Mark Morical
The Bulletin

Dating back to her high school days, Kimber Mattox has always been a multifaceted athlete.

During her sophomore year at Bend High, she won the cross-country state championship a day after playing a full 80-minute soccer match for the Lava Bears.

After a collegiate career that included soccer, track and cross-country at Willamette University in Salem and a season of running at Oregon, Mattox has settled into a career as a professional runner, college instructor and volunteer coach.

The jack-of-all-trades theme continues for Mattox, now 26. On the track, she qualified for the finals in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2015 U.S. outdoor championships in Eugene earlier this summer. More recently, she finished third in the U.S. mountain running championships at Mount Bachelor.

Mattox has also found recent success in obstacle-course racing, events of usually 3 to 6 miles that include additional physical challenges such as rope-climbing, mud-crawling, and fire-jumping.

“That’s been kind of fun to have a mix of things, to be able to focus on different things different times of the year,” Mattox says.

“It’s not like my year is over once track season is over. You look forward to more racing and kind of changing things up a little bit.

“It kind of reminds me of back in high school, when I had different sports and different seasons. I get to focus on different things and get excited about different things throughout the year, which I think is good for me.”

Mattox competes for and trains with Team Run Eugene, a pro running group dedicated to building the running community in Eugene.

She is also an adjunct physiology instructor at Oregon and a volunteer assistant track and cross-country coach for the Ducks.

If that seems like a lot to juggle, Mattox is used to it.

“I balance a few different things, which most professional runners do,” she says. “Being an athlete, coach and teacher, it’s a good mix. I get to learn from all sorts of angles, which is cool.”

Mattox graduated from Bend High in 2007 after leading the Lava Bears to a state soccer championship in her senior year. She attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where she played club soccer and basketball. She transferred to Willamette for her sophomore year to study exercise science and play for its NCAA Division III soccer team.

That year she also got back into running for the first time since her sophomore year at Bend High. Eventually she transitioned into a full-time runner, competing in both track and cross-county for Willamette.

“I think in college you change a lot, and some of your perspectives change, so I decided that it was kind of my last and only opportunity to try running track,” Mattox reflects. “I hadn’t really ran track in high school.”

Mattox earned four Division III All-America awards and eight Northwest Conference championships running for Willamette. As a junior in 2011, she was the NCAA runner-up in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and placed ninth in the 5,000 meters.

After graduating from Willamette, Mattox attended Oregon to earn a master’s degree in human physiology. Because she had athletic eligibility remaining, she also competed in track and cross-country for the Ducks.

As a senior for Oregon in 2012, Mattox finished ninth in the steeplechase at the NCAA championships for her first Division I All-America award. She also was the Pac-12 Conference runner-up in the steeple, helping Oregon win its fourth consecutive league title.

“I learned so much,” Mattox says of her time running for Oregon. “At Willamette we were treated very well and were well-supported for a Division III school, but coming to Oregon, they’re just training in a totally different environment. Everyone that you’re training with is competing at such a high level, and the coaching staff and the resources are so extensive. So it was really fun. I think that got me excited to continue running post-collegiately and see where that could get me.”

She has come pretty far. In 2014, she claimed the Warrior Dash World Championship in obstacle racing, and she was the XTERRA Trail Run World Champion.

“It’s been a fun year,” Mattox says. “Toward the end of last season, I started doing more trail races, and actually did a couple of obstacle course races. That got me interested in this idea of mountain running. That was a great start.”

Mattox is the third of four children, and her parents still live in Bend. She returns home often, sometimes jumping into local running races.

Just a week and a half ago she was back in Central Oregon for the national mountain running championships, where her third-place finish over the 8-kilometer women’s course qualified her for the world championships next month in Wales.

“Beyond that, through the fall I’ll do a couple obstacle races and two or three more trail races,” Mattox says. “There’s a lot of big things coming up for me, which is fun.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0318, mmorical@bendbulletin.com .

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