Amy Atkinson has always loved to run long distances, but over the past couple of years her legs have taken her farther than she ever dreamed possible.
This summer, the recent Biola University graduate proved herself to be one of the fastest women in the entire South Pacific, racing in two international competitions on behalf of her home island of Guam.
In June, she competed against runners from 22 nations in the Oceania Regional Track and Field Championships, bringing home a gold medal in the 5k and two silver medals for the 800-meter and 1,500-meter races. That was the warm-up for early September, when she was expecting to compete in several races in the Pacific Games, a significant Olympics-style competition for nations in the South Pacific that takes place once every four years. [Update: Atkinson narrowly missed out on bronze medals in two events, finishing fourth in both the 1,500-meter and 3,000-meter steeplechase.]
Atkinson, who graduated from Biola in May with a liberal studies degree and plans to return this year to complete a teaching credential, said the high-profile races have been exciting for her competitive side, but have also given her a forum to talk about Christ.
“God is just great, because he’s given me the opportunity to win a lot of races here on Guam, and people ask you a lot of questions or interview you, so it’s been a way to share my faith,” she said. “I feel like he’s made it clear that this is what he wants me to do right now.”
Originally from Oregon, Atkinson moved with her family to Guam when she was 12, and in the years since has become a star in the running community. She holds a number of running records on the island — a small U.S. territory near the Philippines where her father pastors a church — and has represented the island in numerous competitions.
Despite her running abilities, Atkinson actually didn’t run for the track or cross country teams while at Biola (where her parents, alumni Greg and Terri, met in the ’80s). Instead, she fulfilled a childhood dream by playing on the women’s soccer team, serving as a captain during her junior and senior years. She also played on Guam’s national women’s soccer team, which allowed her to travel and compete internationally.
It wasn’t until she injured her knee toward the end of her college career that she decided to focus her attention completely on running. Now, she dreams of one day competing in the Olympics.
“Depending on how the Pacific Games go and how I place, I am a candidate out of a few girls to possibly go,” she said. “That’s a big goal and it’s going to take a lot of work over the next year. But I’m praying that if that would be God’s will, it will become a reality.”
Beyond the competitions, Atkinson — who said attending Biola was the best decision of her life — plans to pursue a career in education. After completing her teaching credential this May, she hopes to teach middle school, perhaps on Guam.
“The schools here are very run down and poor,” she said. “The teachers don’t get paid very much. This is my home, and I’ve had so many opportunities to travel and represent Guam that it would be cool to come back here and invest in kids.”