Sept. 15, 2010
By Herb Benenson
Through only four years of competitive running - two in high school and two at Cal - Deborah Maier has established her-self as one of the top cross country and distance runners in Golden Bear history.
During her sophomore season in 2009-10, she became the first Cal woman to earn first-team All-Pac-10 honors in cross country after finishing sixth at the conference meet. She then set school indoor records in the 3000 and 5000 meters be-fore capturing the MPSF league crown in the 3000. And in the spring, she finished fourth in the 5000 meters at the Pac-10 championships, as well as ninth at the national NCAA meet, despite missing three key weeks of training due to injury.
Maier's list of accolades for her academic work is just as prestigious, if not more so, and has developed from a lifetime commitment to education that reaches throughout her entire family.
"Pretty much all of my brothers and sisters were valedictorians or salutatorians in high school," said Maier, who will com-pete as a junior this year. "Academics was definitely something that was held high in my house. My siblings set a standard to do your best and work hard. I saw growing up that they were able to get the jobs they wanted and get into the schools they wanted because they worked hard."
The college of choice for the Maier household has primarily been Cal. One of six children of Paul and Donna Maier, Deborah is the fifth to attend UC Berkeley. Her older brother, Chris, was also a member of the Golden Bear track and cross country teams a decade ago.
"It wasn't so much that they really pushed us and expected us to get straight A's," Maier said of her parents. "Starting at a young age, they would read to us and build a base for enjoying learning."
Among Maier's scholastic honors to date at Cal are membership on the Pac-10 All-Academic and track & field coaches' association All-Academic teams. In May, she received a Golden Bear Award for having the highest GPA on Cal's cross country squad - 3.808 as a political science major.
Maier said that the long training hours required to be an elite runner have clear benefits to aid her classroom achievements, using the time to escape from her schoolwork, relax and recharge. In addition, the workouts help provide the discipline needed to keep her focused on completing her assignments in a timely manner.
"When you're practicing and you need to get your sleep, you realize that you're on a tight schedule and you need to get things done," Maier said. "You can't procrastinate. I find that I work better that way instead of thinking that I have plenty of time. There's definitely a correlation in the fact that in sport, if you work hard, you see benefits. It's the same with academics."
Within her political science major, Maier is emphasizing international relations with a goal to work in international aid, displaying a particular interest in eastern Africa. As she moves into her upper-division classes this fall, Maier brings the confidence that years of preparation will help ensure she is ready to handle the difficulties of more challenging courses and greater expectations in her athletic specialties.