Skyline track athlete Sydney Collier recently competed in the Pan American Under 20 Championships in Puerto Rico, where she won a bronze medal in the 3000-meter steeplechase.
The Pan American Championships are an international track meet where North American, Latin American, and South American athletes compete against each other every other year. Collier, 16, qualified for the event after finishing in the top two at the USA U20 Championships this year in Oregon.
The steeplechase, a lesser-known track event, consists of distance running and obstacles such as four 30-inch barriers per lap, as well as a water pit that runners must leap over. Collier completed the 3000-meter event in 11:25.04. She said it was not her best time due to Puerto Rico’s heat and humidity. Despite the heat, she had a strategy to win.
“It’s for placing, like it’s a championship meet, the time doesn’t really matter…so I just kind of coasted my way in a little bit to keep it nice and easy,” Collier said.
Collier’s closest competitors were Veronica Huacasi from Peru, who ran this event in 10:23.60 to win the gold. Collier’s teammate, Catherine Garrison from Virginia, finished with a time of 10:28.34, placing second. Fourth place went to Russel Cjuro Mendoza, also from Peru, who finished with a time of 12:43.59.
Collier prepared for this race during the entire track season. She practiced with distance running, and as post-season got closer, she incorporated hurdles and barriers into her routines. She runs for the club Cascade Striders, and her coaches advised her on race strategy. Their recommendation was to start strong, race for place (not time), stay with the pack, and not to worry about speed.
Collier said her family and friends were also an essential part of her success, even though not all of them could be there to cheer her on in person. Collier felt significant pressure to represent her country, but the support of her friends and family gave her the inspiration she needed to push through the pressure.
“Having my family with me, or even my friends and other family who couldn’t make the trip, who I really knew were watching remotely, really pushed me to run my best because I knew that I was in a position to inspire others,” Collier said.
The Pan American U20 Championships was fully sponsored by Nike through USA Track and Field. All American athletes had their expenses covered by the sponsor.