A girl toes up to the line, and with the bang of the gun, she explodes from her starting position. One lap later, she won her first race, and five years later she committed to UC Berkeley.
Lauren Calcagno started running in seventh grade at Arden Middle School and she has loved the sport ever since.
Calcagno decided to try track because of her mom’s success with running in high school and proved that talent runs in the family
“My first race ever was a 400 meter race and I went out there and won by like 50 meters,” said Calcagno. “I realized I’m actually good at this, I was surprised like ‘hey I don’t actually suck at this,’ because I’m not that good at other sports.”
Ever since her first taste of racing, Calcagno has only improved. She explored some distance running in middle school, which eventually led to running cross country in high school.
“I got really into it and I started running a lot,” said Calcagno. “I did some half marathons in middle school and I continued to run track and I decided to continue that in high school and that’s why I’m here now.”
Her hard work and determination helped her reach heights in academics and athletics, which ultimately led to her commitment to Berkeley.
In the college recruitment process, student-athletes can be offered official visits based on their skill level and how proactive they are contacting coaches. Calcagno updated the Berkeley coach throughout her senior year of cross country, where her team qualified for state, and earned an official visit.
“My official visit at Berkeley was very fun,” said Calcagno. “I got to stay in the dorms and see the trails that the team runs on.”
In addition to admittance into a prestigious university, running has changed Calcagno’s life through the friendships the team provided.
“Running has changed me by bringing me my closest friends and people that I know I will stay in contact with for the rest of my life,” said Calcagno.
The Rio cross country and track teams are truly special to Calcagno because the athletes endure hard training together, bringing them closer every step of the way.
“It’s not a team where the seniors don’t really talk to the freshman,” said Calcagno. “Some of my best friends are underclassmen and I love that about the team. It’s a very diverse and random group of people, but we are all out there working hard and pushing ourselves.”
Calcagno not only expressed her gratitude for her teammates, but for her coaches. Their guidance and encouragement – and occasional teasing – helped put a smile on Calcagno’s face during the hardest days of training and stressful hours leading up to her races.
Aside from her coaches, Calcagno drew inspiration from professional athletes to push through the pain of the 800 meter dash, a two lap event in which she broke the school record. Local Olympian Kim Conley even gave her advice for sections during track season.
Calcagno also lives vicariously through the life of world champions Emma Coburn and Shalane Flanagan. The running community is unique in that the professionals care about the next generation and often exchange personal messages with their fans.
“I love running for millions of reasons but I would say I love running the most because of the running community,” said Calcagno.
Running is not for most, but those who put their minds to it can push the limits of speed in unbelievable ways. For Calcagno, running left an imprint on her life that she won’t forget, especially as she heads to Berkeley to compete in both track and cross country.
“Running has given me something to do everyday that I love and an opportunity to challenge myself daily,” said Calcagno. “I don’t think in other sports I would have found that, and it also gave me something to do in college.”