In the realm of sports, some people are silent killers. Courtney Zalud is a silent leader.
As one of the elder runners on the WSU women's cross country team, red shirt junior Zalud has experienced the highs and lows associated with being a Division I long distance runner, and she uses her experience to help her teammates.
"I am pretty quiet, but I try to help them out," Zalud said. "I always ask them how they are doing and helping them deal with stress between school and running."
Before moving to Spokane, Zalud was born in San Diego, and has two brothers and a younger sister.
Sports were a big part of Zalud’s family. Both her father and brother were long distance runners in high school, and while growing up Zalud played multiple sports with her family.
"We were really active," she said. "My Dad and I would always go on runs for fun too."
It wasn't until high school that Zalud decided running was the sport for her, and she realized she had the ability to run at the Division I level.
"In high school I mostly did it for fun, but I was good," she said.
At Mt. Spokane High School, Zalud earned eight varsity letters: four in track and field and four in cross country, according to WSUCougars.com. She also made first team all-state as a freshman for cross country. During her senior year at Mt. Spokane, Zalud placed 10th at the 3A state cross country meet.
Since her brother was already a WSU student, Zalud felt more comfortable choosing Pullman as her new home.
Zalud’s younger sister followed in her footsteps and decided to attend WSU as well. Her sister plays as a defender for the WSU soccer team.
Zalud has the support of her family, and her father attends almost all of her races.
"They support me with everything," Zalud said. "They're always there to talk to."
Zalud mimics her family’s support by being a humble leader for her team and helping out with whatever struggles her teammates have.
The WSU cross country season opens up Saturday in Spokane at the Clash of the Inland Northwest meet.