By Alan Hieber
A rise to greatness can take time for a collegiate runner. For Wright State's Alexandra Brown, who had few college running options, a chance was all she needed to become one of the program's all-time greats.
Nearing the end of her senior season, Brown's lengthy list of school records on the track now includes the indoor mile (5:05.38) and 3000 meters (10:04.31) in addition to the outdoor 3000 (9:47.23) and 5000 meters (16:50.48).
When asked what she would have thought if someone had told her she would have this type of historic season on the track, Brown admits she would have been a little skeptical.
“I probably would have felt that they were crazy,” Brown said.
It took four years for Brown to breakthrough the tape to this level of excellence. WSU coach Rick Williamson, who gave her the phone call that set her career in motion, could see this coming.
“Some may feel that Alex has come out of nowhere, but these records are a result of four years of some very diligent work,” Williamson said. “It has been a long journey to put all the pieces together.”
The 5000 meter record was previously held by Jessica Kuhr and had stood for 16 years. Brown set it at the Jessie Owens Classic last month.
“To be honest, I was bummed because I felt like I should have run faster, but overall I was happy,” Brown said.
Brown has a fearless demeanor toward running that is evident by the way she pushes herself to the limit in training and competition and the lofty goals she sets for herself.
“I'm someone that goes with the flow,” Brown said. “I try not to stress too much, put myself out there and see what happens.”
One of Brown's more significant victories this season was a heart pounding finish in the 3000 meter final at the Horizon League indoor meet. Entering the final lap Brown faced a sizeable gap between her and Oakland runner Rachel Levy.
“I always wanted to win a Horizon League championship, but it almost seemed unrealistic. I talked to coach (Williamson) the night before because I was really nervous,” Brown said. “I told him that I wanted to win, but I didn't know if I could do it.”
Brown says her friends and teammates were encouraging her to catch up with Levy. After hearing this she found a second wind and outkicked her competitor in the final stretch, edging her to the line by just over four tenths of a second.
“I surprised myself,” Brown said.
After crossing the line Brown had a glowing smile on her face as she fell to the track and was lifted up by her teammates.
“I cried so much,” Brown said.
The prolific status Brown now holds in the history of the WSU program stems in part from the guidance of her former Raider teammates Rachel Janson, Vanessa Hopwood and Brittany Baily, according to Williamson.
“Those girls were changing the program in a profound way. Alex and Jessica (Doepker) benefited greatly from their guidance,” Williamson said. “Those girls showed that Wright State could be successful in the Horizon League and beyond. Now Alex and Jessica have taken that same role with their younger teammates.”
As a freshman Brown says her typical mileage was around 40 per week, which gradually climbed to the 80 or 90 she runs now. This is a part of Williamson's training philosophy of designing a plan for his runners that isn't excessive, which Brown is a proponent of.
“He (Williamson) wants you to continue to succeed instead of making you good now. In the long run your body might not be able to handle all that,” Brown said. “He is very individualistic. Everybody has their own mileage and workouts depending on what they're shooting for.”
The supportive atmosphere around her team has been another factor in her success Brown says. A clear example of this took place the day she set the 5000 meter mark.
“There were only three other girls on the team that were racing, but the entire team still came and watched. They drove separately,” Brown said. “They didn't even tell us that they were coming.”
Last week Brown capped off her strong performance in the classroom by earning her degree in biological sciences with a final cumulative GPA of 3.78. She is planning to take a year of life sciences education courses to become a teacher.
At this weekend's Horizon League outdoor meet Brown will be running the 10000 meters for the first time. Staying consistent with her undaunted attitude, she hopes to run an NCAA regional qualifying time at sub-35.
Brown will also be running the 5000 meters at the league meet, which has the stage set for another neck and neck battle with Levy.
“I love a good competition,” Brown said.
With Brown's WSU career about to come full circle, Williamson will miss her positive attitude and relentless spirit. If she shows that this weekend there might be little that can stop her from reaching the podium once again.
“Alex is simply going to give it her all and let the chips fall where they may,” Williamson said. “She is not afraid to fail, and that will allow her to see what her limits are.”