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RRCA Congratulates 2006 Roads Scholars Class

The RRCA Roads Scholar® selection committee for 2006 was chaired by Carl Sniffen and consisted of Don Kardong, Deena Kastor, Bill Rodgers, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Dan Browne, Freddi Carlip, Phil Stewart, Bee McLeod, and Jean Knaack.

The RRCA is pleased to introduce the 2006 class of Roads Scholars®


Samia Akbar graduated from American University in 2004 as their most decorated female runner.  She became the school’s first female All-American for the track team after finishing ninth place in the 10,000m at the 2003 NCAA Championships.  Akbar was AU’s 33rd All-American in school history and the first female All-American since 1996.  Akbar still holds many American University school records including her record setting 10,000m with a time of 33:38.55 at the 2003 NCAA Championships.  Akbar spent her fifth year at American University pursuing her master’s degree in clinical psychology while working as a teaching assistant and assistant coach all the while trying to further her running career.  In 2005, she decided to focus on her running career full time and works part time as a substitute teacher. Akbar trains with Coach Scott Raczko who also coached Akbar for a brief period while she was in high school.  Raczko was the USATF Nike Youth Coach of the Year in 2001.  In 2006, Akbar placed 13th at the 30th running of the Lilac Bloomsday Run 12K with a time of 42:01.  She was the third fasted American finisher at the race.  Akbar’s goals for 2006 include competing in the US ½ Marathon Championship, the Philadelphia ½ Marathon, the Twin Cities Marathon, the Chicago Marathon.  She also plans to compete in the Olympic trails in the 10,000m.


Originally from Elmhurst, Illinois (a suburb outside Chicago), Maria attended York High School where she was coached by Annette Schulte and Larry Bassett. She was the Illinois Cross Country state champion and state record holder her senior year.  She was also the state indoor and outdoor track champion in the 1,600 and 3,200 her senior year where she set the state record of 10:17 in the 3,200 victory.  She placed 13th at the Foot Locker Nationals after a runner-up finish at Midwest Foot Locker Regional.  She finished second at the Golden West Invitational in the 3,200.  In 2001, she held the fastest indoor time in the nation in the 3,200. At Boston College she competed in seven NCAA competitions and was a four-time All-American in both Cross Country and Track and Field. She placed 15th, 16th and 18th in the NCAA Cross Country Championships and 5th in the 10,000 at the NCAA Track & Field Championships to earn her All-American status. She was the 2003 New England Cross Country Champion. She captured the 10,000 title in at the 2005 Big East Championship and is the current school record holder in the 10,000m.  As a freshman at Boston College she won the USA Junior Cross Country title and went on to compete at the 2002 World Cross Country Championships in Ireland where she finished 29th. Future plans include running the 2006 Chicago Marathon in hopes of achieving the Olympic Trials standard. Other races she plans to compete in include the Boilermaker 15K and Bix 7 in July, the Chicago Distance Classic in August, the USA Cross Country Nationals in February and the Shamrock Shuffle in March 2007.  Maria is coached by Randy Thomas, a former world-class marathoner. She resides in Boston and is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology at Boston College and hopes to complete her graduate degree in 2007.


The beginning of Stephanie Bylander’s running career began where many do, with her mom’s encouragement.  As a child of a military parent, she moved around a lot when she was in elementary school.  Her family “settled down” in Colorado, where she attended middle school and high school.  Persuaded by her mom participate in sports in high school, she chose track in the spring.  “I didn’t knowing that cross country was also a running sport!” explains Bylander.  “The following year, I found out what cross country was and became, like most distance runners, a year-round athlete.”  Bylander graduated from Adams State College in the Spring of 2005 and made the decision to stay in Alamosa, CO to continue with her training.  She is currently coached by Peter De La Cerda, runner-up in the 2000 Olympic Trials Marathon.  Throughout this coming year Bylander plans some aggressive goals.  She is working towards top 10 placements in all US Championships that she will compete in, she hopes to make the World Road Race team, and improve on her time in the half-marathon to be a sub-1:15.  She hopes to continue to make a name for herself in this sport of distance running.  To help support her running goals, Bylander works part time as a substitute teacher but feels running is her “full-time job”. 


Jacob Frey beat his father back home for the first time in the fourth grade and fell for the sport of distance running.  However, he did not give up soccer and basketball to make distance running his prime focus until he entered Oakton High School in Oakton, Virginia.  Jacob entered high school as an 11 minute two miler and graduated a State Champion with a 9:17 two mile.  Frey attended the College of William and Mary where he was a multiple time CAA Conference Champion and All East recipient.  His durability and endurance were not fully realized until he dabbled in his first half marathon in his final year of college running a solo 1:06:34.  Frey spent a year at the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project in Rochester, Michigan logging miles and gathering experience in the longer distance events.  Jacob finished as the first American at the Utica Boilermaker 15k, finished tenth at the New Haven 20k National Championships, and paced a world record attempt at the Chicago Marathon.  After returning to Virginia to train under 5th year college coach Alex Gibby, Frey ran the Olympic Trials “A” standard for the marathon with a 2:17:37 at the 2006 Freescale Austin Marathon.  Frey has continued with breakthrough performances this season by finishing 12th in the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Miler, winning the Stop the Silence 8k, and finishing 3rd in the Pikes Peak 10k with a time of 29:37.  Jacob capped this season a 7th place finish at the US 25k national Championships with a time of 1:17:48.  Two major goals for 2006 have already been accomplished by Frey in the Austin Marathon Olympic qualifier and the 25k national championships.  Further goals include a top 5 finish at the New Haven 20k National Championships, and a spot on a US National Team at the US Marathon Championships at the Twin Cities Marathon.


Nephi Tyler grew up in the coastal town of Fairhaven, Massachusetts.  It wasn’t until his senior year of high school that he joined a track club coached by Geoff Smith.  Geoff taught Tyler what it meant to train hard and gave him the confidence needed to earn an athletic scholarship to college.  As Tyler puts it, “I more or less chose the University of Utah because Utah chose me.”
Utah coach, Mike Jones, believed in Tyler and what he wanted to accomplish as a runner.  Tyler found training at the 5000 ft elevation of Salt Lake City to be a great experience and beneficial to his running.  When Coach Jones retired Brian Appell became head coach at Utah.  Under Coach Appell, Tyler found consistent success and a break through performance as a college runner came when he made the mile final at the 2003 Indoor Nationals in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  After graduating from the University of Utah in the spring of 2005, Tyler spent the summer with his brother shellfishing or quahauging (pronounced ko-hog) after obtaining the appropriate permits.  That summer, Tyler had saved up enough money from his race winnings and shellfishing enterprises to move to Fayetteville, Arkansas in the fall of 2005 to train full time under Coach John McDonnell.  This past 2006 indoor season Tyler ran a 3k PR of 7:57.  Tyler’s running goals for 2006 are to keep improving, stay hungry, and ultimately race in a USA uniform. 


Matt Gonzales started running in junior high and ran the 100, 200 and 400-meter dashes. It was during his senior year of high school that Gonzales started to run cross country and longer distances.  The switch worked as he took home three New Mexico 4-A state high school championships, one in cross country and a dual win in the one mile and two mile as a senior in 2000. After graduating from Santa Fe High School, Gonzales headed to Highlands University in Las Vegas, N.M.  Unfortunately while there, the funds for the track team disappeared.  Upon hearing that Coach Matt Henry had been hired at the University of New Mexico, Gonzales made the switch.  In 2004, Gonzales earned All-America laurels for the second straight year at the NCAA Championships and eclipsed the 1986 University of New Mexico 5,000-meter record.  He also won his first conference title in the same event. Gonzales followed up his regular season performance with a trip to the U.S. Olympic Trials in Sacramento, where he competed in the 5,000m as the 12th-seeded runner in the field of twenty-four.  After graduating, Gonzales has pursued running full-time.  In March, he placed second with a time of 44:09 at the Gate River Run in Jacksonville, FL, the USA 15K Championship.  Gonzales goals include using the track season to continue his running development and translate that success into world class competition in road running from the 5K to the marathon. 

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