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Ali Kallner: Running miles with a record breaking smile

Ali Kallner attributes much of her success in both track and life to not taking herself too seriously. It’s hard to believe this when one sees she is the Colorado State University record holder for the 3,000-meter race. She finished with a time of 9:26.93, jumping up from her previous best, which stood at number 20 on CSU’s all-time list for the race.

After Kallner passed the finish line and collapsed, the unofficial times showed her missing the record by about a tenth of a second. According to Art Siemers, CSU’s head distance coach, Kallner still had a smile on her face. However, when the official times came out, she was even happier as she found out she had broken the record and beat her PR by over 30 seconds.


two girls hug after a track race
Senior Ali Kallner gives junior Lily Tomasula-Martin a hug after Tomasula-Martin competed in a 5,000-meter race at the Iowa State Classic Indoor track meet on Jan. 15. (Matt Begeman | The Collegian)

Kallner hails from Arizona, where she ran track and field and cross country at Chaparral High School. Starting her young life as a soccer player, she realized running on the track was her calling in high school and began to focus on the sport, training to be able to make it to the collegiate level.

“When I was growing up, my parents competed pretty competitively in endurance sports, like … triathlons, marathons and bike racing,” Kallner said. “So from a young age I was exposed to all of that, but I really didn’t get into track until high school.”

Kallner not only excels on the track, but is a star student at the University as well. She has won the Mountain West Scholar-Athlete award six times and the Academic All-Mountain West award five times during her tenure at CSU.

Kallner looked into CSU for its esteemed veterinary program, though she now studies biochemistry. Academics are a big part of Kallner’s success, as she manages to balance academics, a social life and athletics. After college, she plans to go to physical therapy school and stay involved in the business of athletics.

“It was kind of mutual recruitment here at CSU,” Kallner said. “I showed some interest, and then they showed some interest in me. I was pretty drawn to Colorado as a state. I grew up in Phoenix, and I was pretty over jumping in showers after runs.”

Kallner established contact with Siemers, who was highly interested in her for both academics and sports. Five years down the road, Kallner has become an established leader on the team.

“Ali (Kallner) is really positive almost all the time,” Siemers said. “Because she is so coachable, it makes our relationship very successful. It’s nice when you have people that are very intelligent and want to learn things.”

Siemers noted the amount of dedication Kallner has put in during her years at CSU. Coming from a low altitude state can certainly be a challenge for athletes, but Siemers said that Kallner had spent a lot of time in Colorado, helping her adapt. Still, it took five years and a lot of training for Kallner to get to the record-breaking position that she’s at now.

girls race the 1500m
Distance runner Dominique Ward (right), Ali Kallner (middle) and Roxy Trotter (left) run in the 1500-meter race on Saturday, April 7, 2018, at the CU Boulder Track Invitational. (Matt Begeman | The Collegian)

When Kallner was a freshman, her high school coach was arrested for sexual misconduct with a minor. The jailing of her coach affected the way she thought of the sport in general, and she was unable to reconcile how someone who was such an important mentor to her would do such a thing. The camaraderie of the Colorado State track and field squad helped her return to form.


“I think that really affected my mentality and mental game in track, and it manifested physically, as it tends to do in these kinds of sports,” Kallner said. “I didn’t think that I could ever replace what he was to me, but this coaching staff has met my expectations and beyond.”

Kallner has a lot of trust in Siemers, who she sees as a mentor. He often recommends training styles for her and possible events. For example, Kallner started running in the steeplechase event as per the recommendation of coach Siemers, and the event has become a favorite of hers, as well as a successful one.

Siemers said that they hope for Kallner to become an All-American from the event once the outdoor season starts. Siemers, head coach Brian Bedard and the rest of the staff were instrumental in helping her regain a love for the sport.

“Typically, as a coach, I look at athletes that I think have a little bit more grit (for the steeplechase) and are not intimidated by the barriers,” Siemers said. “It takes a unique person on the distance team to be successful at the steeplechase, and I just thought Ali (Kallner) had it.”

When Kallner first started training for the steeplechase, the coaches had to simulate the water pit with a sand pit and were worried about Kallner’s preparation for the race. Yet, when the gun finally went off on her first steeplechase, even after falling in water pits, she came in first.

“It is pretty special in a sense that you’re lining up expecting pain and having to grind some things out,” Kallner said on why she prefers distance running to the shorter sprint events. “It gives me an escape from stress versus an added stress.”

The redshirt senior doesn’t just have to focus on school and academics. Being a part of the track and field team means that Kallner needs to maintain a healthy eating and sleeping schedule, which is notoriously hard for students to do.

“The big thing about being a student-athlete at the Division I level is trying to maintain not only your stress and trying to limit that with school and all the things about being a college student,” Siemers said. “Trying to make sure you have a meal before you work out so you have enough energy to get through and trying to have an all-around balanced diet (is important).”

Balance, both on and off the track, is key to Kallner’s game.

“I would attribute (breaking the record) to trying to find the line between not taking myself too seriously and doing everything I can to be good at this sport,” Kallner said. “I think that’s a goal that a lot of distance runners and competitive athletes struggle with in general.”

Leo Friedman can be reached at or @LeoFriedman13 on Twitter. 

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