During Juliet Bottorff’s warm-up run about 30 minutes before her NCAA Indoor Championships 5000-meter race this winter, she got hit by a car.
She went back inside and finished fifth.
That tells you a lot about this 23-year-old Duke University graduate, the surprise 2011 NCAA Champion at 10,000 meters who last weekend announced herself on the professional scene with a fourth-place finish at USA Outdoor Nationals. But there’s more.
For one thing, Bottorff is as consistent as she is tough: Across her 12 collegiate seasons, she competed in NCAA national championships 11 times, missing out on only the indoor championship her freshman year. At her final NCAA Championships this spring, she finished third in the 10,000 meters and fifth in the 5000 meters.
For another, she doesn’t consider Sacramento her professional debut, because she was still wearing the Duke colors. Her “real” debut, she said, will come on July 4 when she lines up for the AJC Peachtree Road Race, which is serving as the 2014 USA 10 km Championships for both men and women.
“It’s the perfect start,” said Bottorff, who is seeded fourth in the race. “I’m not ready to say I’m done with the track, but I do absolutely think my future is on the roads.”
For 6.2 other things on the rising American distance star:
- During her prep career at Tatnall in Wilmington, DE, Bottorff set 16 state records—10 of them individual. “It’s a very small state,” she quickly demurs.
- She won her NCAA title at 10,000 meters as a sophomore in just her third race at the distance.
- “Of course, I had this eye-opening experience [of winning the NCAA title], and then a month later I had pain in my glute,” she said. Tendonitis forced her to miss much of her junior year.
- She broke a 28-year-old school record in setting her personal best of 32:24.69 at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational earlier this year, but considers herself more of a racer than a time trialer.
- With an undergraduate degree in neuroscience and a graduate degree in finance, Bottorff definitely had a back-up plan if the running thing hadn’t worked out. Eventually, she hopes to do get her PhD and do research in rehabilitation science.
- At USATF Outdoor Nationals, she was in awe of the professionals around her (“I LOVE these women!”) before and after the race, but “during the race it’s different. Whoever it is doesn’t really matter that much.”
- Peachtree is right up Bottorff’s alley: She loves running in the heat.