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Norwin graduate Greba develops into elite distance runner, eyes Olympic Games

| Monday, April 24, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Norwin grad Autumn Greba is a record-breaking runner at Duquesne.
Duquesne athletics
Norwin grad Autumn Greba is a record-breaking runner at Duquesne.
Norwin grad Autumn Greba is a record-breaking runner at Duquesne.
Duquesne athletics
Norwin grad Autumn Greba is a record-breaking runner at Duquesne.

A wake-up call can come at any time of day. For 2012 Norwin grad and current Duquesne track standout Autumn Greba, her wake-up call came at precisely 8 in the morning.

A middle-distance runner as a Knight, Greba's performance as a middle-distance runner started to plateau during her early college days. And then during the spring of 2014, her phone rang.

“My (former) coach (Tom Slosky) called me at 8 a.m. and said if you want to go to the (Atlantic 10 championships) you're going to have to run the 10K,” said Greba, who broke the WPIAL record in the mile her senior year. “I think part of the reason I signed on so fast was that I was still asleep. At that point, I knew I really wanted to try longer stuff.”

Greba's willingness to change has her career arc on an upward trajectory. The fifth-year senior acknowledged as a middle-distance runner she was “decent” but knew if she was going to make a name for herself she needed to make the switch to running the 3K, 5K and 10K. Her coaches agreed.

“I remember in high school and remember seeing her win the WPIAL mile,” Duquesne track coach Jim Lear said. “By not running the longer stuff early in her career, and if you don't do that, that gives her much more longevity on the back end (of her career). I wish Norwin had some more of her because I certainly would take her.”

Greba realized her destiny when she broke the school record in the 5K by running a 16:39. The record of 16:45 stood for two years before Greba took it down in April's Bucknell Outdoor Classic.

“I was just kind of waiting to get tired and it never really happened,” said Greba, who will graduate this May with a triple major in English, philosophy and political science. “I guess I had a little bit of a pep in my step that I don't usually have.”

Greba was primed for a breakout performance. The Naval Academy transfer had a subtle breakout performance in the 3K at this past February's Atlantic 10 Indoor Championships at George Mason, where she moved from ninth place to finish second in the conference. It was a few weeks later when the real story came out about Greba's second-place finish at the indoor championships.

“At George Mason, she was sick with a bad cold,” Lear said. “If that race would have been 10 meters longer, she would have won. She never said a word; it was the other kids that told me two weeks later.”

Greba, who transferred to Duquesne in January of 2013 after leaving Annapolis because of a concussion, admits she wouldn't be the distance runner she is today had she not gone through Naval basic training during the summer of 2012.

“I don't really think I could be the distance runner that I've evolved into had I not gone through that,” said Greba, reflecting back on her basic training experience. “If you don't have it, you don't have it and the end is not near for the most of it.”

Greba's track career isn't going to end anytime soon either. After graduating, she's asked Lear to stay on as her trainer as she tries to cut time and prepare to run at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

“I'm going to keep training,” Greba said. “I'll still be here in the Pittsburgh area and chasing the dream. When you're on an upswing, it's hard to stop.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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