baltes hopes they can bring back and share with their teammates this season.

“It’s a great experience for her and Sam to represent our university and wear the uniform and have a shot at making the team,” said Baltes, who was in attendance. “Hopefully this experience leads to something bigger down the road. That experience is irreplaceable … hopefully the opportunity will arise were she can be in (the Olympian’s) shoes.”

Graney hopes to continue her running career in both a professional and coaching capacity. She will serve as a volunteer assistant with the team at GVSU along with competing professionally in road races and other track events.

“I’m really looking forward to keep pursuing running,” Graney said. “I feel like after this year, finally having a year healthy, that I don’t feel like I’ve reached my potential and there is more to come. I don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like yet, but I’m really excited to find out.”

[email protected]