Editor's Note: Today we begin a 9-day celebration of this year's Colorado Athletic Hall of Fame induction here at CUBuffs.com, profiling each of this year's inductees, leading up to Saturday's football game against Kansas State. Today, we look at the career of U.S. Olympian, World Championship Medalist and NCAA cross country/track national champion Kara Grgas-Wheeler Goucher. This year’s Hall of Fame festivities begin Friday, October 17, with the induction ceremonies at the Omni Interlocken Hotel & Resort (5:30 p.m. reception, with induction ceremony at 7 p.m.). The honorees will be introduced publicly at halftime of Saturday's game.
Possibly the most acclaimed and celebrated female athlete in the University of Colorado’s prestigious athletic history, Kara Goucher loves the mere simplicity in what she does. “I love running and the way it clears my head,” Goucher said. “It’s such a plain thing to do; you just go.”
During her time as a Buffalo, Goucher did things other athletes can only fathom. She became the only two-time winner of the school’s Female Athlete-of-the-Year award, for both her 1999-2000 and 2000-01 campaigns, also earning CU’s Female Career Athletic Achievement Award in 2001.
“When I was in school we did a run a few times a year up and over Flagstaff Mountain. It was really hard, but really gratifying when you were done, knowing that you had just run up a mountain. You can relate that back to almost anything in life,” Goucher said. “Not many things beat looking out over the town after conquering a tough run like that.”
A seven-time All-American (twice in cross country, five times in track) and an eight-time All-Big 12 Conference performer (three in cross country, five in track), Goucher earned her degree in Psychology, finishing her academic career with a 3.6 grade point average. She was a four-time member of the Academic All-Big 12 team and was named an Academic All-American her senior year (2000). That season, Goucher captured the NCAA’s Individual Cross Country Championship in 2000, along with championships in the 3,000 and 5,000-meter runs during the outdoor track season.
Kara Goucher won a bronze medal in the 10,000
meters at the 2007 IAAF World Championships
Though all of her individual accolades are, without any doubt, certainly well deserved, Goucher’s favorite moment as a Buffalo came competing for her team and not for herself. In 2000, before leading Colorado to the national championship, Goucher and the Buffs hosted the Big 12 Conference meet in Boulder.
“That is such a great memory. To be able to run in Boulder, where we had so much support, was a great thing,” she said.
The Buffaloes rode the wave of local fan cheer, capturing the team conference championship.
“Winning the title at home was just an awesome experience for me and everyone involved,” Goucher said. “Winning nationals was great, but winning the conference championship at home was a pretty special experience.”
In July, Goucher ran in the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., eager to accomplish the ultimate goal of competing at the Olympic Games. “It has been a lifelong dream to run there and to run well enough to make the team,” Goucher said. “Now that I live in Oregon, I had a little bit of a fan base there to watch me. It was just a great experience.”
Goucher was among a handful of American athletes to qualify for the games in multiple events, taking second place in the 10k, and winning the 5k.
After a month of stern anticipation, the former Buffalo competed in the Games of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing, China; reaching a dream only a select few ever get to experience.
“It was the ultimate feel to put on the U.S. uniform and to represent the United States at the Olympics,” Goucher said. “I think that is so many athletes’ dream, so that was a lifelong dream of mine to do. It was fantastic and I was just so excited about everything; from getting my uniform to walking out for opening ceremonies. It was hard to keep your nerves in check because it was so overwhelming.”
The former Buffalo great qualified for the finals in each of her events, finishing the 10,000-meter run in 10th place with a personal best time of 30:55.16. In the finals of the 5,000 meters, Goucher turned in the top time for the United States with a mark of 15:49.39 (ninth overall), just under eight seconds from the gold medal.
“I went out and competed to the best of my abilities on that day. It was so rewarding to compete on that stage. I have no regrets about it,” Goucher said.
Goucher is now a world-class athlete, competing at her sport’s highest level as a professional. Racing all across the planet has only enriched her appreciation and awe for the university for which she once called home.
“The atmosphere at Colorado is amazing,” Goucher said. “Everyone is really proud to be going to school there. It’s just a really good community and the fact that the school is located in such a beautiful setting is special. It’s just a really great place and has a great vibe; there isn’t another place in the world quite like CU.”
After her competitive race days are behind her, Goucher will continue to run, out of a clear love for what she does. “I like the way I feel when I’m done running,” Goucher said. “I won’t race forever, but I will run forever. I love the sport and just love being outdoors. I’ll be old and gray and still head out most days for a jog.”