The Victory Lap: Kaylee Bogina🏆

Joining us this week is Adams State alum Kaylee Bogina! The former Grizzly who graduated with PBs of 16:43 and 34:20 just debuted with an Olympic Trials qualifying time of 2:35:00 – and just as notably – will be joined by her brother, Austin, who also qualified for the Trials at CIM. Until someone shows us otherwise, we think Kaylee and Austin are the only brother-sister siblings headed to Orlando. Kaylee chats with us about her path to the marathon, the surprises she encountered on race day, and the people around her who have helped her get to this point in her career.

How’d you get into running and what ultimately led you to Adams State for college?

While I was growing up, my brother and my mom were both runners. So running was a part of their lives and I was certainly around it. I was a multi-sport athlete but my favorite sport was basketball – I played all four years of high school and if I were a little bit taller, a little bit bigger, I would've really enjoyed going to college to play basketball. 

I did cross country my sophomore year of high school after deciding not to play volleyball. I ended up winning the state title. I didn’t run very fast, but I won, so that was exciting. I got more serious about just wanting to go to college to play sports and I knew running was going to be my best option. 

And so as I got into my senior year, I was looking at schools –  mostly local colleges. I had been introduced to Adams State through my brother and his running, then I went on a visit and thought it was great. I just thought it might be a little too far from my home in Kansas. So I went on a few other visits to some division one programs, and one of those coaches flat out told me that they thought I would be very successful under Coach Martin at Adams state. 

When I got to Adams State my goals obviously were to win national titles. That’s why anyone goes to Adams State and that was my whole goal too. I was hoping to be an individual national champion, and that never happened. And I really struggled early on in college to feel successful compared to some of my teammates. 

I was around some great, fantastic teammates who really did some incredible and special things. But I struggled with feeling like I wasn’t living up to my full potential. I was able to be an All-American at Adams, and I was able to help win some national team titles, which will always be some of the best moments of my life. But I felt like I kind of just was missing something. 

When you graduated did your attention (with running) go straight towards the Trials or have the last couple of years not been so clear?

When I graduated from Adams, I knew I was going to move to Boulder for a full-time job. It's remote work so I knew I was going to be able to train. 

But I think I really struggled losing my team. I ran without a plan – I didn't really have any guidance on anything. And so I ended up going to the 5k Championships in New York – I kind of had someone vouch for me and they let me in, which I'll always be thankful for – but I didn't run very well. 

I ran a couple 10ks and 5ks during the track season and I don’t know, I was spending so much money going to these races and I just didn’t know if it was really worth it. That was the first time that I was like, I don't know if I can keep doing this. And then I kind of ran off and on all summer, but nothing really serious. 

After that, I was out of shape pretty bad but I showed up with a friend Mackenzie Caldwell to do her workout with her. I don't know why, really. I ended up getting picked up mid-workout because I obviously couldn’t finish it. I was just sitting in the car and Heather (Burroughs) asked me what my goals were, like, ‘what are you hoping to do this next year’ and ‘what is your training like?’ 

I just kind of broke down and was like, ‘ would you coach me? I just need help… I can't keep doing this… I think I could qualify for the Trials in the marathon, but I can't do it on my own…’ I was just really stuck.

And Heather and Mark decided to let me into their little post-collegiate group and I’m just super thankful. It gives me a reason to show up every day. And really from that moment, the goal was always the Trials. 

That’s amazing! I’m always impressed with college coaches that take on post-collegiate athletes.

I’m really thankful that they've taken a chance on me – it’s all Buffs with the exception of me. And I think I've done really well under their training. I was at the best D2 college in the country,  and now it seems like I’m with the best D1 program. Having the opportunity to train under both programs is just kind of a one-in-a-million experience. 

Both Heather and Mark go above and beyond anything I could ever have asked a coach to do, especially when they have their college team, too. They've been fantastic at being able to balance everything. And so I'm just really thankful that they've allowed me to take up a little portion of that.

Let’s jump into your race at CIM a bit. What did you expect going into it and was anything surprising?

I was pretty excited. The race plan was to go out and run six flats until the halfway point right on 2:37 pace. And then if we felt good about halfway, we could start cutting it down. I was with my teammate Mackenzie, so that felt more comforting than if I had been alone. 

I went through exactly on pace and just felt really good. I was a little stressed about taking fuel for the race because I’d never done it and hadn’t really practiced much beforehand, but I think I managed it fairly well.

When I got to halfway I kept thinking that I felt the worst in the group I was running in, but people kept dropping off the pace, and each time, that was a little indicator that maybe things weren’t that bad. 

I got pretty excited with four miles to go, and there really was never a moment where I was doubting if I was going to get the time, but it was fun at the end to race people a bit. I had these two other girls who I was with and they think I ended up beating one of them. Having that back and forth was pretty fun and motivating over the last few miles. 

Looking back, I think I kind of struggled a bit because I felt so good. I don't feel like I left everything out there. But that’s what my coaches wanted – they wanted me to feel comfortable and they wanted me to get the job done and that's what I did. And they are thrilled with that. But now I really want to see how fast I can go. I wish I could run another marathon right now. I have this idea of what I could have done if I hadn’t been playing it safe. 

How special was that finish line?

I was looking at the clock, but then I kind of looked down and I saw my brother just standing there. Obviously I was working on my own race but I remember looking at my watch right around 2:18 in and thinking, ‘please tell me my brother qualified – please tell me he's finished.’ 

When I was rounding that last turn I didn't know at that point whether he had. So I remember crossing the line and I saw my brother and I gave him a huge hug. The first thing out of my mouth was ‘did you do it?’ And he did. 

That was an incredible moment. And then I saw my training partner and she had qualified too and she was crying and everyone was just so happy. But it wasn’t only the people I knew, it was all the women that were just standing there, waiting and cheering everyone coming in. 

As it got closer to 2:37, it was amazing to scream for everyone. It was crazy. I've never been a part of something like that where every single person there had that one goal. It wasn’t us versus each other, it was us versus the clock. That was such a special thing to get to be a part of.

You have to be the only brother-sister duo to qualify for the trials, right?

I don’t know if there's anyone else? Austin thinks we're the only brother-sister combo. 

I think there are only two people that might feel better than Austin and I, and that would be my parents. It's so special. 

I was really confident in my training. I knew my coaches had me ready and it was just going to be on me to do it. But I was so, so worried for Austin and just wanted him to qualify. And so, I don't know, I felt like that was something during the race I got to focus on that made me forget about my own race.

It was honestly the best day I could ask for our family.

My brother has kind of guided me and helped me get to a lot of places in my running career. He helped me get to Adams. He helped me get connected to the company that I work for. He's just really been a great older brother. And so to see that we're able to do this together is really special. And if you ask me, he has it a lot harder than I do. He's self-coached and trained alone most times and just got his Ph.D. He did it in ways that I'm not sure I would have been able to.

Thank you so much to Kaylee for sharing her story with us! If you’d like to follow her then you can check out her Instagram or Twitter. As a reminder, the Victory Lap is now free for all readers, but we are continuing to pass on all previously collected funds to the athletes whose stories we share.