Meet Our Board Members!
As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, we maintain a set of elected board members that ensure Team Athena is responsible and thriving. Each of the board members are active runners, who you can expect to see at track workouts. Our goal is to ensure community involvement, maximize our opportunity to reach women and to create an environment that is supportive, encouraging and fun!
Michelle Watson, President
Michelle has always been active in sports. From the age of 5 her Mom encouraged her to do one sport per year along with her older sister. She has tried ballet, gymnastics, basketball, softball, ski racing and taekwondo. After High School, Michelle started running with her brother and sister for fun. They would go on long runs in the Summer heat down to the old Columbia River Gorge Highway and back home (10 miles). She didn’t start doing any running events until 2003. Her friend asked her to do the Portland Marathon and she said, why not? I run often…I can do this! ….2 weeks before the event! 26.2 miles later she had completed her first marathon! In 2005 after a close friend passed away from Leukemia, she decided to fund-raise for Making Strides Happen for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and run the Nike Women’s Marathon raising $1,200 for LLS.
Michelle decided to take a break from Marathoning for a while, but would soon go back to it once again in 2009 when she joined Team In Training. While training for an endurance event, TNT raises funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to fight blood cancers. She completed the 2009 Honolulu Marathon and got a Boston Qualifier! After being a TNT Mentor and Captain, she has since been a Run Coach for Team In Training LLS for 7 years now. She loves that she can use her passion for running towards a good cause and make a difference. Michelle and her husband have helped raise over $50,000 for the local Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Michelle joined Team Athena in November 2013. The energy and support that she endured was really something special and reeled her in….she just can’t get enough of the Team Athena spirit and the friendships that have formed along the way! She looks forward to every Tuesday track night to be inspired, motivated and driven to give it her all running circles with her teammates.
Michelle has completed 20 marathons, a handful of half marathons, 14 Hood To Coast Relays/5ks/8/Ks/10ks/15ks and 4 trail 50Ks...oh and in January 2017 her first 8K Snow Shoe Race! :) Her ultimate goal is to run all of the major marathons (Boston/Chicago/Berlin/London/Tokyo/New York-3 down, 3 to go!). In 2015 she ran in memory of her Mom (Bea) at the Boston Marathon April 2015, whom passed in 2014. She says that day was unforgettable and healing....her Mom was with her every step, all the way to a PR...she is my forever angel. Michelle looks forward to running her 7th Boston Marathon in 2019.
Her Mom’s favorite quote and her mantra in life, “Good better best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better. And your better is BEST.” Life is precious …every day is a gift and should never be take it for granted. Laugh too much….love too much…be in the moment...because the littlest moments become forever precious memories.
Stacie Garrison, Social Chair
Stacie has been active in sports for many years starting in 4th grade being coached by her dad in Basketball and Golf and in 5th grade falling in love with Volleyball and Track & Field. She continued with all of them through High School.
After sometime off due to life & adulting, her passion was reignited for running 5 years ago in 2012 when she decided to do her 1st Half Marathon. She had moved to the Columbia River Gorge after meeting her forever best friend where she quickly realized her whole backyard was her new playground littered with running trails. She has always been a "run for fun" and "as long as I finish" kind of runner, until she joined Team Athena.
Stacie joined Team Athena in 2016 and the support system has been so empowering for her. It has brought her 2 PR’s in 5 short months in a Half Marathon & 10k. The strength of the women of Team Athena, along with bonds and friendships will follow with her every time she laces up! Stacie has competed in a 25k, 10+ Half Marathons, Ride.Row.Run twice and numerous 10ks & 5ks. She set a goal in 2016 to run 50 Half’s in 50 States and to improve her speed & distance to be able to compete in a Full Marathon.
She loves here full time job as a specialty Construction Operator, Truck Driver and Safety Manager and spending time with her Grand baby & Fur babies. In her free time she keeps herself busy with her passions for Gardening, Canning, Woodworking, Sewing, Knitting and really anything crafty.
Carolyn Sykes, Membership Coordinator
Carolyn started running at the age of 10 and it has been a major part of her life ever since. She ran casually for many years, not really competing until after college. She wanted to lose her college beer weight and signed up for a 10k. She followed that with a half marathon and then completed her first full at the Portland Marathon in 2005.
After breaking her foot one summer, Carolyn re-learned how to swim. She already owned a road bike, so a triathlon seemed like a logical next step. She has completed in many local sprint and olympic triathlons, as well as two 70.3 races and one full Ironman. She also served on the board of the Portland Triathlon Club for two years.
Carolyn joined Team Athena in February of 2016 and it was the best decision she ever made! She has made so many great friends and her training has been better than ever! Since joining the team, she has run PRs in multiple distances, and hopes to follow this trend at the NYC Marathon in November 2017 this year. Team Athena runners are so positive and supportive, yet we also manage to push ourselves hard every week on the track. Whenever she hits the track with the team she always ends up running faster than when she runs solo. Coach Shawn is a great motivator at practice and is a genius at working with everyone’s varying paces and race schedules. Team Athena has given her more confidence in herself as a runner, for which she is extremely grateful. She is happy to be on the board of this fantastic organization!
Jessica Zdeb, Secretary Treasurer/Membership Coordinator
Jess got into running her freshman year of college. After a childhood of swimming, plus a brief stint of rowing, she was initially very sad to lose the team aspect of these sports. However, running bridge loops along the Charles River in Cambridge, MA soon won her over.
Lots of snowy solo runs later, Jess ran her first marathon in her junior year, then five more over the next two and a half years, including Boston in 2004 and 2006. A bit burnt out on the distance, she turned to shorter races and to just running for the fun of it. Part of the fun was getting to know her new hometowns in the next ten years: San Francisco, Oakland, and Washington, DC. As a city planner who works on active transportation, Jess loves to get to know cities this way when she travels, too.
In DC, Jess started going to November Project and loved this group workout (check out this free fitness movement yourself!), though she still had yet to join a running team. Enter moving to Portland in 2016: a new city, looking for a way to meet people, and to continue chasing PRs. Team Athena was welcoming from the first test workout before she even moved here. Now Jess looks forward to Tuesday nights at the track and the amazing group of women she shares it with. With their support, and Shawn’s coaching, she ran her first marathon in 11 years at CIM 2017 and her first 50k trail race this year. Jess looks forward to welcoming more women to this group and cheering them on as they run in circles on the track, on the roads, or on the trails.
Alyssa Barrette, Social Media/Website Coordinator
Alyssa has always been active in sports. Growing up she played softball, volleyball, ran cross country and track. Once she got to high school, she realized she exceled in running more than any other sport and since then it just stuck with her. It wasn’t until after college that she became interested in running longer distances when her dad asked her to run a half marathon with him. She instantly got hooked and signed up for her first marathon weeks after. Since then she has run 4 50k trail races, 8 marathons, 11 half marathons, relays, and numerous races ranging in distance from 5k to 30k.
Alyssa joined Team Athena in March of 2018 to vary her training, meet new people and become a stronger, faster runner. She believes joining a running group is one of the best things you can do to progress your running. Team Athena is a group of strong, supportive, and positive women. Alyssa believes women who support women empower one another to become the best version of themselves on and off the track.
Stephanie Liberman, Fundraiser Liaison/Community Outreach
While continually active in sports, Stephanie wasn’t always a runner. Growing up, Stephanie competed as a gymnast where the furthest she ran was 80 feet down a vault runway. She dabbled in running but saw any distance longer than a mile as too daunting. A few years after college, a brochure inspired her to take a risk and train with Team in Training (an organization that raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society) for the 2008 Eugene Half Marathon. Each week of training she ran further than ever before and she found the experience exhilarating. Stephanie valued the time outside and the connections she made with other runners. She was hooked on running.
In the years since, Stephanie ran 5 marathons, many half-marathons and a 50K. Running brought Stephanie confidence, new friends and an improved sense of well-being. Excited to share the benefits of this amazing sport, she started coaching Girls on the Run. This program strives to inspire girls to be “joyful, confident and healthy” through running. Stephanie has helped over 30 elementary school girls run their first 5K.
Needing new inspiration in her running, Stephanie joined Team Athena in July of 2018, and it’s been the best running decision she’s made. The welcoming, positive and encouraging atmosphere created by the women, along with the knowledgeable Coach Shawn, has helped her to grow leaps and bounds as a runner. Since joining the team, Stephanie ran PRs in three different distances.
When she is not running, Stephanie spends her time teaching fourth grade, hiking, cooking and traveling. She is thrilled to be serving on the board of directors for Team Athena!
Erica Swanson Dufour, Team Apparel
Erica grew up very active – ballet dancing, swimming, hiking and camping with her family. Her passion was ballet for many, many years. In high school, she started running for fun. The passion grew when she was in college, even running in through the winter months in Chicago. After she graduated, she ran her first marathon (Chicago) in 1998 and she’s been hooked ever since.
Erica has run over 20 marathons (including one 50K), many half-marathons, The Relay (Napa to Santa Cruz – 3x) and Hood To Coast (4x). She is also a certified RRCA coach and was a volunteer coach for a Jr. High Cross Country team while living in Northern California. She has also coach Girls on the Run in Portland. Her most memorable race was the 2016 San Francisco Marathon, when her son was 9 months old. Having her son, Cooper, and husband, Greg, cheering her through months of training and on the sideline in San Francisco was an incredible journey. Greg is also an avid marathoner and Ironman, so Cooper has many races under his belt and is a superior spectator! Erica looks forward to running the Boston Marathon again in 2019.
Erica joined Team Athena in 2015 and joined the board in 2018. Erica loves the camaraderie, support and coaching tips from the team and coach Shawn. She has made lasting friendships and found support and enjoyment during workouts and outside the track as well. She’s thrilled to be part of such an amazing organization and looks forward to meeting more runners in Portland.