The RRCA is proud to announce its 23rd Roads Scholar® class: Samantha Bluske-Palmer, Reid Buchanan, Erin Clark, Reed Fischer, Nicolas Montanez, and Grayson Murphy.
Since 1996, RRCA has awarded grants totaling more than $600,000 through its Roads Scholar® program. The goal of the program is to assist American post-collegiate runners who show great promise to develop into national and world class road running athletes. The grants awarded by the RRCA go directly to the athletes to help support their goals and training needs.
Samantha Bluske-Palmer (Tuscaloosa, AL): Samantha Bluske-Palmer grew up in a town with less than 300 people in rural Wisconsin. She later attended Pardeeville High School where she won the 2007 WIAA State Cross Country Championships and completed her prep career with PRs of 5:04 and 11:01 for 1600m and 3200m.
At Iowa State University, she was part of two Big 12 Cross Country Championship teams, was a 9 time All-Big 12 Performer, and won the 2014 Indoor Big 12 title in the 5000m. She left college short of her goal of being an All-American, having run 16:19 and 34:16 for 5000m and 10,000m.
Post-collegiality, she continued to train while coaching full-time at the University of Toledo. In April 2015, Bluske-Palmer ran her first marathon, the Glass City Marathon, but ran an extra mile after course officials sent her the wrong way at mile 21. She still won the women’s marathon by 21 seconds and set the course record by more than four minutes. In December 2015, she qualified for her first Olympic Trials with a time of 2:41:13, at the California International Marathon. Since that time, she has taken nine minutes off her marathon time, when she finished 4th at the 2018 USATF Marathon Championships in 2:31.55. In spring 2018, she registered a sixth place finish at the USATF Half Marathon Championships with a time of 1:12.32, and qualified for the 2018 USATF Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the 10,000m.
Samantha and her husband recently relocated to Tuscaloosa, AL where she is now training for the 2018 TCS NYC Marathon.
Reid Buchanan (Mammoth Lakes, CA): Reid Buchanan grew up in Manhattan, Kansas and discovered his talent in distance running his junior year of high school after winning the class 6A state title in the 1600 meter. He followed that up by winning the 800 meter, 1600 meter, and 3200 meter his senior year, earning a scholarship to the University of Kansas.
Buchanan’s running career stagnated due to injuries while at Kansas, but found life again following a transfer to the University of Portland. In 2016, in just the second 10,000 meter race of his career, he finished fifth at the NCAA Championships.
Putting an engineering career on hold to focus on running, Buchanan has shown dramatic improvement in the last two years. His 5,000 has dropped from 13:48.56 in 2016 to 13:27.83 today. His mile has gone from a 4:01.57 outdoor best to a 3:59.24 indoor and 3:54 and 3:56 on the roads.
In 2018, he was the champion at the USATF Distance Classic 5000, champion at the Tyson Invitational Mile, champion at the Dr. Sander Invitational 3000, champion at the 2018 NYRR Midnight Run, and champion at the 2018 Millennium Mile. He has also lowered his 10k road time to 28:57 at the Crescent City Classic, and his 15k time to 44:40 at the Mountain to Fountain 15k.
Erin Clark (Flagstaff, AZ): Erin Clark grew up in Eugene, Oregon. Competing at historic Hayward Field many times, Erin was a two-time state track champion at 3,000 meters and finished sixth at the state cross country meet. After high school, she chose to head south and attend the University of Colorado.
Clark had a decorated career at Colorado, including achieving All-American honors in the 3000 meters, the 3000 meter steeplechase, the 5,000 meters, the 10,000 meters and cross country. She also qualified for, and competed in, the 2016 Olympic Trials in the steeplechase in her hometown of Eugene, Oregon. Her senior year in 2018 included big PRs of 15:30.59 for 5,000 meters and 32:28.88 for 10,000 meters.
In 2018, Erin moved to Flagstaff, Arizona to join HOKA ONE ONE NAZ Elite and to be coached by Ben Rosario. In her first post-collegiate race at the 2018 USATF Outdoor Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, she finished ninth in the 5,000 meters. In her first professional road race, and first race as a member of HOKA ONE ONE NAZ Elite, Clark finished third at the Reebok Boston 10K for Women.
Reed Fischer (Boulder, CO): Reed Fischer spent his formative years at Hopkins High School in Minnesota. During his time there, his coaches instilled an enduring love for running in him, and molded him from a 23:54 5K runner as a freshman to a Division I recruit as a senior. After graduating from Hopkins, Fischer headed to Drake University to pursue his running career on the Blue Oval. During his time at Drake, Fischer developed into one of the NCAA's top 10,000m runners. He left Drake as a three-time NCAA Qualifier, four-time Missouri Valley Conference Champion, a Drake Relays Champion, and with school records in three different events.
After graduating in 2017, he spent the summer visiting post-collegiate teams and attended the RRCA's RunPro Camp. He ultimately decided to head west to Boulder, where he became a founding member of Tinman Elite. After dabbling in the roads and cross country in the fall, he turned his sights back to the track in the spring of 2018.
In his first year as a post-collegiate runner, Fischer lowered his 10,000m personal best to 28:38 and proved his prowess in the disctance. Back on his home track in Des Moines, Fischer finished 4th at the 2018 USATF Outdoor Championships. His finish earned him the opportunity to represent Team USA at the NACAC Senior Championships in Toronto, where he finished 3rd. For the 2018-19 season Fischer is returning to the roads, focusing on the half marathon in an effort to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials.
Nicolas Montanez (Mammoth Lakes, CA): Nicolas "Nico" Montanez began running as a freshman in high school in Tucson, Arizona. There, he anchored his 4x800 relay team to a state title, the first of 10 state titles he would win in a mix of individual and team events.
After high school, Montanez initially attended junior college Cross Country powerhouse, Paradise Valley Community College under Coach Dave Barney. While at Paradise Valley, he helped guide the Cross Country team to the a third place finish at the NCAAJ Championships in 2012, and seventh place finish in 2013.
Following a transfer to BYU, Montanez blossomed his senior year. Highlight races from his time as a Cougar include: winning the BYU home meet, placing ninth at the Wisconsin Nuttycomb invitational, and placing ninth at XC NCAA National Championships in 2016.
After college Montanez continued training with his college coach and 2016 U. S. Olympian Jared Ward, as his chief training partner. He debuted at the USATF 25k in 2016, placing seventh, and also ran a 48:53 in his debut 10 mile race that same year. These results convinced Montanez to pursue post-collegiate running, which he did after joining the Mammoth Track Club under Coach Andrew Kastor. Since joining Mammoth, he has lowered his 10 mile PR to 47:53, and run a 2:14:27 at Grandma’s Marathon, good for 4th overall and top American finisher.
Grayson Murphy (Flagstaff, AZ): A multi-sport athlete growing up, but with no running background, Grayson Murphy focused on soccer throughout high school and even played soccer in college at Sweet Briar College her freshman year. However, with a dwindling passion for soccer after such a long career in the sport, Murphy made the decision to attend Santa Clara University where she walked onto the Cross Country and Track team with no experience, just a competitive drive and willingness to try something new. Murphy dramatically improved during her first two years of running, and by 2016, she had qualified for the NCAA West Outdoor Track Regionals, in not just one but two events, the Steeplechase and the 5000 meters.
Murphy transfered to the University of Utah to compete at a higher level for the remaining two years of her collegiate eligibility. While at the University of Utah, and with support from Coach Kyle Kepler, Murphy became a 5-time All-American in Cross Country, the 5000meter indoors, and the 3k Steeplechase outdoors. Murphy achieved school records in the indoor and outdoor 5000m (15:44 and 15:58 respectively), the Steeplechase in 9:48, and the 10,000 meters in 33:17. She capped off her career at the University of Utah with an 8th place finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in 2017. Along with Academic All-American selections for a 3.9 GPA in engineering, Murphy became one of the most decorated athletes in the school's history.
After graduation in 2017 from the University of Utah, Murphy went on to compete at the USATF Outdoor National Championships where she finished 7th in the Steeplechase final. In July of 2017, she joined HOKA ONE ONE NAZ Elite under coached under Ben Rosario. In her first two races as a professional, Murphy finished second at both the Deseret News 10k, where she set a new 10k PR of 33:12, and the Cow Harbor 10k.