From runways to running tracks, she claims titles
She studied classical piano until she was 22, competed in her first beauty pageant at the age of five (claiming the Miss Phoenix and Miss Southeast Arizona pageant crowns), and poses as a photo double – her hands have appeared on episodes of the CBS show “NCIS.”
Yes, it’s safe to say that Vivien Wadeck is not your average running sensation.
With a background that involved more piano lessons and beauty tips than road races and speed work on the track, Wadeck began competing for the Golden Eagle cross country and track and field programs last fall. And in a short amount of time, she has quickly become one of the best distance runners in the NCAA Division II.
Wadeck captured the California Collegiate Athletic Association cross country championship in fall 2008, while leading the Golden Eagles to a second-place finish. She succeeded 2007 champion Karla Alburez, giving the University back-to-back individual champions. She also went on to finish eighth in the nation and earned her first All-America award.
Then, in her first season of indoor track and field, Wadeck punched her ticket to the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championship, which will be held in San Angelo, Texas, May 21-23.
Her qualifying run for the 5,000-meter race was a sensational 16:39.75 – several seconds faster than the automatic qualifying standard – at the Ben Brown Invitational in Fullerton.
It was the third-fastest time in the program’s history, behind only two-time national champion Sylvia Mosqueda and current assistant coach Gretchen Corrales (Lohr).
“I was hoping to run a 17-flat or lower, but I never thought I’d run a 16:39,” Wadeck said.
She went on to win the 5,000-meter championship at the Cal-Nevada Championships in a prestigious, mostly NCAA Division I event in late March. She also placed fourth in the 1,500 in that meet.
Along with pageants and piano, Wadeck was also a cheerleader and swimmer in high school. She did show a glimmer of her running ability before she graduated, and continued to run for a year in community college, but injuries eventually slowed her down and she gave up for a while.
A few years out of running, working at a restaurant in Southern California, Wadeck was convinced by the chef to train for the 2007 Los Angeles Marathon – which she completed in 3 hours, 56 minutes. After running in some open 5,000-meter road races, she earned a spot on the Glendale College team. There, she became second in the state in the 1,500 meters and third in the state in the 5,000 meters, ultimately impressing Corrales.
Since joining Cal State L.A.’ s team, Wadeck has narrowed her focus to completing her degree in broadcast journalism and running. She has found time, however, to also work as a photo double and hand model on occasion.
“I’m more serious about my running,” she said. “I was always very competitive, but I was trying to do too many things. My life now revolves around running and school. I made a big sacrifice to do this and it’s paid off.”
Corrales thinks Wadeck’s best days as a runner are definitely ahead. “She is very driven and she loves to compete. Vivien doesn’t like to be mediocre, she wants to be the best,” Corrales said. “She’s still pretty new to the sport and I think she can run much faster than she is now. I think she has [the potential] to make an Olympic team.”
From the history book: Top track and field, cross country alumni
Sylvia Mosqueda: School record holder in the 800, 1,500, 3,000, 5,000, 10,000. Won NCAA championships in cross country (1987) and 10,000 meters in track and field (1988). The track championship was in NCAA Division I.
Sandra Farmer-Patrick: Olympic silver medalist in the 400-meter hurdles, former American record holder. School record-holder in the 400 hurdles.
Sherri Howard: Olympic gold medalist in the 4x400 relay. NCAA Division I champion in 400 meters in 1985. School record-holder in the 400 meters.
Mal Whitfield: Two-time Olympic champion in the 800 meters, won a total of five Olympic medals. School record holder in the 800.