Sacrifice, change pay off for Messner |

Sacrifice, change pay off for Messner

G. Sean KellyPost Independent Sports Editor

Great athletes are given gifts. They are stronger, can run faster and longer, or jump higher.But there are a number of people born with these gifts who never reach the elite level. The trip to the apex of any given sport has to be earned both with sweat and, as important, a willingness to take chances and sacrifice to chase a dream.After a dozen years of toil and sacrifice, Carbondales Carrie Messner captures a piece of that dream today when she lines up to compete in the womens 3,000-meter steeplechase at the International Association of Athletics Federation World Championships in Helsinki, Finland.You work pretty hard for a long time, the 28-year-old said before leaving for Europe in early July. Ive been running since I was 16, so thats a long time. Its a pretty cool thing to accomplish and Im pretty excited.

Its been a zig-zag road to the World Championships for Messner. After earning All-America honors four times as a miler for the University of Colorado, but battling injuries throughout her career, she took a years hiatus from the sport. She decided to come back to the track and showed well as a professional 1,500-meter runner, then dabbled in the 5,000. It wasnt until she decided to try steeplechase that she found her track niche.In her fourth time competing in the steeple, Messner took third place at the 2004 Olympic Trials, a place that would have qualified her for the summer games if the womens steeple was included on the schedule.I just needed something different, Messner said. The 1,500, I had been running forever, it felt like.I always wanted to run the steeple. It just looked fun, she added. Its like taking something off the trails and putting it on the track.She still competes in events that dont involve barriers or water pits. Messner qualified to run in the U.S. Nationals in the 1,500, but opted to focus on the steeple at the event. She also ran her personal-best time in the 5,000 this year.But right now the steeple is where its at for Messner. And its the willingness to stick with track, a job that doesnt pay well for most athletes including Messner then not being afraid to change tack mid-course that has been the key to her competing in the worlds most prestigious annual track and field meet. But taking chances and taking advantage of opportunities is the normal course for Messner.I was raised definitely to take every opportunity presented to you, and this is a pretty great one to be able to have, Messner said. My parents have lived some very rich lives, and they taught us to do the same thing. You have a great opportunity, dont sit around and wait Go for it.

She has opted for the uncertain (and low-paying) life of a professional runner instead of settling down. She works two part-time jobs in the Roaring Fork Valley as a veterinary assistant at Alpine Animal Hospital and also at Susans Flowers & Gifts in Basalt in order to fit in her travel and training schedules. The part-time jobs, along with a sponsorship from Asics, supplement her full-time gig as a runner.Its not an easy sport to make it in, thats for sure, Messner said. And the sport Ive chosen, theres just not as much prize money available. Its not like Im not working as hard as everybody in the other events.Messner admitted that while the prize money isnt there because of the newness of the womens steeple, it is nice being a part of the first womens steeple at the World Championships.

Messner is one of 35 steeplers who will be part of the inaugural womens steeplechase at the World Championships. The mens steeplechase long has been a staple of the World Championships and Olympics, but the womens event is just now making the turn into the international arena.To be able to be part of the very first steeple at the World Championships is a pretty unique experience a once-in-a lifetime opportunity, Messner said. I mean, Im hoping to make another Worlds team, but this is kind of a sweet one to be a part of.

Being part of the World Championships is sweet, but standing on the podium would be much sweeter.Messner enters the meet ranked tied for 10th in the world, based on each runners top six results from the last 12 months. Her time of 9 minutes, 41.37 seconds is the 16th best among the times posted in 2005 by runners at Worlds. The time ranks sixth in her heat. The top three finishers in each of three heats, along with the next six fastest times qualify for the finals to be held Monday.Ideally, of course, Im going to win, Messner said. But am I to that point this year? I dont know. Id really like to be on the podium, which I dont think is out of reach. I think, more than anything, Im going to go over there and take the experience for everything its worth.Messner finished in third place at the U.S. Nationals behind Elizabeth Jackson (9:39.78) and Lisa Galaviz (9:40.58).Ugandas Docus Inzikuru has the fastest time in the world in 2005 at 9:15.04 and Polands Wioletta Janowska who is running in Messners heat is second at 9:25.09. No one else is under 9:30.Its going to be more competitive, for sure, Messner said. Its my first one so Im planning on racing for place in the meet and that usually takes you to a good time.I just need to keep my head together and go run with everything Ive been given and worked for.

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