Erin Kling looked out at the scene at the University of Pennsylvania's Franklin Field and, for a moment, couldn't breath.
It was April, and Kling, then a senior at the California University of Pennsylvania, was one of the more than 15,000 competitors taking part in the oldest and largest track and field competition in the country - the Penn Relays.
"I was so nervous before the meet because it was the biggest and most prestigious I'd ever been to," she said. "It takes your breath away, there's so much going on. The idea that I was at this meet and at this historical place was just ... insane."
Jamestown native Erin Kling took California University of Pennsylvania by storm during her four years there.
Kling may have been worried, but when it came time to race, she didn't show it; not at all. And evidence of that was her finishing time in her race, the 10,000-meter run (36:48.83), which broke her own school record by 10 seconds.
What's more, the time was 18th-best amongst the top distance runners in the country from all NCAA divisions.
"I never imagined being able to do that," she said. "I hadn't even intended to run the 10K (my senior year). But my coach had brought it up earlier in the season and I said I would, because I'd regret it if I didn't."
That the Jamestown High School alumna had overcome whatever nerves or obstacles that had stood in her way that day was nothing new. She'd been doing that throughout her career. Whether it's bouncing back from an injury-plagued sophomore season at Cal (at one point she was sidelined for nearly 10 weeks after unknowingly running on a stress fracture for five months), or balancing a heavy college workload with an equally hectic, nearly year-round athletic schedule, Kling has managed it all.
"Stubbornness and determination," she said with a laugh.
And it's that philosophy that has been crucial in helping Kling graduate from Cal as one of the most successful student-athletes in school history.
Not only has she, over her collegiate running career, set a combined five school records and qualified for the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) in four events, but she's also a two-time Academic All-American (the first female track & field competitor at Cal achieve such a feat), a two-time PSAC Top-10 honoree (which recognizes the top five male and female student-athletes in the conference amongst all sports) and recently earned her bachelor's degree in biology, with a concentration in pre-medicine and a minor in chemistry.
Her grade-point average?
A perfect 4.0.
"I'm so pleased (with my career at Cal)," she said. "It took a lot of studying and time management, but I know that my last year was my best and I'm glad it all came together. ... To be recognized (with the Academic All-American and PSAC Top 10) like that was pretty exciting. I was blown away."
Now, she's off to Chatham University (near Pittsburgh) in the fall to continue her education. There she plans to get her doctorate in physical therapy, and hopes that her experiences with the ups-and-downs of sports can help her future patients.
"The biggest thing I've found is that (my college) career has given me so much perspective," she said. "Many of the patients coming in have the same injuries that I've had, so I have empathy and understanding because I experienced it."
And, like she's done time and time again at races over the years, she isn't going to take her time to the finish line in this her latest endeavor.
No, Kling expects to graduate with her doctorate a semester early.