The key to success was simple for Florida State distance runner Lauren Ryan. After several injuries and a worldwide pandemic, Ryan needed to rediscover the joy in the sport she loved.
“It was just a matter of time of being happy and healthy and enjoying it. People compete at the highest level when they’re enjoying it. You enjoy success. No journey is perfect,” Ryan said.
Ryan’s imperfect journey started in Brighton, Australia. She made a name for herself by being a part of the Australian Junior team in both cross country and track. She was the Australian Junior Cross Country national champion in 2017 and competed at the 2017 IAAF World U20 Cross Country Championships and 2016 IAAF World U20 Championships. She trained alongside FSU great and Olympic qualifier Linden Hall which put her on FSU’s radar. Ryan eventually chose to attend Villanova, but after two seasons with the Wildcats, it was time for a change.
“I knew if I was going to go somewhere else, it was going to be FSU,” Ryan said. “ I love FSU. I love the school. I love their sports management program which is what I’m studying. I knew this is where I wanted to be.”
Ryan’s transition to FSU got off to a phenomenal start. She was a key piece to one of the top women’s cross country teams in school history. She finished sixth at at the ACC Championships leading the Noles to a second-place finish, and she qualified for the NCAA Championships. After her first cross country season, the roller coaster truly began. During Christmas break in 2019, Ryan had her wisdom teeth removed forcing her to take a break from training. Upon her return, she began to struggle with a knee injury and ultimately had IT Band Syndrome.
“I went to the first indoor meet at Vanderbilt, but when I was cooling down, I couldn’t even get back to track. I was in so much pain,” Ryan said. “I told [former FSU assistant] Kelly Phillips that maybe running isn’t for me right now. It just wasn’t working. It wasn’t a matter that this was the wrong place. I just needed to take a break and let my knee heal instead of trying to keep pushing it.”
Ryan sat out for the remainder of the indoor season then the Coronavirus hit the world in March of 2020. With so much uncertainty, Ryan decided to go back home to Australia.
“Everything was so unknown. We didn’t know what was happening. With so many things being unknown, I thought I’d feel the safest at home around my family,” Ryan said.
Ryan took four months to slowly build back her training in Australia. This is where she began to find the joy in her sport once again.
“It was so frustrating. I had to take a step back and ask myself ‘Why am I doing this? What do I want to achieve in this sport?’” Lauren asked herself. “When I went back home, it kind of put me back in the moment of where it all started. I was training right outside my doorstep, at the same location where I’ve been training at since I was young. My success started in the 10th grade when I was out there by myself, running because I wanted to run. Being back home where it all began, it was just a reality check at the time.”
She returned to running competitively and came up just short of qualifying for the Olympics. Ryan returned to Tallahassee and competed in her first collegiate event since January 2020 where she won the 5k at the Covered Bridge Open. Ryan finished 11th at the ACC Championships and ran a personal best time of 19:50.1 at the NCAA Cross Country Championships at Apalachee Regional Park to earn All-America honors.
Ryan quickly turned her attention to the track season where she competed at the Sharon Colyear-Danville Season Opener two weeks after the NCAA Cross Country Championships. Ryan went on to break the school record in the 5000m run with a time of 15:40.40 to put her in prime position to qualify for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in March.
“Coach Alex Midgett and I had talked about on the way to Boston because that’s where Milits Mircheva broke it. I did know what it was, but it wasn’t something I thought about during the race,” Ryan said.
Ryan hopes to make a splash in her first full track season at FSU. Ryan has never been to the ACC Championships or the NCAA Championships, but she hopes to change that this season.
“I don’t want to go to the ACC Championships and the NCAA Championships and just compete. I want to make an impact. I’d love to be on the podium at both the indoor championships and the outdoor championships.”
Ryan anticipates to run in the 3000m race throughout the season and be a part of the women’s DMR team which finished third at last year’s NCAA Indoor Championships and broke the school record.
Ryan and the rest of the FSU track and field team will travel to Clemson, S.C. for the Clemson Invite on Friday and Saturday.