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2015 Woman of the Year finalist: Colleen Quigley

The former Florida State runner chose to be a college athlete instead of a professional model and hasn’t looked back

Despite growing up with a mom who ran marathons, a dad with more than 25 years of experience as a high school cross country and track coach and an older brother who became a professional distance runner, a young Colleen Quigley shunned running shoes in favor of those worn for tap, jazz and ballet. Then modeling beckoned. Running, it seemed, would be an afterthought.

Now, Quigley has an NCAA steeplechase national championship, multiple conference titles, a spot on a professional running team, Olympic dreams and, most importantly, no regrets.

As a high school freshman, she decided to join the cross country team to keep in shape for soccer tryouts. Nerves, though, kept her away from soccer, and she has been running ever since. Throughout high school, she took modeling jobs that caused her to miss as many as 30 days in a semester, which her parents and school allowed as long as she kept her grades high.

As her successful high school running career wound down, she faced a decision: Sign with a New York modeling agency or commit to a Division I track and field team. Quigley had come to value her education and found running to be fulfilling, so she turned down a promising modeling career and committed to Florida State University.

Through her four years at the school, she accumulated multiple awards for a stellar academic record and set the school record in her best event – the steeplechase. She was forced to watch teammates train and compete without her after a season-ending injury during her junior year. It hurt – not the injury, but having to sit and watch – and made her realize how important running had become. She returned to capture the national championship in the steeplechase in 2015.

After graduating this year, Quigley landed a spot on a professional running team. Given the opportunities ahead of her – a chance to compete around the world and, perhaps, in the Olympics – she is certain that choosing running over dance or modeling was the right decision.

“I am proud and humbled to be a role model to young runners and to show them that it’s possible: You can run in college, make it into a career and take it even farther,” she said. “You can really excel in something you’re passionate about.”