By Lee Davis
Rachael Reddy was no stranger to success in track and field when she took her mark in the 5,000-meter run at the Pan American Junior Championships in Alberta, Canada, earlier this month.
As a star distance runner at Mountain Brook, Reddy helped the Lady Spartans to a Class 6A state championship and two runner-up finishes in four seasons. She closed her high school career by winning the state 3,200-meter title in her senior year and earned a scholarship to the University of Texas.
But the Pan Am Games were competition at an entirely new level. Reddy wasn’t just running for herself or her school. She was running for Team USA. And Reddy honestly wasn’t sure what would happen.
“I really didn’t know that there was a possibility I could win,” she said, when contacted last week. “My attitude was to enjoy the experience, learn from it, and do the best I could. That’s all.”
Reddy’s best turned out to be plenty.
She completed the race in a blazing 16:23.35, good enough for first place and the gold medal and easily outdistancing the runner-up by a whopping 12 seconds.
“I wasn’t worried about the other runners, I just focused on what I could do,” Reddy said. “I felt pretty good the entire time. It was just the day for me to win.”
Reddy said training for a 5,000-meter run wasn’t much different from training for the 3,200 distance at which she had excelled in high school.
“A 3,200-meter run is two miles, so a 5,000-meter run is a little more than three miles, so you have to take into account that extra mile when you are running,” she explained. “But the principle is basically the same. You have to emphasize endurance and finishing strong at the end.”
As great as Reddy felt after winning the race, she said nothing could compare to the Olympic-style medal ceremony that followed.
“It was absolutely the coolest feeling of my entire life to be accepting the gold medal for first place while the national anthem was playing,” she said. “I don’t think the impact of winning really sunk in until later.”
Before the Pan Am games, Reddy – who was redshirted in her freshman year at Texas – decided to transfer to the University of Alabama.
“Coming home and going to Alabama is just a better fit for me,” she said. “It’s a great school with a great track program so I can still accomplish the things I wanted to do – I’ll just be much closer to home.”
Reddy said her success at the Pan Am games gives her a boost as she faces Southeastern Conference competition. “It will give me a lot of confidence,” she said. “Going to Canada and coming home with the gold medal was more than I dreamed was possible. Now I know that if I put my mind to it, anything could be within my grasp.”
She will be running cross-country as well as indoor and outdoor track for the Crimson Tide.
“I’m going to work to get even faster,” she said. “Maybe I could even make the Olympics. We’ll just have to see what happens.”
A devout Christian, Reddy takes comfort in Isaiah 40:31, which she describes as her personal motto: “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
Reddy said she tries to apply that verse to every aspect of her life. “For me that’s a good verse to live by, whether it’s my education, athletics or life in general,” she said.
And those words to live by helped Rachael Reddy earn Pan Am Gold. ϖ