Alyssa Poremba was determined to make her final year as a collegiate distance runner a season to remember.
After a string of remarkable races in February, she can consider that mission accomplished.
Poremba, a senior accounting and exercise science major from Bridgeview, completed the 3,000-meter race at the Chicagoland Championships at North Central College on February 15 in 10:03:32. That time improved on her previous best in the event by 20 seconds and topped the Elmhurst College record by 11.
But the new record didn’t last long. Two weeks later, Poremba placed first in both the 3,000 meters and the mile at the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin Indoor Championships in Bloomington, Illinois. Her time of 10:02:94 in the 3,000 meters established yet another personal and school best.
Poremba says her record-shattering success is the result of a renewed commitment to her sport.
“I’ve concentrated more on running this year than ever before because I know this is my last year competing in college,” she said. “Knowing that has pushed me to work harder. I’m trying to do the absolute best I can in my last year.”
On most days, that hard work begins before the sun rises. Poremba is off and running as early as 5:30 in the morning—and that’s just the first of her two daily training runs. Most afternoons, she joins her Elmhurst teammates for runs through the streets around campus that may last up to an hour. On weekends, she pushes herself through 90-minute trips.
“She is a very hard worker. She does all the things she has to do to be excellent,” said Elmhurst track and field coach Erik Guta. “That makes her a great role model for her teammates.”
That work ethic extends to Poremba’s studies. A fifth-year senior who transferred to Elmhurst from Carthage College, she had already completed the requirements for an accounting major when she decided that she was also interested in exercise science. So she is cramming all the required courses and her clinical experience for the major into her final academic year.
Her results in the classroom have been as impressive as those on the track. She is maintaining a 3.92 grade point average. (“A couple of those A minuses will really get you,” she laughed when asked about her almost-perfect grades.) And she was honored last year as an All-Academic runner by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
Poremba worked with coach Erik Guta to improve her times in the 3,000 meters during her final season of collegiate competition. At the Chicagoland Championships, she was one mile into the race when she stole a glance at her time on the course clock. She saw that she was ahead of the pace she and Guta had planned before the race. Better yet, she still felt strong.
“I decided to go for it,” she said. “I felt like this was my race.”
When she crossed the finish line and saw her time, Poremba said, she was surprised to see how greatly she had improved on her personal best. How did she celebrate her achievement?
“Well, the first thing I did was find a wall to lean against,” she laughed.
Once Poremba had regained her wind, there were congratulations from Guta and hugs from assistant coach Kelsey Plefka. Only then did Poremba learn that she had obliterated the school record, as well as her personal mark. The previous College record had been held by Kathleen Brice ’04, one of the most accomplished athletes in Elmhurst College history and a six-time All-American in cross country and track. Poremba said she and her teammates have heard a lot of stories from Guta about Brice’s excellence.
“I know what a great runner she was,” Poremba said. “To even be able to come close to her times makes me feel really good.”
It was hardly the first time Poremba has had cause to celebrate on the track. She was a national qualifier and all-region and all-conference honoree in cross country in 2013. She has also earned multiple all-conference honors in track. Her performance at the Chicagoland Championships made her Indoor Track Athlete of the Week in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin.
Poremba credits her success to hard work.
“In school, I’ve found that what you put in is what you’ll get out. Track is like that, too,” she explains. “Put in the work, and you’ll perform better in the end.”