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Giving back to the young runners

Former Tualatin standout Kelly Strong will host the Cascade Distance Camp
by: JAIME VALDEZ UP AND OVER — Tualatin High School graduate Kelly Strong clears an obstacle during the 3,000-meter steeplechase competition during the 2008 U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials held in Eugene.

LYONS, Ore. - Back when she was a young runner, Kelly Strong (then Kelly MacDonald), had plenty of mentors provide her with inspiration and motivation.

Strong also has many pleasant memories from when she attended outdoors camp in Lyons in fifth grade.

Now, Strong is taking those two things, putting them together, and she is ready to give back.

Strong, a Tualatin High School graduate and former standout cross country and track athlete at Arizona State University, will look to do just that, as she will hold the inaugural Cascade Distance Camp this summer.

The camp, for runners entering grades 9-12, will be held June 27 through July 2 at Camp Cascade, located in Lyons, which is about 45 minutes east of Salem.

'I'm really excited for this,' said Strong, who now is a cross country and track coach at Cal Poly University in San Luis Obispo, Calif. 'I'm excited for this year and for years to come. I really wanted to keep my connection with the northwest, and there is no better opportunity to spend a week up here every summer.'

Camp Cascade is located at the same place where Strong went to outdoors camp.

'When I went back there to see the facilities, it was really nostalgic for me,' she said. 'It's really cool to be able to use the same facility.'

Actually, listing to Strong, it's easy to tell that she thinks the whole idea of running a camp is really cool.

'I really want to give the same opportunity that I had to young kids. It's all about giving back,' she said. 'When I first decided to do the camp, I connected with a lot of people and the response was all positive. It was cool to handpick the staff and speakers for the group.'

And what a group of guests it is that will be making appearances at the camp.

Among the scheduled speakers and staff are Nick Symmonds (U.S. champ in the 800-meter run, ranked fourth in the world), Lisa Aguilera (U.S. champ in the steeplechase, ranked 10th in the world and Strong's former teammate at Arizona State), Nike coach Frank Gagliano, Oregon Track Club coach Mark Roland and University of Portland cross country and track coach Rob Conner, among others.

'That's a great group,' she said. 'And I think, for the staff, it will be a great time.'

Strong, herself, brings impressive credentials to the camp.

The former Timberwolf basketball and running standout, and a 2002 graduate of Arizona State University, earned five All-America honors and three Pacific-10 Conference titles while running for the Sun Devils. After college, Strong ran for Asics and competed in three Olympic Trials, last running in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in the 2008 Olympic Trials held in Eugene.

Also in 2008, she set the American record in the 2,000 steeplechase and she also ranks seventh in U.S. history in the 3,000 steeplechase with a time of 9 minutes, 47.68 seconds.

She also coached at the University of Washington before moving to Cal Poly.

Meanwhile, Strong says that while her camp is a distance running camp, it's not just about running.

'This isn't going to be a typical running camp,' she said. 'It's going to be more about learning about yourself as an athlete and growing as an individual within a team concept. It's going to be about meeting new people.'

And, of course, running.

For more information, or to get a camp application, visit www.cascadedistancecamp. com or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..