Perhaps the most-decorated student-athlete in Patriot League history, Keira Carlstrom dominated three sports during her time at American University. She won three Patriot League Cross Country titles, along with six and five crowns at the indoor and outdoor championship, respectively. In addition, Carlstrom collected a record six Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors spanning her three sports and was recognized on the Academic Honor Roll an amazing 12 times.
On the national scene, she earned all-America accolades three times in cross country and once in track, as well as being named Academic All-American in 2006.
Two-time Patriot League Championship Track Athlete of the Meet (indoors, 2005 and outdoor, 2004)
Q: What factors helped in your decision to attend the American University?
A: A lot of what originally drew me to American University was the Cross Country and Track Programs. After talking to Coach Matt Centrowitz, I knew we would work very well together and he could help me achieve all of my running goals.
That being said, once I visited the school, I fell in love with everything else American had to offer. American's size was perfect for me. The classes were relativity small, which made for a lot of individual attention from the professors. The campus is beautiful and I adored being in Washington, D.C. And don't get me started on the cafeteria - it was phenomenal! I was also appealed to the concentration of academics by the athletic program. Having student athletes excel in the classroom was an extremely high priority to American and that aligned with my priorities as well.
Q: Who were your sports idols growing up and why?
A: Before running was introduced into my life, I was in awe of athletes like Troy Aikman, Michael Jordan, and Mia Hamm - however, the sports idol I admired most was my father. My father is an incredibly athletic man - he bikes to work, played in adult soccer leagues, races the local 5Ks, and is game for any other sport the kids in my family wanted to play (from tennis to our family's version of tag called "Monster"). I admired that he was so active and spent the time with each of the kids helping us perfect our sport of choice. He always harped that practice makes perfect and he was there to make sure we followed that.
Once I entered into the running world my freshman year at Oakton High School -Samia Akbar quickly became my idol. As a senior at American (2002 Patriot League Cross Country titlist), she led by example. She always worked extremely hard and always had a positive attitude. We both ended up at American and then also on a post collegiate track program together (DC Elite). Samia has made a few WORLD marathon teams - she continues to amaze me!
Q: What was your proudest on-the-field accomplishment?
A: On paper, I think my best accomplishment was my sixth- place finish at NCAA Cross Country Championships in 2005 (my senior year). However, I think my proudest accomplishment was my sophomore year at that same race, NCAA Cross Country Championship. My goal for the year was to just qualify for nationals. When I got there, Coach Centrowitz told me to race for an All-American spot (top 35). At the time, I thought, `listen buddy, I'll do what I can, I am happy to be here.' I ended up in 16th place, earning an All-American honor. I wasn't expecting to do that well. .
Q: What was your proudest academic accomplishment?
A: Being selected as Woman of the Year in 2006 for American University and the Patriot League was an extremely proud accomplishment for me. I was also a finalist in the Woman of the Year for the NCAA in 2006. I was thankful that my work in the math books and in the community was recognized.
Q: How were you able to balance the demands in the classroom with the demands of being an athlete?
A: Discipline and time management. There are a lot of sacrifices I made to make sure I was excelling in both arenas. I personally didn't see them as sacrifices because I had tunnel visions towards my athletics and academic goals. However, I know my college experience was a different then average. Going to bed early and staying in on the weekends wasn't exactly the norm.
I stayed ahead of my school work, to make up for the weekends I would be away at races. It helps that I am not a procrastinator. I have the mentality of `let's get this done right now, so I don't have to think about it later.'
Q: How did your experience as a student-athlete prepare you for life after college?
A: I cannot credit being a student-athlete enough with preparing me for my life after college. First off, it made my résumé stand out. But the most important thing it gave me was the confidence that I could do just about anything. Working toward and achieving the goals I set at American, I knew if I put my energy towards anything in my life, I would be successful.
Q: How does it feel to be one of the most decorated distance runners in the history of American and the Patriot League?
A: Wow - I really have never even looked at it that way - but when you put it that way, it feels good, really good!! I am truly honored. I remember always being proud to represent the Patriot League (and American, of course) at NCAAs.
I think during my career at American, I was constantly looking toward the next race, goal, or accomplishment - that I failed in looking back to see all that I had accomplished. When I did well in races, I was thinking - `well, that was all right, but next time I need to make sure I ... `
Q: If you could go back to college and compete one more time, where would it be and against whom?
A: Oh man, that's a tough one! I think it would be a Patriot League Cross Country Championship (anywhere, but Army, that course is rough!!!). Patriot League Championship was always my favorite because my whole team was there and we were competing as a team. Winning a Patriot League Cross Country Team Title (2002, 2003) was an amazing accomplishment because each runner makes such a big impact. We could not have accomplished a win without everyone coming together and doing their best.
Q: If you had to offer current student-athletes some words of wisdom what would they be?
A: From the classroom to competitions, put your whole heart into all you do. It's a simple way to leave college with no regrets.
Q: Do you still follow American athletics?
A: Of course - I love the new set up with AUEagles.com! I'm always going in and checking up on the latest AU news and watching the video clips. I am also a member of the Eagle Club (an alumni support program). When AU basketball made it to the NCAA Championship in 2009 - I was hanging on every second of that game!
Q: Looking back, what does it mean to you to have been a Patriot League student-athlete?
A: I would not be the same person today if I was not a Patriot League student-athlete. The support within the classroom and the experiences gained as an athlete turned me into the person I am proud of today. It was the combination of student-athlete emphasized in the Patriot League that I learned the skills that I use in my day-to-day life. Thank you, Patriot League for you support in my career at American University!