South Tahoe’s Sullivan signs with St. Mary’s College |

South Tahoe’s Sullivan signs with St. Mary’s College

South Tahoe senior Ally Sullivan signed Thursday, Nov. 16, to attend St. Mary's College in Moraga, California.
Bill Rozak / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

Ally Sullivan was close to giving up her running career.

It’s a good thing she didn’t.

The South Tahoe senior went through a lot of hardships during her junior year and it seemed like one thing after another went wrong.

She broke her fibula, or calf bone, at the beginning of cross country season in the fall. And then after rehabilitation by running in a swimming pool in the school’s spectacular sports medicine department, she found she was iron deficient in the spring, during track season. She didn’t run as well as she would have liked, but still competed in the Nevada state meet.

“I was really down on myself and thought about quitting,” Sullivan said.

She didn’t give up, persevered through adversity and inked her intentions Thursday, Nov. 16, to attend St. Mary’s College, a private division I school in Moraga, California.

She signed the letter with her mom, Deni, father, Dan, younger brother Matt, older brother Josh and coach Nicki Neira surrounding her at a table near the strength and conditioning room.

“It’s amazing,” Sullivan said after signing. “To have this happen, to pick myself up and go to college, it has been a lifelong dream for me. I’m really excited.”

She will attend St. Mary’s on a partial academic scholarship and if she can shave 10 seconds off her mile time, Sullivan said the school will up its ante and pay for more.

It was in the fourth grade where Sullivan gained an appreciation for running.

“There was one spot left for a track meet in elementary school (South Tahoe Middle School), and it was the mile, and nobody wanted to do the mile in the fourth grade, and she just killed it,” said Deni. “She fell in love with running and this is something she worked really hard for since elementary school.”

In fifth grade it was full bore. She qualified for Junior Olympic national events and traveled across the country, as far as the East Coast, to compete during her time in middle school.

Her appetite to run grew even stronger once she went to high school. As a freshman, she said everyday seemed like a new adventure.

She was the only girl on the team her sophomore season by the end of the year and was the lone senior on the team this season. She was a team captain for the last three years.

“My freshman year was pretty special,” said Sullivan who is a four-time state qualifier in cross country and three-time qualifier in track and field with her spring season to go. “There were a lot of senior guys on the team and they were all my best friends, my training buddies. It was really fun. I loved it. Even now with the girls’ team, how we’re doing, I feel overwhelmed with the fortune I’ve had.”

“She would always encourage the other runners, especially on hard workouts, either while she was doing the workout or after she was done,” Neira said. She’d encourage them to not give up and go out there and always try their hardest. Dedication on and off the field, that’s Ally.”

Sullivan plans to major in kinesiology or international business. She enjoys working with the teams at South Tahoe and thinks she might want to take it further. She’s also intrigued with today’s economy and the politics involved with it.

“I want to know how the body works and how I can make somebody faster and a better athlete,” Sullivan said. “Maybe I can teach myself.”

And maybe learn the best and fastest way to shave those 10 seconds as soon as possible.

She visited St. Mary’s during the summer, her sole focus of colleges, and two days after, a coach from the track team called and asked for her schedule because they were putting together their training regimen.

She wanted them and they wanted her. She’s three hours away and her parents plan to watch every race they can. Her dad, who works at PG&E in San Ramon, will likely have more opportunities than mom.

When she’s not training or keeping her grades at the highest level, she dances with the school’s dance team. She’s been dancing for 14 years. She likes hiking and hanging out with Dude, her dog, and, “of course” you’ll see her on the slopes enjoying every powder day of the winter season.

“I’m definitely the outdoorsy Tahoe person,” Sullivan said.

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