It’s apparent that success follows Colleen Quigley in her every pursuit. As a former NCAA Steeplechase Champion, she is competing at the U.S. Track and Field Trials this week, but she first stepped into the spotlight as a professional model in high school, traveling the world on photo-shoots for Glamour and Seventeen magazines. She was also a National Merit Commended Scholar with a steadfast running career that was quickly gaining attention. She had to make a choice – the runway or running? Sports gave her a path to a free education, so the decision was made to attend Florida State. At first, Quigley considered the idea of building a career as a runner “ridiculous,” doubting that she could do it. It was her coach, Karen Harvey, who helped Colleen realize her true potential on the track team during her freshman year at FSU. She took the leap, and ended up committing herself to the sport that made her a National Champion in 2015 — just as Harvey had predicted. Learn more about Colleen’s self discipline and ambition as a professional athlete:
How did you first get into track?
I danced up until freshman year of high school. I was going from school to cross-country practice and then dance class, and then home for homework. Halfway through the year, I decided that I couldn’t do it anymore. I had to pick one activity and ended up choosing running — which was weird because before that I hated running! But, I just kind of fell into it. It started because I was going to try out for the soccer team in the spring, so I did cross-country in the fall to stay in shape and I found out that I was pretty good. When it came to soccer tryouts that spring, I ended up being too scared to try out. So I decided to do track and it worked out pretty well! My dad also ended up becoming my coach sophomore year when I decided I actually wanted to be a runner.
After your freshman year, you also began your modeling career. How did you manage both running and modeling?
When my modeling career took off, I was traveling for up to 30 days of semester at school, while also making sure to keep up with my projects and my grades. I always had a parent traveling with me, so if my dad was going, the coach is with me and he was always making sure I am getting my runs in!
You were doing really well with your modeling career. How did you make the decision to stick with track?
I think I got really lucky. The final thing that really got me about Tallahassee was Coach Karen Harvey. I really clicked with her and trusted her right from the beginning and thought, ‘I want to run for that lady.’ She planted the seed freshman year after I finished my first track season. I was fourth or fifth in the Steeplechase and she said, “I want you to be a National Champion, but I also want you to graduate with honors and do something that you really want to do for a career when you can’t run anymore.” She really broadened the horizons and set a new goal and standard for me.
Your academic and running success is a tribute to your hard work and the dedication you put into it.
I attribute that a lot to the fact that I was homeschooled until high school. I learned self-discipline from a young age — how to teach myself and figure things out without as much guidance. I’m a big list person, so I list out what I have to do in the next week, and if I start getting stressed out, I step back and look at the big picture. What are the deadlines for them? What is coming up first, what’s the most important? I always had exams the week of the ACCs. I knew I would be running the steeple and the 5K over the course of 24 hours and would then have to study on the bus afterwards. So, I would instead try to study as much as I could the night before, and then just put the books away and go to bed, and hope for the best!
Can you describe the transition from collegiate athlete to pro?
I actually think the transition to college was harder, the workouts and schoolwork was harder. It took almost a whole semester to figure out that whole thing. The transition to pro is different in that now I don’t have anything to do academically, which is nice. The athletic part is also is completely different. Instead of splitting my time figuring out when to focus on school and when to focus on running, I can focus on running all the time, for better or for worse. Now, there is excuse to not to get that treatment that you need; that massage or that chiropractic adjustment, or chiropractic exercises. Before then, I was like, oh, I think I have to study, and now I have to do them, because I have no excuse!
Steeplechase has only been in the Summer Games the last two years, and it’s making a splash for women. How do you explain it to someone new to the sport?
It’s kind of funny, it depends on how much I want to challenge someone. For some people, I’ll say, ‘I do the Steeplechase.’ And they are like, ‘Yeah, yeah.’ and I am like, “You have no idea what that is, do you?!’ But really, I’ll tell them that Steeplechase simply put is 3,000 meters, which is just less than 1.9 miles. At every lap, you have four wooden barriers that you have to jump over. If you hit it, you are going down and not the barrier. Then on the opposite end of the finish line you have this pit of water and you have a wooden barrier in front of it that you have to step on and jump over the water – on every lap. There’s seven and a half laps of that. For women, it’s pretty new, which is exciting.
How does it feel to be training for the Olympic Trials?
Nothing can be taken for granted, obviously. A lot of people would be say, ‘Oh, it’s been my dream. Ever since I was little, I have always dreamed of this.’ But that was not me at all. I thought I was going be a prima ballerina; so it definitely wasn’t something that was on my radar, even in high school, and college. I didn’t even see myself running after college until senior year. So it’s definitely something different to say.
We wish Colleen the best of luck this week!
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