Former, Current Aggies to Receive SRA Honors on Saturday

Lauren Wallace
 
Lauren Wallace
 

Jan. 24, 2014

DAVIS, Calif. - The UC Davis women's track and field program has a long and distinguished history of success and Saturday night those achievements will be recognized by the Sacramento Running Association (SRA) with honors for both past and current Aggies.

Patti Gray Bellan, a member of the Cal Aggie Athletics Hall of Fame, will add the SRA Hall of Fame to her honors when she joins seven others during their inductions at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento. Former Aggie and Olympian Linda Somers Smith was part of the inaugural Hall of Fame Class for the SRA last year. (see SRA Hall of Fame release below).
Meanwhile, recent and current Aggies will be honored by the SRA with 2014 Annual Achievement Awards. All-America runner Lauren Wallace will be recognized as outstanding women's college track athlete, standout distance runner Alycia Cridebring will receive the award for outstanding women's college cross country athlete, and Drew Wartenburg has been named outstanding college track coach.

Volunteer assistant coach Kim Conley, who ran in the 2012 London Olympics and has vaulted to one of the elite distance runners in the United States will receive the achievement awards as outstanding open track/cross country athlete.
Wallace, who now serves as a volunteer assistant coach with the UC Davis, earned her honor after the best season for an Aggie 800-meter runner in program history. She consistently lowered the school record of 2:07.91 (Rose Criss, 2001) throughout the season before capturing a Big West championship in the event. She advanced through the NCAA preliminaries on her way to the national championship race last June at the University of Oregon.
Wallace went on to earn an eighth-place finish in the race, lowering her career-best mark once again with a time of 2:02.91. She was the first Aggie runner to earn first-team All-America honors. Wallace capped her career by finishing second on the school's all-time 1,500 list (4:20.99) and was a member of the Aggies' school-record 4x400 relay (3:37.56).
Cridebring, a current senior from Pleasant Hill, posted the Aggies' top finish at the tough NCAA West Regionals at Haggin Oaks in Sacramento last November and earned all-region accolades for the second straight year. She was timed in 20:08 which followed her seventh-place finish at the Big West Conference Championships earlier in the month. 
Cridebring is a three-time All-Big West honoree.
Wartenburg just completed his sixth year as head coach for the cross country program while completing his second as track and field head coach. He enjoyed another outstanding track season last spring, leading the Aggie women to a dominating 44-point win at the 2013 Big West Championships at Cal State Northridge. 
It was the second straight conference title for UC Davis which resulted in Wartenburg earning Big West Women's Coach of the Year honors for the second consecutive time. He's been similarly honored twice in cross country. Thirteen Aggie women qualified for the NCAA West Prelim Meet with three - Wallace, All-American Sarah Sumpter and Big West Track Athlete of the Year Ashley Marshall - advancing to the national meet.
Conley, who is coached by Wartenburg, followed her appearance in the Olympics with a strong year in both cross country and track. She highlighted the cross country portion of her year by earning a spot and competing on the U.S. team for the World Cross Country Championships in Poland.
She followed that by qualifying for the IAAFF World Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Moscow. She competed in the 5,000-meter run, advancing to the final where she finished 12th. Conley is a 2009 graduate of UC Davis and has been a member of the Aggie coaching staff since then. She competes professionally for the SRA Elite Team.
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GRAY TO GO INTO SRA HALL OF FAME

(courtesy John Schumacher, Sacramento Running Association)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. Patti Gray Bellan helped put running on the map at UC Davis by winning three NCAA individual titles, two of them in Sacramento, setting several school records and earning numerous All-America honors.

But she might have made her biggest impression a few years later on the most miserable day in California International Marathon history, overcoming 50-mph winds and driving rain to win the women's race in 1987.

Her accomplishments earned Gray Bellan a spot in the Sacramento Running Association's Hall of Fame. She and the rest of the class of 2014 -- Al Baeta, Lindsay Hyatt Barr, Harold Kuphaldt,  Heike Skaden Mansoor, John Mansoor, Michael Stember and Tim Twietmeyer - are scheduled to be inducted on Jan. 25 during a dinner at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento.

That group joins the inaugural SRA Hall of Fame class inducted last year: Rae Clark, Eileen Claugus, Chris Iwahashi, Helen Klein, Billy Mills, Paul Reese, Dennis Rinde and Linda Somers Smith.

The SRA will also present its Annual Achievement Awards, including Athlete of the Year to Shadrack Biwott.

"It made me feel good people would remember me," Gray Bellan said. "I loved running at Davis and I ran a lot in Sacramento.

"That time was really a special time. I had great teammates. I had a great coach. I loved running there so much."

She was brilliant at UC Davis. And she was unforgettable in the 1987 CIM, widely regarded as the worst storm year in the race's 31-year history.

Gray Bellan came prepared. She'd encountered snow flurries in the 1986 Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis/St. Paul, dropping out for the only time in her running career.

"I wasn't mentally prepared for the weather," she said. "I told myself I'd never make that mistake again.

"I said I need to be prepared for all conditions. If it was raining or storming, I would go out for a run.

"It had been good weather for the last five years. Northern California weather, I know it's not always perfect in December. I thought, `You can't bank on it being a blue sky day.'

It wasn't. But this time, Gray Bellan didn't flinch, surviving the elements to win in 2 hours, 40 minutes and 29 seconds.

She recalls tucking in behind a muscular male runner for awhile to protect herself. She also remembers the Aggies' men's team coming out to support her.

But what really stands out is the woman she saw on a corner along the course.

"The wind was blowing really hard and it was raining really hard. I was just thinking, `What are we doing?'" she said. "I looked up ahead to the corner. A woman had come out to cheer. She was an average-looking person, standing on the corner in the rain.

"I was kind of feeling sorry for myself. I thought, `Gee, if she can come out here and cheer us on, I can surely do this. This is what I do.' That really kind of picked me up."

She also won the Honolulu Marathon in 1984 with a 2:42:50 effort, ran a personal best 2:36:19 in the same race two years later and finished second in the women's marathon at the World University Games in 1985.

Gray Bellan made a huge impact while running for coach Sue Williams at UC Davis. She won NCAA Division II titles at 3,000 meters (9:37.09) and 5,000 meters (16:36.20) in 1982 in Sacramento and came back in 1983 to win the NCAA championship in the 10,000 (35:02.21). She also set school records in the 1,500 (4:30.74), 3,000 (9:28.24), 5,000 (16:34.87) and 10,000 (33:42.33).

"I was a pretty mediocre high school runner," said Gray Bellan, who ran at Foothill High School in Pleasanton. "I improved beyond what anybody, even myself, probably thought I could.

"Sue was just a perfect coach for me. She was a great mentor. I can't even tell you how much she means to me in my life. She's helped me in every aspect."

Gray Bellan worked as an assistant coach at UC Davis and Diablo Valley College before taking the head coaching job in cross country at Mills College in Oakland, where she met her husband Phil.

They moved to Boise 20 years ago, with Gray Bellan teaching health at a local junior high school. They have two children: Eric, 18, and Emma, 16.

The Sacramento Running Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to finding ways to encourage people of all ages and abilities to run. The SRA is committed to developing new, quality running events that appeal to a broad variety of runners.