Far and fast: District 214 grads qualify for Olympic trials
Anyone who has followed suburban high school distance running recently knows about District 214 graduates Kevin Salvano and Hailey Bowes.
Kevin, after all, won the 2015 individual state cross country race as a senior, leading his Buffalo Grove High School team to a sixth-place state finish. Hailey led her John Hersey High School cross country team to a 10th-place state finish in 2016.
As talented and successful as they were in high school and later in college competition, neither envisioned their newfound status today - qualifiers for the U.S. Olympic marathon trials. Both met the qualifying standard in the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 8. Both will compete next February in Orlando, pushing themselves through 26.2 miles in an effort to earn a spot on the 2024 U.S. Olympic team.
"Making the Olympic Trials is in the back of every competitive distance runner's head," Hailey said. "I've always joked about going with my parents, teammates and coaches but never did I think I would be able to achieve it."
Achieve it, she did, covering the Chicago course in two hours, 35 minutes and 36 seconds, which bettered the qualifying standard by almost 90 seconds.
Kevin, meanwhile, ran Chicago in 2:11:16, beating the qualifying standard by more than six minutes and placing him 21st among 161 men nationwide who have qualified for the Olympic trials. For Kevin, it's been an unexpected adventure. Initially, he planned to hang up his running shoes after an outstanding career at the University of Notre Dame, which included All-Atlantic Coast Conference track honors for his 10-kilometer performances and running on an Irish cross country team that placed second in the NCAA national meet.
"I didn't plan on running after college but ended up doing a marathon and surprised myself with the result, so it kind of made sense to keep doing it," Kevin says.
Hailey, by contrast, knew she would continue to run after a collegiate career at Ohio University that included multiple All-Mid-American Conference honors in the outdoor 10K and indoor 5K.
"I knew I wanted to do a marathon after I graduated," she says. "I am one of those crazy long-distance runners that is happier any time the race gets longer."
Both runners train and work in Chicago: Kevin as a CPA; Hailey applying her marine and freshwater biology expertise and degree as an animal care specialist at Shedd Aquarium.
Hailey says she's learned a few lessons since her high school and college days. A stress fracture before her first marathon cautioned her against overwork. Continued success in a series of distance races and the support of family and friends bolstered her confidence. And she's learned to demand less of herself even as she continues to work hard.
"A tip I wish I had taken more seriously when I was competing at the high school and college level is to remember to have fun," she says. "Past college I have been able to take that deep breath and truly enjoy myself while running. I genuinely have fun being able to toe the line and race any chance I get."
Kevin's advice for runners is as direct as a final kick to the finish line: "I think," he says, "that anyone who wants to get into running needs to be willing to run high mileage and have a killer mindset."