Long before there were races for her division, Linfield senior Nelly Evans was an eager competitor.
“Time me, Dad! Time me!” she remembers asking her dad as she ran to the mailbox and back, or around the track outside the school where her sister was in choir rehearsal.
“It was like intervals, for a six-year-old,” she laughs.
Today, the Auburn Riverside High School graduate is one of Linfield’s elite runners. She holds the Wildcats’ best times of 2012 for the women’s 800- and 1,500-meter track events. Evans also turned in impressive performances as one of Linfield’s top-five competitors at every cross-country race earlier this year.
Anyone who knows her will tell you that running is only one of many areas where she excels.
German professor Dr. Peter Richardson, co-chair of Linfield’s Modern Languages Department, has enjoyed working with Evans — a German and political science double major — from their first email correspondence.
“Nelly is a very good student. She combines in an admirable way the intellectual disciplines of both fields.” He points out some of her papers and projects that deal closely with issues related to both German studies and political science. “Her humanitarian side comes out.”
“It’s an area not enough people are interested in,” Evans says of political science, emphasizing the importance of understanding issues like public health policy.
She immediately adds that she is also passionate about international human rights, a concern influenced by her time abroad.
“By the end of my junior year of high school, I had all my credits and everything. We had to fight my counselors, but the school finally let me go to Switzerland for my senior year,” Evans remembers. “I loved just being there, absorbing the culture, learning the language, and enjoying my art and P.E. classes.”
Evans says she knew for a long time that she wanted to major in political science, but that her German studies have also become very important to her.
“When I was looking at colleges while I was in Switzerland, it came down to two schools. I emailed the heads of both German departments, and the response I got from Linfield was far and away more encouraging. So here I am!”
After a requisite year abroad in Freiburg, a city of 225,000 in southern Germany, Evans is back on the Linfield campus. She continues her German studies in classes and as the vice president of the German Club. Linfield’s sports teams also welcomed her back with open arms.
“We missed her and her spirit last year,” Linfield track and field coach Travis Olson says. “She’s good to have on the team.”
Evans’ fellow runners say that she is a great teammate.
“She’s really competitive, but also very encouraging. She pushes us all to do our best,” explains freshman Audrey Lichten. “I love running with her.”
“She’s so positive all the time. It’s infectious,” Olson says. “She cheers on her teammates and helps get them in the right frame of mind.”
“Race days are special for her,” sophomore teammate Mimi Seeley says. “Nelly almost never wears makeup normally, but she always does for races. She gets excited, it’s special and important. She wants to look good while she’s racing.”
Olson appreciates Evans’ presence on the team. “You can always tell when she’s around. She’s always laughing and really having a good time with her running and her team.”
Evans says a Mother Teresa quote — “Peace begins with a smile” — that her mother sent her is one of her favorites. “I love smiling, so hopefully that’ll bring out some inner peace.”
The senior is known for her good spirits, enthusiasm, and independence. “She has a real strength of character, but also a great sense of humor,” Professor Richardson says. “She is very honest and open, and gives freely of herself.”
Seeley, a teammate and friend, confides, “Nelly is someone I really admire. I spend time with her and always think, ‘I want to be like her.’”
Evans says she has been playing sports for her whole life — “Volleyball, softball, basketball, soccer, everything” — but never really excelled at any except for running. She began competing in track in middle school and in cross country as a freshman in high school.
“At first, I joined because the team was going on a trip to Hawaii, but the people just kept bringing me back year after year. There’s a special world of runners. Though I still love other sports, I am a runner.”
Evans says that she loves to run because it helps her appreciate her world and the strength of her body. “It creates a kind of rhythm in your life, something stable. Challenging yourself as a runner translates to so many other things in the world.”
Once she graduates in May, Evans hopes to join the AmeriCorps to make some headway on domestic policies related to food, obesity, and physical education. “I would love to draw on my running and health interests after college.”
Evans finds herself pulled in many different directions by her interests. “There are a million things I’d love to do, but that’ll have to come in another time in my life.”
That time is rapidly approaching. The world is as eager to see the results of her work as Wildcat spectators are to see her races during this final season on campus.
-- Lexy Chapman '15