Sanford native Rachel Schneider’s career is on the rise and she has sights on an Olympic berth in the 1,500 meters.

In a year, Rachel Schneider took her professional running career from virtual obscurity to landing a sponsorship deal and nearly qualifying for the world championships.

Now the Sanford native and 2014 Georgetown University grad is pursuing a berth this summer at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in the 1,500 meters.

“I feel like there are between 12 to 20 women who have legitimate shots to make the Olympic team and the (time) standard,” Schneider said. “It’s always a matter of who shows up and who has a good day, but I am in that group. I obviously really respect my opponents but … now know I can compete with them.”

Schneider’s personal best of 4 minutes, 6.9 seconds in the 1,500 meters, run last summer in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium, meets the Olympic qualifying standard.

That means her Olympic dreams will come down to how she performs July 7-10 at the U.S. Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon, where runners must get through two qualifying rounds and then finish in the top three.


“The goal and the plan is to be ready to run really fast there,” Schneider said.

Before the Olympic trials, Schneider faces a few key tests. On Saturday, she will be among a strong 1,500-meter field at the USATF indoor championship in Portland, Oregon (5:42 p.m. local time). The top three finishers qualify for the following week’s IAAF world indoor championships, also at the Oregon Convention Center’s newly built 7,000-seat track facility.

Shannon Rowbury is the favorite in Saturday’s race. Last summer she broke Mary Decker Slaney’s 32-year-old American outdoor 1,500-meter record with a time of 3:56.29 seconds. Rowbury is also entered in the 3,000 meters.

Several other runners, including world 800-meter qualifier Brenda Martinez (fastest indoor 1,500 American time this season) and two-time U.S. outdoor 1,500-meter champion Morgan Uceny, are likely to warrant more prerace attention than Schneider.

Schneider, 24, won’t be a favorite at the Olympic trials, either.

That claim goes to two-time Olympians Rowbury, 31, and Jenny Simpson, 29, who is also the reigning U.S. champ and a former world champion.


“When Shannon Rowbury and Jenny Simpson are at their best, there are maybe three or four women on earth that can run with them,” said Mike Smith, Schneider’s college and current coach and Georgetown’s director of track and field. “Rachel’s PR is within about 8 seconds of their PR, but in running, especially in track and field, lots of things can happen and Rachel is going to be at her best.”

Last summer, Schneider did run with America’s best when she was fifth at the U.S. outdoor championships. The top four finishers advanced to the world championships. Over the final 100 meters, Schneider moved from the rear of a 10-woman bunch. Simpson, Rowbury and third-place Kerri Gallagher cleared the field enough to be secure in their position.

The final spot was a photo finish. Lauren Johnson fell awkwardly – but forward – to hold onto fourth with a time of 4:16.08. Schneider was fifth in 4:16.09.

“There was a picture where the girl who got fourth actually dove so her fingertips got there first but my body got there first,” Schneider said. “Last year was definitely a big step forward in my running career. I was a little disappointed to finish fifth because that was the last spot to miss the world championships. In that way it was a bittersweet year but I’m hoping to improve on it.”

Schneider has focused on training rather than being race sharp this winter and has still turned in personal-best indoor efforts in the 1,000 meters, 3,000 meters (8:58.64) and, most recently in the mile (4:28.5 at Boston University on Feb. 28).

“I was really excited to set some PRs while still training hard,” Schneider said.


Schneider, who competed in high school for St. Thomas Aquinas in Dover, New Hampshire, was an eight-time All-American at Georgetown. But coming off a ninth-place finish at the NCAA championships as a senior, she faced the reality that she would have to, initially, fund her pro running career.

For seven months she cobbled together enough rent money from three part-time jobs to stay in the Washington, D.C., area, training with Smith and finishing her master’s degree in sports industry management.

“A lot of people run after college and they find out, they’re not making any money and they’re getting their butts kicked and it can be a discouraging first year. She just flourished,” Smith said.

After a solid 2014-15 indoor season, Schneider was signed to a full-time sponsorship deal with Under Armour. Offers to participate in meets in the U.S. and in Europe soon followed.

Schneider is paid a base salary, with a travel budget and a performance-based “bonus structure,” she said.

“It’s really phenomenal to go from working three part-time jobs and even having to take out a little loan to keep going, to now being able to train, rest and recover,” Schneider said. “Under Armour is pretty new to the running market but they’re doing such a great job. It just makes my life so much easier to feel so supported.”

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