Racing to the 2016 Olympic trials

Kara Lubieniecki and Alia Gray running in the Payton Jordan Invitational 10k. Photo credit: Gary Towne

Two Wildcat alumni will be heading to the 2016 Olympic marathon trials after they scored top-10 finishes at the USA half marathon trials.

Alia Gray and Kara Lubieniecki, teammates and best friends since meeting in 2007 on the Chico State campus, finished ninth and 10th respectively, at the Chevron Houston Marathon Jan. 19. Both runners broke the 74 minute make on the 13.1 mile track.

“It was a breakthrough race for both Kara and I,” Gray said.

Although they have been teammates since 2007, the two have not competed in many races together. They pushed each other in the race, qualifying for the Olympic B standard for the marathon.

“It was a special day,” Lubieniecki said. “We raced our own races and helped each other, which is really rare.”

The former ‘Cats qualified for the U.S. Olympic trials in the half marathon, but they will be competing in the 26.2 mile full marathon. They will be trying to represent the United States in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Gray, a three-time All-American and school record holder in the 10k, believes she has unfinished business with the sport after her years of eligibility at the collegiate level.

“I was so in love with the sport and felt I was not done,” Gray said. “I had unfinished business and wanted to see it through.”

Both women give a great amount of credit for their success to their time running at Chico State under head coach Gary Towne.

“Gary is nothing less than a genius when it comes to running and training people,” Lubieniecki said. “He doesn’t push you too hard and he knows how to build you.”

“He is a huge part in where I am athletically today,” Gray said.

The long distance training program implemented by Towne has helped Gray and Lubieniecki when competing in longer races.

“We train in the aerobic strength aspect of running for distance,” Towne said. “The workouts we do lend well to the marathon distances.”

Both Lubieniecki and Gray now live and train in Boulder, Colo., running with the Hudson Training Systems elite team, under coach Brad Hudson.

“It’s a great place to train and the community is great for post-collegiate athletes trying to make a name for themselves,” Lubieniecki said.

Greg Silvia can be reached at [email protected] or @gsilvia on Twitter.