Liberty runner wanted at Fresno Pacific

Courtesy of Michael Nolte

Paiten Harlow, center, and her family are all smiles after she signed her National Letter of Intent to run track at Fresno Pacific University.


A simple meeting with a counselor about classes turned into a education-altering move for Liberty Hawks track athlete Paiten Harlow.

Harlow was trying to decide between going to Vanguard University or Fresno Pacific University. She was still on the fence while meeting with Fresno Pacific to talk about classes and financial aid.

“They asked me what was one of my defining factors between them and Vanguard,” Harlow said. “ I told them I really wanted to run track. Right then, they called the track coach. He came and met us and we got to go to the track house/office and talked with the coaches.”

Although her times weren’t exactly what FPU was looking for, Harlow emphasized that she had only been running track for two years and had room for improvement.

“I’m a hard worker that will do whatever they tell me for training,” Harlow said. “We discussed some numbers for scholarship. I reached out to them after spring break and told them I chose Fresno Pacific. They told me what my scholarship would be and got my letter a while after I talked to them.”

Harlow’s signing was a last-minute decision. She took a visit to Vanguard and they offered her a walk-on position, but FPU gave her scholarship money. She signed her National Letter of Intent to FPU on May 25.

“Once we factored in all the money, I realized it would be better to go to Pacific,” she said. “I would guaranteed to get money for running, which I thought I would never get. It was a really good opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.”

Harlow ran the 100, 200 and 4X100 meter relay at Liberty. She will probably run the 100 and 200 meters at FPU, but will do what they tell her.

“I’m going to run what they tell me because they pay me,” she said. “Whatever they think I’ll be good at is what I’ll do.”

Although she earned a scholarship FPU, Harlow wasn’t really expecting it.

“I was grateful for a walk-on position,” she said. “I just really wanted to run because I hadn’t done it for long. I wasn’t expecting anyone to give me money for it. I’m really thankful they did. A big chunk of my scholarship is academic. All together, I have a pretty good scholarship going there. It was only grow as I get better in track.”

Harlow received other inquires from other schools, including the University of Jamestown where her Liberty teammate Annie Allen is heading.

“It was really cool to get offers from other colleges,” Harlow said. “I think Fresno Pacific is the best fit for me. I could tell they really wanted me to go there. The school is really personable. The track coaches are really nice and wanted to know me. I really like this school. It’s close to home and it won’t be as much to pay for living expenses. I really wanted to go to a small Christian college.”

Harlow will major in kinisielogy and is in the pre-occupational physical therapy program, which will also require a master’s degree.

“I am in the fast track program so I will be taking 18 units this fall, 18 the following fall and summer classes to finish within the four years that they are paying me with track,” Harlow said. With the late signing, Harlow was able to breathe a big sigh of relief.

“I feel a sense of security,” she said. “This whole year, I didn’t know where I was going to school or what my life would be like in the next four years. Now that I have the letter signed, I’m running track and in the program I want to be in, I feel confident in the next four years that I can run track and do all of these things I want to do. I remember my volleyball senior night and what my future plans were. I said I want to go to four-year Christian university, major in kinesiology and run track and field. That was at the beginning of the school year. It’s really cool to do all of those things. It was things I hoped for, but I didn’t think it would happen. It did and I’m excited for that.”

Harlow’s parents were supportive of any decision she made, but she knew her mother was happy she signed close to home.

“My parents are happy I’m not going to be too far, especially my mom,” Harlow said. “When we were at Vanguard, they liked the school and the area it was in. I could tell they were not wanting me to go far and having to drive far to see me. They wouldn’t be able to see as many track meets. It’s really cool they can see it all with me.”

Harlow got off to a late start in track. She spent her first two year playing softball during the spring season. After her sophomore season, she realized her favorite part of softball was running so why not try running as a sport. So she traded her softball cleat for track spikes and turned it into a scholarship.

“My junior year, I started doing cross country and track,” Harlow said. “I realized I really love running and it’s something I’m good at. I kept practicing and putting my time into it. It was a lot of hard work to do cross country and volleyball at the same time. Cross country helped me with track with the endurance to do the track workouts. I feel like all of the hard work is paying off. All this time people told me I was crazy. It really paid off. I worked really hard to get to this point. It was definitely scary. I really have God to thank because a lot of people doubted me running track. I’m very thankful it all worked out.”