UW Athletic Hall of Fame: Erica Palmer-Cordes

UW Athletic Hall of Fame: Erica Palmer-Cordes


MADISON, Wis. — It’s not easy catching up with Erica Palmer-Cordes these days. If you want to have a casual conversation over the phone, you can do one of two things: hope that Mother Nature gets involved or have a very flexible deadline.

Palmer-Cordes and her husband, Jared, own and operate a produce farm in Wabash, Indiana. Strawberries and blackberries are among their marquee commodities. Mid-summer is when business is booming.

“We are completely swamped in produce right now,” read one text message from Palmer-Cordes, the mother of six. “Can I call you when it rains?

“Sorry,” read the next text. “Hopefully you got a little in that humor. It’s just a crazy time around here.”

Eight days passed before Palmer-Cordes found 15 minutes to talk. It wasn’t raining in north-central Indiana. She spoke while driving to deliver blackberries to a nearby winery.

Turns out that not much has changed for those tasked with trying to catch Palmer-Cordes when she’s on the run. It was just as challenging from 1998 to 2000 when she starred for the Wisconsin women’s cross country and track programs.

Hers was a career that was as brilliant as it was unfulfilling. She did things that earned her a spot in the latest class of inductees to the UW Athletic Hall of Fame, but a series of chronic leg injuries prevented her from maximizing the moment.

“Boy, do I wish it would have ended differently,” Palmer-Cordes said.

She came out of tiny Gilsum, New Hampshire (population 752) and spent the first two years of her Wisconsin career wowing those who follow her sport.

Palmer-Cordes was the first in Big Ten Conference history to be named Freshman of the Year in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. She was a six-time league individual champion and a six-time All-American. She was seen as a potential U.S. Olympian in the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters.

The moment that defined Palmer-Cordes came in the NCAA cross country meet in 1999. A sophomore, she startled everyone — including her coach — by winning the individual title in a personal-best time of 16 minutes, 39 seconds for…

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