**Editor Note: Due to the spread of COVID-19, the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo is postponed until 2021. In addition, the U.S Olympic Team Trials — Track and Field will be postponed to June 2021.**
There’s a lot on the line for Chanelle Price. The 29-year-old professional middle-distance runner recently moved across the country to begin training with Oregon Track Club Elite in hopes of representing Team USA at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. She made the transition less than eight months before the U.S. Olympic Team Trials — Track & Field at the newly renovated Hayward Field in Eugene.
With a number of accomplishments under her belt, she knows what it feels like to take home the gold from a world-class race. She also knows what it feels like to struggle — with anxiety, multiple surgeries and blood clots in her lungs. But she’s on the other side of those setbacks now and says she’s more driven than ever.
Putting in the Miles
On a recent sunny Saturday in south Eugene, Price seemed to float as she ran repeated 300-meter sprints with her Oregon Track Club Elite teammate Sabrina Southerland, all the while making it look easy. Their faces were focused as they sprinted down the backside of the track, but the two smiled and laughed with each other between intervals, casually sharing the track with local high school athletes.
There are a few words that repeatedly come up when Price is the subject of conversation: “kind,” “strong” and “fast” are some of the most common. Easygoing and sweet, she is also tenacious and eager to put in the work to reach her goals.
At 29, Price is determined to use her running abilities — something she’s described as a gift — to make it to the Olympics. She also hopes to race in the World Athletics Championships in Eugene. “I don’t think I’ve reached my full potential yet,” Price says. “So I’m just hoping that under this new program, we can at least scratch the surface of that.”
Despite the risk involved with moving to a new program, Price says she can handle the pressure and can push herself to achieve more. Her athletic accomplishments seem to echo that sentiment.
Price set her 800-meter personal record in 2015 with a time of 1:59.10. She is the only American woman ever to win a gold medal in the 800 meter at the World Athletics Indoor Championships, a feat she accomplished in 2014. She also previously won three gold medals as a member of Team USA’s 4×800-meter relay at the World Athletics Championships in 2014, 2015 and 2017.
Coast to Coast
Originally from the East Coast, Price’s path to Oregon is made up of equal parts determination, faith and chance. Born in New Jersey and raised in Pennsylvania, the University of Tennessee graduate moved to Eugene in fall 2019 to join OTC Elite after years of training, racing, injuries and program changes left her at a crossroads: Walk away from the sport altogether, return home to Easton, Pennsylvania, or take a chance on a new city, new coach and new approach to track.
“I realized I can always move home,” Price says. “And this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so why not just give it a try?” She chose TrackTown USA and is thrilled to call Eugene home, at least for now. “There’s just no better place to run than Pre’s Trail,” Price says, smiling widely. “These soft trails? You just cannot beat it.”
Track Chose Her
Price didn’t always have such an affinity for running. In fact, she was relatively unconvinced that track was her sport for the majority of her youth. But track chose Price, she likes to say. After her parents encouraged her to focus more seriously on the sport, she began to compete and excel. By the end of high school in 2008, Price was a prep sensation and had won a series of titles and set a handful of records.
Just after she graduated, the 17-year-old Price was invited to run the 800-meter race at the Prefontaine Classic, in Eugene. The lineup was stacked with world-class runners, including 35-year-old Maria Mutola, a six-time Olympian from Mozambique, competing at her 16th and final race at the Pre Classic.
“My coach told me I could win and I believed him,” Price recalls. “I didn’t care that I was racing an Olympic athlete; I was like, ‘I’m Chanelle Price!’ I was fearless.” In the race, Price pulled away from Mutola and took the lead for about 700 meters. Mutola ultimately won, but Price knew at that point that she was fast.
Price was offered a scholarship to attend the University of Tennessee and began to compete on the track and cross-country teams. But like most athletes, her career has faced some setbacks, including several stress fractures, two foot surgeries and a pulmonary embolism caused by blood clots in her lungs. Price sometimes struggled with anxiety, which affected her ability to get out of her own head.
But she’s in a different place now — mentally, physically and emotionally — and she’s not ready to give up just yet. Mark Rowland, her coach says that it was Price’s drive to improve that first caught his attention.
“She has the hunger and she knows what she wants to do,” Rowland says. “She kept knocking on that door, and I’m always looking for people who want to be here, who are hungry for the direction to get them back on track.”
Rowland says he’s still learning about Price, her skills and how to help build on them. “She’s been successful but has not achieved what she wanted to for a number of reasons,” he observes. “But she’s committed, she’s healthy, she knows herself and her body, and she’s going to give it everything she can to get there.”
Throughout the course of her athletic career, Price has trained in a number of locations and climates — from Pennsylvania to Tennessee, Arizona to Oregon. She’s also raced all over the world but feels the most energy and support in TrackTown USA. “There’s nothing like those fans” at Hayward Field, she says.
Price says that even outside of the stadium, she feels enveloped in the love and support of TrackTown. “It’s funny because Sabrina and I will be doing our runs on Pre’s Trail [the 4-mile trail at Alton Baker Park in Eugene], and we’ll have people stop us to take a photo with them or cheer for us like, ‘You’ve got this, ladies, we’re behind you!’”
While Price is a newcomer to Oregon, she’s already established a few favorite places to train and to fuel her 45-mile-per-week running and strength-training regimen. “I am a foodie, so if I do go out, it’s usually to get food,” she says with a laugh. “Sabrina and I have a sort of tradition after our long runs — we go to The Original Pancake House.” The two also enjoy McMenamins East 19th Cafe for a burger for a “cheat” meal and Voodoo Doughnut for a “cheat” dessert. “It’s all about balance, right?” she says with a laugh.
A number of professional runners have retired from the sport long before they turned 30, and Price knows that at age 29, her career is nearing its final stage. But that thought, she says, only inspires her to work harder and give the sport everything she’s got.
“What I have is definitely a gift,” she says. “I want to give this every chance I can to grow and improve, so I can walk away saying, ‘I used every ounce of that gift that I could.’”
Hayward Field events
Postponed to October 4, 2020
U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field
Postponed until June 18-27, 2021