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UO grad will be first Greek woman to run 10 K in Olympic Games

Alexi Pappas, right, will represent Greece in the 2016 Summer Olympics. Photo by Sara Mattison

EUGENE, Ore. - Alexi Pappas made her dream of competing in the Olympic Games a reality after dominating a 10 K track race.

On May 1, Pappas qualified for the Olympics after running at the Payton Jordan Invitational in California.

Pappas, a University of Oregon alumna, has a dual citizenship by birth and will represent Greece.

"It was like an amazing moment to cross and see that and feel like I had accomplished something that I knew I was capable of, but I still needed to do it," Pappas said.

She ran 25 laps, 6.2 miles. Running a 10 K race is a challenge, but Pappas is beating records. She crushed her personal best, finishing the race at 31 minutes and 46 seconds.

"And I also shattered a 10-year-old Greek national record in the 10,000 meters. So I'm the national record holder and I will be the first Greek woman to go to the Olympics in the 10,000 meters, which is a huge honor," Pappas said.

RELATED | Eugene runner will represent Greece in Rio Olympics

"Fantastic to see her get it done and to look so composed doing it. I was really proud of her," said Ian Dobson, Pappas' coach.

Believe it or not, Pappas was once the slowest runner on her freshman year college team. She said embracing change was the key to her growth.

"I was always stepping out of my comfort zone and then rising to the occasion," she said.

Pappas said she couldn't have done it without support from her coach, colleagues, and the community.

"They all believe in me and that is very much a part of that positive feedback loop that gets you to where you are," she said.

Now that Pappas has her sights set on Rio, the hard work gets harder.

"It changes it a little bit. I think it's just going to add an element of confidence to what we are doing," Dobson said.

As a Greek athlete, Pappas said she's running to make an impact and to become a role model.

"And I think in Greece, I'm in a unique position to compete on the world stage, but also inspire a young generation of runners there," she said. "I'm ready to fill those shoes and to make everybody in Greece and the United States proud."

Pappas is currently making a film about TrackTown. It's a fictional story that looks into the life of an elite athlete. The movie is shot in Eugene and Pappas stars in her own film.

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