This is Shannon Porter’s first year running cross country at Saint Martin’s University. It is also her last.
And, perhaps for the first time in her collegiate running career, Porter has a clear idea of where it could end.
“If all goes well, hopefully she’ll make it to nationals,” SMU coach Jim Brewer said.
With two wins in three races this season — she won the Puget Sound Invitational earlier this month and the SMU Invitational last weekend — Porter appears on pace.
“This is the first time I’ve felt really good in cross country,” she said.
This week, Porter was named the Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s athlete of the week for the second time this season.
“Just trying to do all of the little things right is how it’s been progressing,” she said. “I’m very happy with how it has started.”
Porter, a senior who enrolled at SMU in 2015, said the biggest difference she’s noticed this cross country season is consistent motivation.
Her path to becoming the Saints’ top runner had twists and turns.
She graduated from Hockinson High School in 2009, decorated with three Class 2A state championships in the 3,200-meter run. She was a two-time runner-up at the 2A state cross country meet, and signed a letter of intent with Boise State.
In all five races that Porter ran for the Broncos she was the top finisher, but she caught pneumonia near the end of her first term. She went home and didn’t return to Boise.
She transferred to Treasure Valley Community College in Oregon, and ran for two seasons before taking a substantial break.
Porter said she wasn’t competing as much, but raced in a few half-marathons during that time, coached mostly by her mother.
“I went home and took time off, just kind of trying to figure out what I wanted to do,” Porter said. “It’s more complicated than that, but it’s how things kind of played out. I got in contact with Brewer because I was looking to find a small-division, private university.
“This was the right fit.”
Porter arrived at SMU in January 2015 with three years of cross country eligibility, three years of indoor track eligibility and two years of outdoor track eligibility. She has used up her outdoor eligibility — which she said is her preferred racing environment — and will run this season of cross country and one more of indoor track before she graduates in the spring.
“I think it’s time to move on to the next chapter of my life,” said Porter, who got her personal training certification this summer and plans to pursue that path.
Porter trained with the SMU cross country team last season, but did not compete. This season, she has been the Saints’ top runner in every race, and she ran a personal best of 17 minutes, 50.1 seconds on the 5,000-meter course at the SMU Invitational.
“She’s a very talented, gifted young lady,” Brewer said. “She’s a hard worker and very motivated. She’s really trying to do what it takes to have a great season.”
Porter said a change in her workout routine fueled her improvement.
“Not as high of a volume of workouts, but with a little more intensity, and that seems to be helping,” she said.
After her collegiate career wraps up, Porter said she would like to run professionally.
“I still have a little ways to go before I can say that it is a definite, for sure possibility,” she said. “My whole family is very supportive of that, and I know the steps I can take towards that.”
One milestone, she said, would be to qualify for the USA Championships in the next two years.
“It’s a lofty goal,” she said, “but it should be attainable if I keep getting personal bests in my races.”
Olympia High School graduate Oliva Brock, who plays women’s soccer at Concordia, was named the GNAC defensive player of the week. Brock, a goalkeeper, helped Concordia to two shutouts last week, raising the Cavaliers to 7-0-1 on the season. She has yet to allow a goal in more than 457 minutes. … Evergreen’s men’s soccer team (2-0-2) will host Multnomah at 3 p.m. Friday and Walla Walla at 1 p.m. Sunday.