Her Métier is Running

Aliann Pompey On the Fast Track

Her size may actually hold the key to her track success. "If she's with girls that are much larger, over the last 50 meters she's probably going to beat them," Ryan says. "She doesn't generate as much lactic acid as the bigger sprinter. Consequently, she's fatiguing a lot less over the last part of the race."

Pompey can be spotted doing hill work in Van Cortlandt Park or other parts of Riverdale. An eager trainer, she runs in Manhattan's Jadwin Gym track in the winter, but in warmer weather will sprint on Columbia's Wien Stadium track, near the north end of Inwood Park. Ryan, who says that after seven years Pompey "can almost read my mind," says his biggest challenge may be getting her "to back off from working too hard. That's where injuries come."

Having begun running somewhat belatedly, with modest expectations, Pompey relishes her success at the world-class level. "It's been really good. Everybody has a low moment in their lives," she observes. "There have actually been some times when I really felt that the only thing I had going for me at times was track, whether that was realistic or not."

Pompey: "It's  just the way my body’s built."
photo: Kate Lacey
Pompey: "It's just the way my body’s built."

But running "took a back seat" to her education until she suffered her first big injury, a stress fracture in her tibia, near the knee, after being tripped in a meet in Nebraska in 1998. "I was stubborn," she recalls. "I was running on it until I couldn't bear the pain, and I had to sit out a whole year. That really hurt." And she learned how important track was to her—the ordeal left her "completely distraught." She recalls, "Track was this big thing for me all of the sudden. I thought I wouldn't be able to do it anymore."

But in 2003, she's as good as she's ever been, and will compete for Guyana in the World Championships in Paris this August. Recovering and returning to the track, says Pompey, "I knew I was really blessed to be doing this because it's something that I like. It's like I'm playing a game for a job now."

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