Empire runners on national stage

Every American runner dreams of competing in the USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships. Kim Conley and Lauren Wallace will be living that dream today. Except Conley and Wallace aren’t going to the national championships. The meet is coming to them.

Around 4:15 p.m., Wallace will race in a preliminary round of the women’s 800 meters at Hornet Stadium on the Sacramento State campus. At 8:20 p.m., Conley is scheduled to run in the final of the women’s 10,000 (which has no preliminaries). It’s a special moment for these Sacramento/Davis residents and Redwood Empire natives.

The USATF Outdoor Championships bring together the best of American sprinters, distance runners, jumpers and throwers. Big names like LaShawn Merritt, Lolo Jones, Christian Cantwell and Sanya Richards-Ross are supposed to be there, and so are Wallace and Conley.

For Conley, this sort of accomplishment is becoming less of a surprise. She is featured on the cover of the July issue of Running Times .

The Montgomery High grad represented her country at the 2012 Olympics in London after a stirring performance in the 5,000 meters at the U.S. Olympic Trials, and she excelled at a number of distances — from 800 to 3,000 meters — during the most recent indoor season.

Still, Conley’s passed on the U.S. Indoor Championships and the World Indoor Championships to focus on 10,000 meters.

Today’s 10,000-meter race is stacked. It includes all three women — U.S. 10,000 record holder Shalane Flanagan, Jordan Hasay and Amy Hastings — who represented Team USA at the World Championships in Moscow last year.

Conley, 28, has emerged as an elite distance runner, and could challenge all of them.

Wallace is newer to this. And if you’re having a hard time recalling her high school exploits, it may be because she has reinvented herself. Wallace was the top female sprinter in the Empire when she attended Ukiah High, winning at 100 and 200 meters at the North Bay League championships.

Running at UC Davis, she gradually extended her range, first to 400 meters, and eventually to 800 and even 1,500. After an injury-plagued junior year, Wallace redshirted as a senior. But she continued to work with the team and cut her time in the 800 to an impressive 2:05.9. Concentrating on the 800, Wallace wound up winning the Big West title, finishing eighth at the NCAA Championships and qualifying for the U.S. Championships.

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