Oregon State’s Kaylee Mitchell Joins The Nike Bowerman Track Club

By Kyle Merber

March 27, 2024

Oregon State University’s Kaylee Mitchell signed a professional contract with Nike and has joined the Bowerman Track Club. The 10x All-American has personal bests of 4:32.95 for the mile, 8:51.06 for 3000m, 9:24.01 for the steeplechase, and 15:37.46 for 5000m. She finished 6th at the 2023 USATF Outdoor Championships in the steeplechase and has officially made the move from Corvallis to Eugene to be coached by Jerry Schumacher.

First off, congratulations! It's exciting to hear that you're joining the Bowerman Track Club. What attracted you most to making the move to Eugene from Corvallis?

KAYLEE MITCHELL: It was definitely the level of expectations on the team. Throughout high school and then into college, I have found that I'm only going to expand as much as the pond that I am thrown in. So I feel like Bowerman is the pond that I need to be in for me to have the opportunity to reach my full potential. And I would be kicking myself for the rest of my life if I didn't put myself in this pond to get the most out of myself.

Were you always someone who wanted to be a professional runner? Has this always been the plan?

No, not at all. I didn't even know if I wanted to run in college. I was an 800 meter runner in high school, and ended up signing to a Division II school out of high school. When I transferred to Oregon State, I remember Louie [Quintana] telling me that he thought I could make the Olympic Trials in the steeplechase, and I just laughed – like what? So it's been a pleasant surprise!

I know you were a nutrition major. Was that a consequence of growing into the sport or did you just happen to have your interests align with something that would be beneficial to your performance?

It just so happened that my interest aligned. I had an eating disorder in high school, and I saw a registered dietitian, and from that, it sparked an interest in the science behind how food interacts with your body and how it can specifically help athletes reach their performance goals. But I also think it's interesting in other areas such as the ICU or diabetes education. I find it appealing to be able to help people towards their health or performance goals and one day I'd really like to be a registered dietitian.

That's awesome! I'm sure teammates constantly bother you with questions about nutrition.

It's never a bother. I love when people ask me questions about it. I think it's really important to be a scholar of your sport, and this kind of allows me to have an even deeper understanding of that aspect.

It sounds like you are already settled in Eugene pretty well. What was the recruiting process like? NCAAs just finished and you're already set up!

Stephen Haas is my agent and he had been talking with Jerry since the cross country season. I came to visit at the beginning of January, but honestly, after ten minutes on the phone with Jerry the first time, I knew this is where I'm going to come. Then meeting the girls, I felt like I already knew them really well. They were just people that I wanted to be around.

So I have kind of known for a while that this was going to be the place. I also visited Nike that same weekend and met Paul [Moser] and Brett [Holts] and it was super cool to see their whole setup in Beaverton. I really liked the kind of people they are and the type of environment they have created – it was all very appealing. And I'm not someone that's going to go somewhere where the environment has values that I don't value. And so it was just awesome to be like, “this group is everything that I value and believe in.”

That's great to hear! I'm curious, what did Jerry say in ten minutes that told you that quickly it’d be the right fit? He must be a pretty smooth talker to convince you over the phone so easily!

I could hear the belief that he had in me and coming from someone who has coached Olympians and American record holders and the type of athletes that are on Bowerman, it made me believe in myself, as well. But then also the athlete-coach relationship… I could tell he was someone that I would really get along with. We were laughing, making jokes, but also talking about making Olympic and world teams, breaking American records and everything that I want.

Kaylee Mitchell joins Nike Bowerman Track ClubKaylee Mitchell joins Nike Bowerman Track Club

Jerry's training is notoriously hard, high mileage, with long grueling workouts. How big of a transition will that be from what you were doing under Louie the last few years?

I was pretty high mileage this last year at OSU. And so that translated well to Jerry's workouts. We do more workouts in a week [with BTC] than I've ever done, but I like that. That's another aspect of the group that really drew me to it. I like grinding in workouts and having to really focus on recovering in between them, and I gain a lot of confidence through doing hard things at practice. So it's been great – I'm tired, but I love it.

Are you doing double threshold yet or is that not on the schedule?

It's not double threshold, but it'll be threshold in the morning and then more speed-oriented stuff in the afternoon.

I love that stuff. So you had 10 All-American certificates if my math is correct. Is there one race that is most memorable or special to you heading into your professional career?

They're all so different. Our DMR fourth place finish was one of my all-time favorite memories. It's always more fun to accomplish something with your teammates. But I also think the steeplechase in 2022 at Hayward was another really fun one. I hadn’t run a PR the whole season, and then all of a sudden I just ran this huge one, right when I needed it. And it's so rare that happens, so I'm never going to take moments like that for granted.

Being a steeplechaser, how athletic are you? Were you playing other sports for a while growing up?

I was really big into basketball and I played volleyball and tennis when I was little. My dad would build me obstacle courses over the top of play structures at the playgrounds. Like, I was not a normal kid just going down the slide so maybe that played into it too.

You were sixth at USAs last year, and then this indoor season ran a big 3000 meter personal best. You have momentum on your side right now, but what else do you have to do to close that gap to make sure you are top three in a few months?

Just continue to get fit and work on the mental side of things. As long as I can get to the start line in June with a healthy body, a healthy mind, a fit heart, and with a lot of belief in myself, then I think anything is possible.

I read you were born in Germany and have citizenship. No one would have blinked an eye if you had made the decision to run for Germany. So why did you decide to try and run for the U.S.?

I had dual citizenship, but I had to end up choosing if I wanted to be an American or German citizen. If I had the option now, I would still choose the U.S. because I've lived here basically my whole life and I have an emotional connection to the U.S. that I don't to Germany. I don't want to pick whichever is going to be the easiest for me to make a team. I want to earn my spot, regardless of what country I'm in, if that makes sense.

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Kyle Merber

After hanging up his spikes – but never his running shoes – Kyle pivoted to the media side of things, where he shares his enthusiasm, insights, and experiences with subscribers of The Lap Count newsletter, as well as viewers of CITIUS MAG live shows.