March 23, 2011
The following feature appears in the Patriot League's 2011 Women in Sports magazine, produced in conjunction with the 25th celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day, which was held Feb. 2
By Jimmy Johnson
Patriot League Multimedia Coordinator
Look no further than to a good ol’ game of Monster to see how Keira Carlstrom became one of the most decorated student-athletes in Patriot League history.
The American University graduate piled up 14 individual Patriot League titles and was selected as a Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year six times.
All of the former accolades were collected in cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field.
“I know my college experience was a different than average,” she said. “Going to bed early and staying in on the weekends wasn’t exactly the norm.”
Not at all.
For Carlstrom — or any student-athlete — the task of balancing three sports and doing it with so much success is one that is so daunting that it takes a certain kind of person to survive such a thing.
She had what it took to succeed and the seeds of success were planted by her father, Ray.
“The sports idol I admired most was my father,” she said. “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.”
Carlstrom’s choice was easy from the standpoint of equipment. No gloves. No sticks. Just running shoes.
Winning three Patriot League titles in cross country, Carlstrom advanced to the NCAA Championships three times where she placed in the top 20, including a sixth-place finish in 2005.
She also racked up five individual indoor track and field titles and another six in outdoor track and field.
Carlstrom’s NCAA performance her senior year earned her All-America honors, as did her ninth-place finish in the 5,000 meters at the 2006 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Add in her Scholar-Athlete awards and you can easily see why she one of the best to represent the Patriot League.
“Wow,” she said. “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.”
And, of course, she was representing the hard work ethic her father had instilled in her many years before she claimed Patriot League gold.
“He always harped that practice makes perfect,” she said, “and he was there to make sure we followed that.”
She followed every step.
It was those steps that led to her proudest moment at American — and surprisingly, it wasn’t her sixth-place finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships.
“I think my proudest accomplishment was my sophomore year at that same race,” she said. “My goal for the year was to just qualify for nationals. When I got there, Coach Matt Centrowitz told me to race for an All-American spot, in the 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.”
After that, top performances began to be expected from Carlstrom.
With her name firmly planted it the record books, it’s up to others who do not expect to do well to equal or better her performances.
That moment may never come, but to all those out there who strive to be like Carlstrom, here’s her words of advice.
“From the classroom to competitions, put your whole heart into all you do,” she said. “It’s a simple way to leave college with no regrets.”
And a lot of success.