Alexi Pappas: Embracing change for growth

Former Dartmouth College and University of Oregon star Alexi Pappas will represent Greece in international competition this season. (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Teicher)

EUGENE, Ore. – It is with great pleasure and pride that I announce that I will hereby be representing Greece, where I am a dual citizen by birth, in international competition.

I am also proud to continue training in Eugene and continue representing Nike, TrackTown USA and the Oregon Track Club Elite as I compete in the Hellenic uniform. This is a decision I have made with the support of my family, my coach Ian Dobson and my sponsors, manager and role models in the sport, many of whom are Olympians themselves.

Taking big steps to grow has always expanded my family of teammates and the scope of my athletic potential. Embracing change was the key to my growth from being the slowest person on my freshman year college team to now being an elite athlete running Olympic-standard marks and winning races. If I had not moved across the country from California to New Hampshire to run for Dartmouth, I would not have met Abbey D’Agostino, one of my best friends and inspirations in the sport, nor would I have tried the steeplechase, the event which led to my breakthrough as an elite athlete. If I hadn’t transferred to Oregon a few years later, I would not have been part of two NCAA championship teams nor would I have met my teammate and dear friend Jordan Hasay, and the wondrous “Bun and Pony” would not have been born. I don’t know exactly what lies ahead, but I do know that this step will open the door for new levels of athletic success and will expand my ability to inspire other runners in the USA, Greece and beyond.

My grandmother moved to the U.S. from Greece in 1953 after she met my grandfather in Rhodes, Greece. My father and his sisters grew up speaking Greek at home. My father raised my brother and me on his own (my mother passed away in 1995, when I was four years old) – and having grown up with profound involvement from my fathers’ side of the family, including my godmother Aunt Irene Pappas, who is a Greek citizen, I was always very close to my Greek heritage.

The connection between my Greek heritage and my athletic career came into focus when I met Yannis Nikolaou of the IAAF in 2014. He is Greek and kindly took the time to discuss with me the amazing opportunity I might have to compete in the Hellenic uniform. I have been deeply grateful for Yannis’ guidance and support throughout this process. I am also grateful to the president of Venizelos Athletic Club, George Giatroudakis, who believes in me as an athlete who can represent Greece as a dual citizen with pride and grace.

Here’s a link to the announcement from the Greek Athletics Federation:

TrackTown USA President Vin Lananna:

“Alexi Pappas is a wonderful ambassador for the sport of track and field. She is a gifted distance runner, one who contributed greatly to the success of the University of Oregon women’s track and field and cross country programs during her time as a UO athlete, and before that, as an exceptional student-athlete at Dartmouth College. Additionally, it is her willingness to give back to the community, her uncanny ability to connect with young people and her many creative talents which set her apart. I wish her nothing but the best as she moves forward in her Olympic quest this year.”

Coach Ian Dobson:

“As Alexi’s coach and as an Olympian myself, I’m thrilled for Alexi. The opportunity to represent Greece internationally is the next step on an exciting path for Alexi and I look forward to continue working with her to help find her potential at the highest level in the sport.”

Alexi Pappas has dual citizenship for the U.S. and Greece (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Teicher)

Alexi Pappas has dual citizenship for the U.S. and Greece (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Teicher)