Herndon's 2009 graduate Hiruni Wijavaratne is blazing a trail right now that stands as the perfect example of how college running can be a platform forward and not an end location.
Just this past week Hiruni broke her own Sri Lankan National Record and set a new South Asia Record in the marathon with her second place 2:34 finish in the Düsseldorf Marathon. To get there though she has quite the road and recently she shared part of that on social media.
Her rise to the top of the running scene began at Herndon high school in NOVA where she would eventually go on to win the 2008 AAA State 3200m title. She followed that up with a runner-up finish a year later indoors.
From Herndon she moved to Lexington, Kentucky where she began her collegiate career at the University of Kentucky. She ran for them for five years and competed in numerous S.E.C. Championships and NCAA Regionals while a wildcat.
Though she did have a successful career in Lexington, it was not exactly what she had wanted. Having finished as an All-American in high school she had hoped to at least finish as an All-Conference athlete but was unable to. She also never made it to the national championships in any of the three seasons.
For most runners that would be the end of it but that was not the case for Hiruni. She saw a path forward and after graduation began training for 10k's, half marathons, and marathons. She also began competing for her family's home country of Sri Lanka.
In 2014 she began competing and since then has competed in nearly a dozen marathons and another handful of half marathons. Things definitely started clicking immediately as she finished 4th in her first marathon and just a year later finished 30th in the prestigious Boston Marathon.
Since then there have been some ups and downs but recently it looks like Hiruni is back on her "A" game with victories at the Eugene Marathon and the Phoenix Half as well as her big race in Germany two weeks ago.
Not only is it exciting that she finished second in a major marathon and shattered some records but she also qualified for the IAAF World Championships to be run in Doha. That is quite the accomplishment for someone who has only been racing marathons for under five years.
The biggest takeaway from Hiruni is not necessarily how successful she is right now but moreso the fact that she is doing this after a college career that was not everything she had wanted. It shows how some athletes just take time to find their speciality or niche and most importantly that sticking with something and actually trying can take you a long way in life.