By Marty Gordon
For the past five years, Christiansburg native Carmen Graves has battled multiple foot injuries that have kept her away from her event, the steeplechase.
Now, though, she is back after qualifying this past week for the U.S. Olympic trials.
“The biggest factor in getting back to personal best shape is being able to train consistently over the past three years with no major injuries or disruptions,” Graves said. “My current coach and I have made it a priority to put my mental and physical health first. Our motto is 80% fit, 100% healthy,” she said.
Needless to say, she is excited about qualifying for the trials.
“It’s so meaningful because I’ve worked so hard for the last year to accomplish this goal, and it’s amazing to finally see it through,” Graves said. “Qualifying this second time is so much more meaningful because my husband (Sean Stetler) also coaches me now. He has been by my side through all the good and bad days and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. It feels like we accomplished this goal together,” she said by email.
Graves initially met the Olympic qualifying standard of 9.53 in 2016 with a time of 9.52, but subsequently suffered an injury that sat her down.
This year the committee lowered the standard to 9:50, which worried her because she hadn’t run under 9:50 in over six years.
“I ended up qualifying with a personal best time of 9:47 at the Portland Track Fest (May 27). It’s exciting because I know that I can run faster. I fell in the water pit and still ran a personal best in Portland so I am excited to see how fast I can run while staying on my feet,” Graves said.
Her training regimen has become intense with two track workouts and one long run weekly. She puts in close to 60 miles each week.
A 2009 graduate of Christiansburg High School, Graves now lives in Denver, works as a paraprofessional at High Plains Elementary School, and coaches track and field at Englewood High School.
The Olympic trials are set for Eugene, Ore., later this month, and the summer Olympics are slated to begin July 23 in Tokyo, Japan.
The steeplechase trials will be available for local viewing on June 24 at 9 p.m. on NBC Sports.