UIC athletes in running to be named Chicago’s best

Runner Kristen Heckert

Former UIC student athlete Kristen Heckert is among three runners with a connection to UIC nominated for Chicago’s top female athlete.

In this year’s field of decorated candidates for Chicago’s top male and female athlete are three extraordinary women — all with ties to UIC.

On the ballot for the Chicago’s top athlete title, sponsored by Chicago Athlete magazine and Clif Bar, are Jennifer Goebel Goldstein and Kristen Heckert, former Flames student athletes, and Karrie Hamstra-Wright, clinical assistant professor of kinesiology.

Voting continues through Jan. 7 at www.mychicagoathlete.com. The winner will be featured in the March edition of Chicago Athlete magazine.

Instead of pounding the campaign trail for undecided votes, the trio of talented marathoners spend their free time on running trails, participating in an activity that has helped shape their lives. They’ve all recently posted personal-best times in grueling 26.2-mile marathons.

Jim Knoedel, Flames head cross country and track and field coach, knows all three women and pinpoints their uniting characteristic.

“It’s the passion they have for running,” Knoedel said.

Karrie Hamstra-Wright

Karrie Hamstra-Wright, clinical assistant professor of kinesiology.

“It’s not something they do casually on the sideline, but something they go after very aggressively. They are all certainly talented, but talent without hard work will get you nowhere.”

Heckert owns the fastest marathon time of the group with a 2:47.56 in the Oct. 13 Chicago Marathon — her second marathon.

She placed 19th among all females and was the first woman from Illinois to cross the finish line. Her time was just under the U.S. Olympic Trials “B” standard of 2:46.00.

“I want to take it as far as I can,” Heckert said. “My goal is to be the best runner I can be and enjoy it along the way.”

Heckert teaches math at Plainfield South High School, where she is assistant boys’ cross country and track and field coach.

Like most elite long-distance runners, she struggles to find a healthy balance between training, work and her personal life.

“It’s nice to be recognized for doing something that you sacrifice so much for,” Heckert said.
“I don’t seem as crazy when other people appreciate what I do.”

Heckert, who graduated from UIC in 2010, competed for three seasons on the Flames cross country and track and field teams.

“Running helped me stay focused,” she said.

Hamstra-Wright recorded a career-best time of 2:57.58 in the 2012 Kenosha Marathon, placing first among all female participants.

As a faculty member in kinesiology, she is in a unique position to benefit from her colleagues’ knowledge.

“It’s nice to have access to exercise physiologists and sports psychologists and ask them for tips,” she said.

Jennifer Goldstein and her husband, Adam.

Jennifer Goldstein and her husband, Adam, are avid marathoners.

Hamstra-Wright was a multisport athlete at Olivet Nazarene University and dabbled in road racing while earning her master’s at UIC. She ran her first marathon in 2001 with the goal of just finishing, but ended up qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

“I didn’t even know what that meant because I was so new to the sport,” she said.

Hamstra-Wright collaborates with Flames athletics, using a 3-D motion capturing system to track runners’ injuries throughout the season.

Coaches and athletes receive full reports at season’s end, indicating imbalances in their running form and tips on how to prevent injury.

“The partnership with athletics has been really important and has a lot of potential moving forward,” she said.

Goldstein, a sports massage therapist for seven years, is one of UIC’s most successful athletes over the last decade. She was inducted into the Flames Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009.

She still holds the track program’s outdoor records in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters with times of 17:27.70 and 35:57.18.

“UIC was the right place,” Goldstein said. “It’s where I needed to be.

“Running has had a great impact on my life and it kept me healthy and centered.”

She met her husband, Adam, on a flight back from watching friends run in a race in Arizona. Turns out Adam ran the race, too. Adam stuck with the running theme when he proposed to her after they finished the 2011 Chicago Marathon.

At the 2012 Chicago Marathon, Goldstein ran a personal best of 2:51.00, placing 21st among all female runners.

Racing has taken her to 31 states, with the ultimate goal of reaching all 50 someday.

“I plan on running in Mississippi, Oregon and Wyoming next,” Goldstein said.

“And I’m actually going to do the Lake Tahoe IronMan next September.”