In 2013 Kendra Foley graduated from Noblesville High School having finished eighth at the Indiana state cross country championships in both her junior and senior years and seventh in the state 1600m finals her senior year. She finished high school with bests of 4:59 (1600m) and 10:59 (3200m). Very promising performances but nothing that predicted a career that would include three individual NCAA division II titles and 17 all-American honors.
As a freshman at Grand Valley State University Foley ran to a 11th place finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships as her team won the team honors scoring with an impressive 54 points. She struggled a bit during the ensuing indoor and outdoor seasons that year. Indoors she ran times comprable to her high school times but thinks began to change late in the outdoor season as she finished 5th at the NCAA 5000m championships running 16:38.12
Over the summer, leading into her sophomore year, the she took inventory of her situation and realized she wanted to more out of her running. “I started to really have confidence in myself, and the people around me.” I also found more of my competitive edge and passion for the sport more so than I had in high school.”
In the fall of 2014 the new-found focus and commitment paid off with a surprise win at the NCAA Championships in Louisville. Competing on a muddy and rain soaked course that had to be shortened by 200m due to the conditions, Foley ran to victory in 21:06. But her win was just the start of what she calls the "perfect day." After crossing the line she turned around to see two of her teammates rushing towards her as they completed a Grand Valley 1-2-3 sweep; propelling the team to an easy team title. They compiled an impressive 50 points, the lowest point total at the championships since 2004; while in-state rival Hillsdale College finished as the runner-up with 114 points. The GVSU sweep was the first of its kind in NCAA women’s cross country history.
Turning around to see my two teammates coming in was the most incredible experience.
The following year Foley finished second as individual (losing by just .4 seconds) and GVSU was the team runner-up, 14 points behind Adams State (Colorado). The national championships was just her third race of the season as she was coming off a summer injury. Then in 2016, her senior year, Foley returned to the top of the podium as she regained the individual title (defeating the 2015 champion by 25 seconds) and, like two years earlier, she led Grand Valley to the team win as they outscored Adams State 116 to 139.
In her four cross country seasons she had earned individual all-American honors all four years (11th, 1st, 2nd, 1st) and led her team to three national titles. She is one of only eight women to have won the Division II title multiple times.
On the track she earned 13 all-American honors and capped her historic career by winning the 10,000m at the NCAA championships in May (2017). Her time was 34:16
She lists her home as Noblesville but is currently spending time back in Grand Rapids as she embarks on a professional career in running and is being coached by my college coach, Jerry Baltes. "He knows me best, and he understands what works for be most. I love Grand Rapids, and I have a lot of people here who run with me, and support my dreams." In October she won the Detroit Free Press/Chemical Bank Half Marathon running 1:19.52 and then finished 21st at the highly competative USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Lexington.
So let’s get to know Kendra Foley beyond the his times and stats...
I started running in elementary school with my mom. I wasn’t very good at sports (because I was afraid of the ball) so she signed us up for the Indianapolis Mini Marathon so we could run/walk together. We started training, and the day of the race, I ended up running the whole thing with her. I stuck with it ever since. I never actually tried any other sport after that.
Without a doubt my favorite running memory was the D2 Cross nationals in 2014 down in Louisville, KY. Grand Valley won as a team, and two of my teammates and I went 1,2,3. I was the individual winner, and turning around to see my two teammates coming in was the most incredible experience. No other women's team in any division had ever done that before.
Our program and coaching staff has always been confident enough in their training and their athletes, that we always go into Regionals with the goal of making it through healthy and without pushing our limits. We want to make sure we are ready to keep training, and being at our peak shape for Nationals. I personally though have always had a poor performance at Regionals, I've never left that race happy and with confidence, and I think that helped me at Nationals. I would go into the race with a chip on my shoulder. I've actually always placed higher at Nationals than I have at the Regional meet.
I looked at Iowa State, Miami of Ohio, University of Kentucky, and Southern Illinois. I chose GV because it was one of the only schools and programs where they knew I would be successful. The coaches really believed in me as a runner, and knew that I could really develop as a runner and help their team be successful. I also fell in love with the location and the school itself. It is a very pretty campus!
I have two favorite classes I’ve ever taken at Grand Valley. The first was the Psycho-Social Aspect of Sport because everything we learned, was something I could apply to my own experiences. Learning about why I thought this way, and how to cope with the stress and motivation of sport was really interesting. I also loved my basic nutrition class. I wish I discovered my passion for food and dietetics earlier because I think I would have majored in that instead.
I aspire to own a corgi in the future as they are my favorite dog breed.
I love strength sessions. For example, I love fartleks, and tempos especially if they are on dirt roads with some hills thrown in. I think that is a complete workout because you start controlled, and you can progress as far as you’re feeling that day. It’s a workout with a lot of benefit, and it’s easier to listen to your body and run off of feel instead of trying to hit a pace.
So far, I’ve stayed between 60-70 miles a week. I think it may be time to start progressing forward and increasing, but all through college, I found that 65 was my sweet spot.
I actually love running on dirt roads. In Allendale, the Grand Valley campus has miles of dirt roads close by that are great for workouts. I also love trails, and there are plenty of trails in West Michigan to explore. In Indiana, I love running in Koteewi Park in Strawtown (just north of Noblesville). My favorite course to race on in high school was at Brebeuf Jesuit High School.
I am an All-american kind of girl who loves a burger, fries, and ice cream for dessert.
I love Grand Rapids for their restaurants. They have really great farm-to-table, locally grown restaurants, and I think those are the best. Personally, brunch is my favorite, and my favorite brunch place is called Morning Star in Grand Haven, MI. At home in Noblesville I like Rosie's Place.
Honestly, it all depends on the mood, and time of year. At the moment I’m all about Christmas Classics. In the summer, I love country music. I’m not picky as long as I can sing along.
I do not. I only listen to music when I run if I’m on the treadmill.
I love How I Met Your Mother, and Friends. I’ve gone through the series a few times. I also watch This Is Us, and I like having the Food Network on in the background sometimes.
I probably use Instagram the most. I don’t think I’m funny enough to tweet.
If I could have lunch with anyone, I think it would be the Queen of England. I’d hope to wiggle my way into her inner circle, and I bet she’d have years of wisdom to share.
If I got to pick anyone I’d pick John F. Kennedy. (Yes, I know he’s not alive). JFK has always been an icon to me. But if it had to be someone alive, I would pick the Bowerman Babes (Emily Infeld, Courtney Frerichs, Colleen Quigley, and Shaleen Flanagan). I follow them on social media, and they seem like a really fun group of women who would both inspire me, and would be great people to talk to. I've also seen the food they like to eat from social media, and we have similar tastebuds!
My parents are role models for me because they’ve worked really hard to give our family everything we have, and they’ve been incredibly supportive of me. I also really look up to a former teammate of mine, Jess Janecke. She is currently a social worker, and never stops looking for ways to help people and be there for everyone in her life.
I have two favorite runners. I love Jenny Simpson. After watching the FloTrack documentary on her, I really appreciated her humility, and her down to earth personality. Second, I love Emily Infeld because she has worked so hard for her success, and is a great role model for so many.
The best race I ran in high school was the mile when I broke the 5 minute barrier. I remember approaching the race confidently, and I remember leading the entire race. When it got tough in the middle, I can remember thinking of my goals, and pushing through to the end.
I’m still very new and young for the level of running I’m at now, so more than anything, I’m trying to find my stride. I need to find the confidence and motivation to continue at the level I want to be at, and that’s the main thing. I do think I want to run my first marathon at the end of 2018, but that’s not set in stone yet.
I double majored in Sport Management and Communications.
I haven’t figured that out yet. I know that I always want to be involved in distance running, just have to find my niche. I’ve thought about coaching, but I currently work retail for New Balance, and I’d love to be apart of their corporate team.