OREM, Utah — United States Olympian and former Utah Valley University track and field athlete Noelle Pikus-Pace spoke Monday to a room full of UVU coaches, student-athletes, staff and boosters at the Wolverine Club luncheon in the UCCU Center.
"It feels so good to be back here," Pikus-Pace said. "Honestly, I couldn't have accomplished any of these things without UVU. My experience here was incredible. I absolutely loved the coaching staff that I had when I ran track and field and my professors when I was here. For me, my education always came first. I am grateful that UVU worked with me and gave me the opportunity to pursue my athletic dreams as well as my education."
After running track and field for UVU from 2001-2005, Pikus-Pace took to a different kind of track in the winter events of bobsled and skeleton. Becoming the only woman to ever win the Overall World Cup title in 2005, she was the favorite to take home the gold at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. But a freak accident derailed those hopes when a runaway bobsled crashed into her right leg, potentially ending her career with a compound fracture.
But she battled back through the injury and was able to qualify for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. She was the top U.S. finisher that year, taking fourth and missing the medal stand by just one-tenth of a second.
Pikus-Pace's message Monday touched on the resiliency and fortitude required to make such a remarkable comeback, but it also focused on the importance of preparation and goal setting. The Orem native attributes much of her success to her ability to fall back on fundamentals and set daily, achievable goals that allow her to focus on "small and simple things."
In 2012, Pikus-Pace had the best season of her career. She won 16 national and international medals — 10 gold medals, four silvers and two bronze. The U.S. took the gold in the team event at the World Championships, with Pikus-Pace coming in as the top finisher with a silver international medal. She would close the season with a win at the FIBT World Cup in Sochi, Russia — the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics — and even earned a spot in SportsCenter's "Top 10 Plays" in so doing.
A graduate of Mountain View High School in Orem, Pikus-Pace competed in the heptathlon for Wolverine track and field. During that time, she broke the UVU high-jump record, earned first team All-America honors and claimed the NJCAA National Discus Championship.
She earned her bachelor's degree in community health at UVU in 2005, then went on to complete her MBA in business administration in 2007.
Kellen Hiser is sports information assistant at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.