NORTHFIELD, Minn. -- It is assumed that a college student-athlete who dominates his or her sport was also a strong performer in high school, which is usually the case. But every once in a while, a good athlete comes along whose championship pedigree blossoms during their collegiate career.
Without a doubt, Simone Childs-Walker of Carleton College completes her decorated Knights' run as one of the most, if not the most, dominant distance runners in the annals of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC).
“I realize as a coach that I am watching history being made, not by a highly recruited athlete, but by an individual that made the commitment to become the best student-athlete that she was capable of becoming,” said Donna Ricks, the Carleton women's cross country and track coach. “Simone has earned academic and athletic honors that will forever be acknowledged in the history of Carleton College.”
The numbers speak for themselves - nine first-place finishes at the MIAC Indoor Track and Field Championships, six more conference titles in the outdoor season and one in cross country. She has posted 12 All-American showings in her four-year career. She won both the 3,000- and 5,000-meter run titles each of her four years at the MIAC Indoor meet and duplicated a similar feat (dual titles in the 5,000- and 10,000-meter runs) three times in Outdoor competition.
Most amazingly, Childs-Walker has garnered All-MIAC honors in each of the 21 events she has participated in at MIAC meets. This includes an unprecedented sweep of the three longest races run in the Indoor Championships her junior year - the mile, the 3K and the 5K.
Surprisingly, Childs-Walker had an unspectacular high school running career. The Seattle native only started running as a sophomore and joined the track team a year later at Lakeside High School. “I wanted to try a sport my sophomore year, but didn’t want to play volleyball or soccer,” she said. “That left cross country, which I fell in love with.”
She ran on the JV team that season before earning a spot on the varsity for her final two seasons. She joined the track team in the spring of her junior year and was a solid, unpretentious runner. “I never made it to the state meet,” Childs-Walker said. “I didn’t take running seriously in high school. There were some health issues that slowed me down, too.”
When it came time to look at colleges, Childs-Walker wanted to attend a Liberal Arts school with very strong academics.
She also sought a school that would provide a chance for her to explore living in a different part of the country. A friend and former high school teammate of Childs-Walker’s had gone to Carleton and was happy there. “I narrowed it down to three schools and visited all of them,” she said. “When I visited, I fell in love with Carleton. I liked the feel of the school and the people I met.”
She took a year off before enrolling at Carleton and it was during this time that Childs-Walker began to run seriously. “I ran a lot,” she said. “More than I ever had.” Her high school, coach served as a training mentor, offering her suggestions on how to improve. Childs-Walker listened, and her development continued.
Childs-Walker arrived at Carleton in the fall of 2007 and joined the cross country team. Ricks admits not knowing what to expect from the first-year runner, but was quickly won over as Childs-Walker finished third at the MIAC Cross Country Championship and went on to qualify for the NCAA Meet.
She would add a second-place finish at the MIAC Meet as a sophomore, a third-place showing as a junior and the individual championship this fall. That medalist performance helped the Knights claim the team conference championship and gave her a top-three finish at the MIAC meet in each of her four seasons.
Childs-Walker went on to become only the second woman in Carleton history to qualify for four NCAA Cross Country Championships. Her best showing there came her sophomore year when she placed 11th and earned All-American distinction. This fall, she was All-American Honorable Mention, placing 46th.
Her dominance in the indoor track season is unmatched. She swept the individual championships in the 3,000- and 5,000-meter runs and added the mile championship as a junior. Childs-Walker was named the MIAC's 2012 Outstanding Women's Track Athlete, and she received the 2011 Women's Outstanding Performance of the Meet award for her win in the 5K. She qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 5K each year and garnered All-American honors each time. Childs-Walker placed seventh as a senior, after three consecutive third place finishes.
Outdoor track has been more of the same. Childs-Walker claimed the MIAC title in both the 5,000 and 10,000-meter runs as a freshman, sophomore and junior. This spring, she took second in the 5K and third in the 10K behind teammate Alison Smyth. Childs-Walker was named the MIAC's 2011 Outstanding Women's Track Athlete.
She qualified for nationals all four years times in outdoor track in seven total events, and turned each of those into an All-American performance. As a freshman, she took third in the 5K and eighth in the 10K. She followed that with fourth- (2010) and fifth-place (2011) showings in the 5K and third-, fourth- and eighth-place finishes in the 10K.
“As a coach, you dream of having an athlete that possess the same amount of passion and work-ethic that you have for the sport in which you coach,” stated Coach Ricks. “She demonstrates that passion every day she attends practice and every time she competes.”
Childs-Walker has received a variety of academic honors as well, garnering All-Academic All-MIAC, Academic All-District and Academic All-American honors throughout her collegiate career. Earlier this week, Childs-Walker was selected as the MIAC's nominee for the prestigious NCAA Woman of the Year award, which honors senior student-athletes who have distinguished themselves throughout their collegiate careers in the areas of academic achievement, athletics excellence, service, and leadership.
Childs-Walker graduated with Philosophy degree and a near-perfect 3.96 grade-point average this spring, and she plans to attend medical school in the fall, “At this point, I am leaning toward Primary Care or family practice,” she said. “But I am keeping my options open.”
While her tangible accomplishments both in competition and in the classroom will long be cherished at Carleton, Childs-Walker's coach thinks her contributions to the Knights' program go beyond record times and All-American honors. The determination she's displayed throughout her journey serves as an inspiration to her teammates, and a constant reminder of the heights one can reach with the proper dedication.
“Simone possesses the work-ethic, the dedication and all the qualities a coach dreams of in an athlete,” said Ricks. “But what Simone really possesses is the ability to motivate and inspire the entire men’s and women’s cross country and track and field teams at Carleton College every time she competes by showing us that our goals and aspirations can become reality.”