Two-Lap Wonder: Andrews-Paul Is Female Athlete Of The Year
Alison Andrews-Paul's Division II record time of 2:01.43 is also the fifth-fastest female time in the event by a New Zealand athlete. Photo by Caleb Dunlop.
Alison Andrews-Paul's Division II record time of 2:01.43 is also the fifth-fastest female time in the event by a New Zealand athlete. Photo by Caleb Dunlop.

Monday, June 13, 2022

PORTLAND, Ore. – The only shame in Alison Andrews-Paul’s Simon Fraser career is that it wasn’t longer.

A graduate transfer to Simon Fraser from Division I Baylor, Andrews-Paul arrived in Burnaby just in time to see the COVID-19 pandemic shut the program down for two seasons. So when the 2021-22 season began, she was ready.

Then she let her performances speak for themselves for a school that is known for turning out national and world-class 800-meter runners. She won a Division II title indoors at the distance and placed second outdoors. She ran the third-fastest time in Division II history indoors and then proceeded to not only break the Division II record outdoors but shatter it by almost a second.

After a season of performances that made her shine not only within the conference but across the continent, Alison Andrews-Paul has been selected by athletic directors as the 2021-22 Great Northwest Athletic Conference Female Athlete of the Year.

“It is exciting that Alison is being recognized with this incredible honor,” said Simon Fraser head cross country/track and field coach Brit Townsend. “We have had a history of middle-distance success and Alison is following in the footsteps of some very talented athletes that have made their mark on the national and international scene. She has added to our legacy and will always be remembered for her contribution to our program and to the GNAC.”

Andrews-Paul said she is grateful for the chance Simon Fraser gave her to shine, not only on the track but also as a graduate student in the university’s Master of Public Health program.

“One of the best things about winning this award is that I get to brag about how awesome my support team at SFU has been,” she said. “Simon Fraser has given me the best university experience that I could have asked for.”

On the track, the move to Simon Fraser allowed Andrews-Paul to shine in ways she had never experienced at Baylor. At the Division I level, Andrews-Paul managed bests of 2:06.84 in the 800 meters and 4:27.10 in the 1,500 meters. She ran in the 2018 Big 12 Outdoor Championships in the 800 meters, running 2:09.88 and placing 12th.

The loss of two seasons did little to slow Andrews-Paul down as she lost five seconds off her lifetime best in the 800 meters and six seconds in the 1,500 meters.

Andrews-Paul’s ascent up the GNAC podium began during the cross country season, placing seventh at the GNAC Championships to earn all-conference honors and helping SFU win the team title. She added a 27th place finish at the NCAA West Region, again helping SFU win the championship, and placed 76th at the Division II Championships.

It was during the indoor track and field season, however, that she began turning heads. In just her second meet repping the leaf, Andrews-Paul ran 2:44.54 in the 1,000 meters at the John Thomas Terrier Classic in Boston. While not an official NCAA championship distance, it was the fastest time run by a Division II athlete at the distance since Tenna Colebook of Cal Poly ran the division record of 2:41.56 in 1989.

At the GNAC Indoor Championships, Andrews-Paul ran a pedestrian 2:15.99 in the preliminary heats of the 800 meters before blowing the socks off the field in the final. She won the race by nearly nine seconds with her time of 2:05.09 setting a meet record and landing her within a second of the conference record. At the time, the performance was the third-fastest in Division II history and earned Andrews-Paul the GNAC Championships Female Performance of the Meet award.

She broke that record at the Division II Indoor Championships, outdueling Kelly-Ann Beckford of Lincoln (Mo.) to win the championship with a time of 2:04.04 that bettered the conference record of 2:04.94 set by SFU’s Helen Crofts in 2011 and reset her place at No. 3 in Division II history.

Andrews-Paul also earned All-American trophies with both relays as SFU placed fourth in the 4x400-meter relay and the distance medley relay, both in times that rank No. 2 on the GNAC all-time list.

Andrews-Paul did not race the 800 meters outdoors for another month. But when she did, everyone noticed. Racing at the Bryan Clay Invitational on April 14, and paced by former SFU standout Addy Townsend, Andrews-Paul ran 2:01.43 to shatter the previous Division II all-time record of 2:02.39 run by Carsyn Koch-Johnson of Cedarville in 2016.

At the time, Andrews-Paul’s time was among the top 20 times in the world this season. It is the fastest time by a New Zealand female athlete this season and ranks among the top-five times in the event in New Zealand history.

Both Townsend and Andrews-Paul note that Simon Fraser’s teammates and a cadre of world-class training partners, including the likes of Crofts and Addy Townsend and Olympians Jessica Smith and Lindsey Butterworth, certainly made the quantum leap in the 800 meters possible.

“On the track, the passion from the coaches for their athletes and the sport itself is the key to consistent success,” Andrews-Paul said. “I have fantastic teammates who have helped me stay grounded and make me feel confident when I need it.”

The march through the rest of the outdoor season was just as dominant. Andrews-Paul cruised to titles in the 800 meters and 1,500 meters at the GNAC Championships, winning the 800 by seven seconds. By the end of the season, Andrews-Paul also held the No. 3 on the GNAC all-time list in the 400 meters (54.07) and the No. 4 spot in the 1,500 meters (4:21.19). She provisionally qualified for the meet in the 400 meters, 800 meters and 1,500 meters with times that ranked among the top five in Division II this season.

At nationals, Andrews-Paul competed individually only in the 800 meters. She turned in the fastest time in the preliminary heats before Beckford gained a measure of revenge from the indoor season, edging her out for the outdoor title. Andrews-Paul also ran a leg on the SFU 4x400-meter relay team, which placed eighth in 3:41.17.

While Andrews-Paul appreciates the memories of her short SFU career on the track, she is just as grateful for the academic experience that will provide the building blocks for her career.

“I have cherished the opportunity to learn from a diverse group of classmates and health researchers that has allowed me to pursue my dream program, a Master of Public Health,” Andrews-Paul said. “My path may not always have been straightforward, but I cannot overemphasize the impact SFU has had on my life. The lessons I have learned here will be with me forever.”

Other nominees for the GNAC Female Athlete of the Year Award include Alaska volleyball senior Cate Whiting, Alaska Anchorage volleyball junior Eve Stephens, Cal Poly Humboldt junior rower Malia Seeley, Central Washington basketball junior Samantha Bowman, Montana State Billings basketball senior Taryn Shelley, Northwest Nazarene softball junior Sidney Booth, Seattle Pacific cross country/track and field sophomore Annika Esvelt, Western Oregon softball senior Logan Carlos and Western Washington basketball senior Emma Duff.