By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director
SALEM, Ore. -- Kimber Mattox ('11) had an outstanding career as a student-athlete at Willamette University. She was successful as a cross country runner and as a steeplechase competitor during the track and field season. She earned All-America honors three times. Now she has extended her success to include trail running, as well as obstacle course and mountain running.
While running for Willamette, Mattox placed sixth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships in 2009 to earn her first All-America award. She took 35th place at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in 2010 to add another All-America honor. She gained All-America status a third time by finishing in second place in the steeplechase at the 2011 NCAA Championships.
She is ninth all-time on Willamette's cross country lists for 5,000 meters (17:56.88) and 6,000 meters (21:46.7). She holds Bearcat school record in the 1,500-meter run and the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Her top time in the 1,500 was 4:28.11 and her best time in the steeplechase was 10:23.34, which ranked seventh at the time in NCAA Division III history.
In addition, Mattox is listed third all-time at Willamette in the 5,000-meter run. Her fastest time for the Bearcats was 17:10.28.
Mattox has continued to be a strong runner since graduating from Willamette with a bachelor's degree in exercise science in 2011.
"Running was pretty low-key (but competitive at Willamette), because academics are such a focus there," Mattox said. "That helped me to continue my running career for as long as I have. I left Willamette still excited to be running … to see what I could do."
She competed for one season each in track and field and cross country as a graduate student at the University of Oregon, where she earned All-America honors in the steeplechase. She currently participates in track, trail running and obstacle course events for Team Run Eugene.
"Last year was when I got started," Mattox said. "One of my coaches had mentioned the possibility of trail running, and one of my friends was going to try an obstacle race. I tried a couple of trail races last fall (2014) and that was also when I got started in obstacle course racing."
She has won back-to-back XTERRA Trail Run World Championships, completing half marathons over outdoor trails to claim the 2014 and 2015 titles. The XTERRA Championships are held in Hawaii each year. She also won the Warrior Dash World Championship for obstacle course running in 2014 and the USATF Trail Half Championship in 2015.
Mattox placed sixth and was the top U.S. finisher at the World Mountain Running Championships this year. Her efforts helped the USA earn the silver medal.
The transition to spending part of the year as a trail, obstacle course and mountain runner was a smooth change for Mattox.
"Coming off the track … it was just a good time for me to try some new things … opportunities to race," she said.
Since trail, obstacle course and mountain running are almost always held on natural surfaces, they provide a different experience from running on a track.
"What makes trail running unique is the places you get to see," Mattox noted. "In Hawaii, there's a lot of uphill running, but once you get there, you get a great view."
It's easy for Mattox to break each race into segments, especially when she's racing on an obstacle course.
"There are all of these little obstacles along the way that you can focus on. You get your reward for overcoming each of those challenges and gaining energy from it," Mattox commented.
In addition to her success as a trail runner, mountain runner and obstacle course runner, Mattox has remained a top competitor on the 3,000-meter steeplechase. She was a finalist at the USA Track and Field Outdoor National Championships in the steeplechase in 2013 and 2015. Her personal-best time in the steeplechase is 9:51.29.
She hopes to achieve a qualifying time in the steeplechase to compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials, which are set for Eugene, Oregon, during July 1-10, 2016. The top finishers at the Olympic Trials will have a chance to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, scheduled for Aug. 12-21, 2016.
"I'll have to get near my personal record in order to qualify (for the Olympic Trials)," she said. "I have to get back into doing some faster workouts, while still building my overall fitness … get strong so I can be fit and healthy in May, June, July."
When she isn't training or competing, Mattox is busy at the University of Oregon. She is helping coach the Ducks in cross country and track and field. She also teaches classes in human physiology. In all of her duties at U of O, she is able to utilize her Willamette major in exercise science and her master's degree in physiology, which she received from U of O in 2013.
"The idea of different seasons … I like that," Mattox said. "Track season is when I concentrate on running fast. In the summer and the fall, my training is a little less structured. I do a lot of longer, hilly runs … out on the trail …. and then doing longer threshold-type workouts. For the obstacle course racing, I'll do a little more strength training or circuit training. That keeps me healthy and ready to race."