Aug. 6, 2010
By Jon Cooper
Beth Old never had trouble going the distance.
Old, who went by Beth Mallory during her four years at Georgia Tech (1994-98), was a tremendous performer in cross country and track, making school history in both sports.
But she was at her best at the mile.
“I think, honestly, I was more meant to be a distance runner and it was the shortest event that I could get away with,” kidded Old, who will be inducted into the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame on Oct. 15th as part of the Class of 2010. “Coach [Alan Drosky] was always kind of planning to move me on up but I’d get a personal best so I’d keep running it.”
She was three-time All-ACC, three-time All-Region and three-time Academic All-America in cross country and, in 1994, became the first Yellow Jacket woman to qualify for the NCAA Cross Country Championships. In track, she was an All-American (1996) and four-time All-ACC, setting school-records for the indoor mile (4:45.17, at the 1996 NCAAs) and the 6,000-meter relay (18:26.1) which still stand.
Running and excellence have gone together for Old as long as she can recall.
“I can remember in gym class, when you had to run for the Presidential Fitness test, I would win,” said the Blairsville, Ga., native. “It was just something I was good at so I pursued it. I ran track, starting in junior high and I did it every year because I was good at it.
“In high school (Warner Robins), my coach didn’t want me to run the 800,” she added. “He wanted me just to run the mile and the two-mile. I ran a couple of 800s and did alright, so he let me run that, too.”
Old won a state championship in the 800 but still, she had lingering doubts about competing at the collegiate level. She quickly left those doubts far behind once arriving on The Flats.
In cross country, she led Georgia Tech to a third-place finish in the ACC Championships in 1994, the school’s highest finish ever. The next year she finished 25th at the NCAA Championships. In 2002, she was rewarded by earning a place on the ACC’s 50th Anniversary Women’s Cross Country Team.
On the track side, Old won conference championships in the mile and distance medley (4×1500) in 1995 and ’98 in addition to setting the school records in each, which have lasted longer than she’d have ever imagined.
“I’m kind of surprised it’s lasted so long,” she said of her indoor mile mark. “That was my favorite event in track. I always felt like I could hurt for that long.”
“It will be broken,” she added. “I guess I’ll be a little disappointed when it’s broken but I’ll be happy that they have some good distance runners at Tech.”
Whoever breaks Old’s record will have to match the desire that she put into her running. That was something that made her stand out, especially to her peers.
“I remember Beth was one of those runners, she was just tough,” said fellow 2010 Hall of Fame inductee Jonas Motiejunas, who ran with Old. “I considered myself one of those ‘put it all out there’ type runners. She was always that way. She was always in the hunt for something. If it came down to toughness, she would pull it out.”
Completing her college experience was meeting and falling in love with Andrew Old, then a member of the Georgia Tech swim team. She recalled meeting Andrew prior to her freshman year then later being set up on a double-date with him by teammate Elizabeth Stewart, who at the time had been dating Andrew’s roommate. The rest is history.
“It’s kind of crazy to think of how long we’ve been together,” she said with a laugh.
Beth and Andrew currently reside in Marietta, with sons Connor (8) and John Marland (5) and daughter, Mallory (2).
These days, when not being run around by the kids, she is probably running more than ever.
She’s run five marathons and is still running on a world-class level. Old qualified for the 2004 U.S. Olympic trials in the event and just missed making the 2008 trials, finishing 14th. Despite coming up a little short in her attempt (she missed a spot by about 46 seconds). Her finish was remarkable considering Mallory had been born only six months earlier.
“I kind of died the last three miles,” said Old, who ran 2:47:00 at the qualifiers, but who has run as fast as 2:39:00. “That was frustrating because at the time I was just tired. Then I looked back afterward and I thought, ‘Oh, come on.'”
“I was training pretty hard when I got pregnant with her,” she added. “I made the Olympic trials in ’04 and I wanted to make them again in ’08. Of course, I got my little girl, so….”
Old relishes being recognized by the Tech family but really is looking forward to having her children see another side of her.
“It’s kind of a nice thing for the kids to see mom in a different light besides just wiping up applesauce off the table or getting the orange juice,” she said, with a laugh. “Just to see mom doing something besides that is important to me.”
“[Connor]’s starting to get an idea,” she added. “Of course, he was thinking that I was the best runner that ever went to Tech. I was like, ‘Well, not exactly. But I wasn’t too bad.'”