Alex Aust attends the 2021 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Runway Show on July 10 in Miami.

Run Test to Runway: Alex Aust Featured in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

Alex Aust stepped behind the white end line. She crouched down into a runner's stance and stood still, waiting for Maryland women’s lacrosse coach Cathy Reese to blow the whistle.

It was fall 2009, and Aust was a freshman attacker for the Terps. She needed to sprint 100 yards in 18 seconds and jog 100 yards back in 42, and she had to do it 20 times in a row.

Twenty minutes later, Aust was still running. She failed, and her outcome the next year was no different.

“I was in the Breakfast Club,” Aust said. “Anyone who didn’t pass our run test had to train with our strength and conditioning coach at 6 a.m., three days a week. I was basically the captain of the Breakfast Club.”

In the summer of 2011 going into her junior year, Aust worked every Maryland lacrosse camp with Reese. Camp started at 7 a.m., so Aust asked Maryland lacrosse’s strength and conditioning coach Mike Szemborski to run her at 6 a.m. daily.

That fall, Aust didn’t think twice when she lined up for 2.27 miles in sprints. She passed.

“My junior year was my breakout season for that reason,” Aust said. “I was fitter, so I was more confident. You wouldn’t think by just passing a run test, you’re going to have your breakout season. But it really was a massive roadblock for me.”

Reese said she doesn’t place great importance on Maryland’s run test, but it does build the team’s mental toughness and act as a personal marker for each player to know what’s necessary to elevate her game. The run test exemplifies Reese’s teachings as a coach. The four-time IWLCA Division I Coach of the Year stresses growing her players’ confidence and working hard for others.

In 2012, Aust led the team in points (96) and assists (52), the latter being the third-highest single-season total in Maryland history. She was also an IWLCA second-team All-American. In her senior season in 2013, she was a first-team All-American and Tewaaraton Award finalist. Aust continued to play professionally and was a member of the gold medal-winning 2017 U.S. national team.

This summer, Aust’s run test turned into a walk — a runway walk.

Aust was one of 15 Sports Illustrated Swim Search finalists who debuted at the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit runway show July 10 in Miami. Former USC lacrosse player Katie Austin also made the final 15.

Both are among the 13 SI Swim Search models featured in the 2021 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, the publication announced Monday on Instagram.

The magazine hits newsstands Thursday. Twenty-four hours later, Aust will suit up for Athletes Unlimited, the new professional women’s lacrosse league’s debuting this weekend in Boyds, Md.

“To see how Alex’s confidence, leadership and discipline developed since freshman year and the different doors open for her is inspirational,” Reese said. “Alex is really taking risks and challenges.”

“I may be the first lacrosse player in Sports Illustrated Swim, but I’m not going to be the last.”

—Alex Aust

Before actually applying — by posting her reel audition on Instagram — Aust never admitted aloud that being a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model was a dream. But it’s been on her mind since she was 8, holding a Sports Illustrated magazine of Tyra Banks, feeling Banks’ confidence radiate off the cover.

Since that moment, Aust said, she wanted to feel the way she assumed Banks felt about herself.

That moment came, again, during Aust’s junior year at Maryland.

Aust said she’s always had a healthy relationship with food, but when she gained 15 pounds in college, her confidence took a hit. Aust was stronger, but she said it was hard to see her body change and not fit into the same pair of jeans she wore in high school.

Aust decided to ditch the scale and focus on how her body felt and performed on the field. It’s a mindset she carried with her into adulthood.

“As athletes, we don’t have that stick-thin body type, but at the end of the day, our bodies are our vehicles,” said Nicole Aust, Alex’s sister and former Maryland teammate. “If Alex’s body is skinny and small, it’s not going to perform the way she wants it to on the field and she’s learned to cherish that.”

Aust turned 30 in November and decided 2021 would be the year she’d get in the best shape of her life. Her COVID-19 quarantine days were filled with HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and home sculpting workouts. She worked on building her virtual workout community and company The Sweaat Life and led virtual exercise classes from home.

Aust’s fiancée Marcus Holman, the Premier Lacrosse League All-Star and U.S. national team attackman, was her assistant for part of the pandemic.

“When COVID hit, Alex drove right into that Sweaat Life and built that community,” Holman said. “It means a lot to her to lead, inspire and empower other women.”

Aust defined confidence as a superpower. Helping people unlock that superpower — through group workouts, appreciating her body on the runway and teaching young female athletes at her Finish Line lacrosse camps  — is how she leads.

Even if those people exist hundreds of miles apart during a global pandemic.

Getting to a place of peace with her body took pushing it to its limits, Aust said. It’s no coincidence that the year she felt most mentally, physically and emotionally fit is the year she applied for SI Swimsuit.

At the SI Swimsuit shoot in May, editor MJ Day turned the monitor to show Aust the photos fashion photographer Yu Tsai snapped of her in a stringy-yet-sporty yellow bikini on a beach in Atlantic City, N.J.

“Can you believe this is you?” Day asked Aust.

Aust erupted in tears.

“I felt every emotion I had in the past eight months,” Aust said. “Working my butt off to be the best version of myself. I saw that in a moment. I never realized a photo of yourself could be that powerful.”

Holman wasn’t surprised SI Swimsuit chose Aust as a finalist. Back in 2020, when he watched her film her audition video on Utah’s Antelope Island, he realized she was a natural — both as a model and leader.

“It’s cool to see her step outside of her comfort zone and show young girls that it’s OK to be sporty and competitive but also have a feminine side,” Holman said.

The 15 SI Swim Search finalists are not full-time models. Rather, they’re entrepreneurs, mothers, students and athletes.


Aust returns to the lacrosse field for the first time in a year and a half Friday for the debut of Athletes Unlimited.

Aust returns to the lacrosse field for the first time in a year and a half Friday for the debut of a new and innovative professional women’s lacrosse league.

Athletes Unlimited replaces the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League, which was founded in 2018 and ceased operations in 2020. AU launched a softball league in 2020 and a volleyball league earlier this year. Now, it adds its third pro league with four lacrosse teams: Gold, Orange, Blue and Purple.

But AU isn’t like your typical professional sports league. Players earn points based on their statistics and the outcome of the game. Each week, the four players at the top of the leaderboard draft teams for the next week of games. At the end of the season, the player leading in the standings is crowned champion.

The focus is on the individual players, rather than the team.

That works for Aust, who said she’s not attached to any specific model of the game. She’s in favor of whatever will one day allow professional athletes to call their sport their full-time job, unlike many pro female athletes who currently work multiple jobs to make ends meet.

Aust found her calling as more than a lacrosse player, but also as an influencer with a following on Instagram (44,200), a Baltimore Magazine award-winning fitness instructor and now an SI Swimsuit model.

“This isn’t even about me,” Aust said. “I may be the first lacrosse player in Sports Illustrated Swim, but I’m not going to be the last.”