Allie Ostrander's return to running
As the finish line approached and nearly 3,000 meters behind her, Allie Ostrander’s eyes began to well up with a few tears.
The Boise State redshirt freshman phenom knew full well what was about to happen and what a rare accomplishment it would be.
Following a dominant final 200 meters, Ostrander won the women’s steeplechase title in 9 minutes, 41.31 seconds at the NCAA Outdoor National Championships on Saturday in Eugene, Ore. It was just the fourth time she had run the event and capped off a massively successful outdoor debut season for the Alaska native.
“I did get really emotional. I was so excited, so happy, so grateful I have this opportunity and that all the pieces came together,” Ostrander said.
Ostrander became the third Boise State female athlete and 10th athlete overall to win an individual NCAA title. Her steeplechase time was the best by any collegiate runner this year.
On Saturday, Ostrander had to fend off a veteran in New Hampshire junior Elinor Purrier, who finished third at nationals last year. On one of the final water jumps, Purrier took a brief lead, but the dimunitive Ostrander turned on the jets, winning by more than 5 seconds. Colorado’s Madison Boreman finished second, Purrier was fourth.
“I told her before the race, ‘you’re tougher than anybody else in this race, and you have to show that,’” Boise State coach Corey Ihmels said. “It came down to who wanted it the most, and she did. It was her hurdling that won it for her. Everything that everyone said she wasn’t, she showed otherwise.”
With the win, Ostrander became the first freshman to win the NCAA steeplechase crown since 2006.
As one of the top prep runners in recent years, Ostrander quickly has shown why, finishing second at the 2015 cross country national championships. She was hurt during the ensuing indoor season, and outside of taking part in the Olympic Trials last summer, had not run for the Broncos between March 12, 2016 and March 31 of this year.
“I’m so happy that after a year out of the sport ... I was able to come back, represent Boise State again and win a national title,” Ostrander said.
But Ostrander’s day was hardly over — just 75 minutes after her win, she was back on the track again, this time competing in the 5,000 meters. Ostrander finished fourth 15:46.18, a mark no doubt affected by the turnaround.
“It definitely took quite a bit out of me, but I’m still happy I did the 5K and gave it a go even though it probably wasn’t I could have done if I hadn’t done the steeplechase,” Ostrander said. “It was kind of like a flashback to high school, when I’d run four events in every meet.”
Because of Ostrander’s finishes, Boise State earned 15 team points, finishing tied for 13th on the strength of her day alone.
After getting into the training room following the steeplechase, Ostrander told Ihmels, “I wish (the 5,000) was right now.”
“That’s maybe her best skill, her toughness,” Ihmels said. “It’s a really tough double, doing what she did, kind of knew how she grinded out the last 200 in the steeplechase would mean she’d feel it in the 5K. But she executed the plan nearly perfectly.”
Boise State true freshman Clare O’Brien also ran in the 5,000, finishing 17th in 16:06.08.
Ihmels said he hopes to continue making it fun for Ostrander moving forward, adding in a new wrinkle like the steeplechase was part of it. He knows the target will be on her back but also thinks the Broncos could have a top-5 team in the cross country season that will continue to push her.
Ever the competitor, after taking about two weeks to rest, she’s already thinking about, of all things, training.
“I try not to look too far into the future, I’m really excited how this outdoor season went and I’m looking forward to moving into training over the summer and working on my future goals,” Ostrander said.
BOISE STATE’S NCAA CHAMPIONS
Bill Shaw — Skiing (Slalom) - 1974
Boise State football team — Division I-AA - 1980
Jake Jacoby — Track & Field (High Jump) - 1984
Eugene Green — Track & Field (Triple Jump*) - 1991
Kirk White — Wrestling (165 pounds) - 1999
Gabe Wallin — Track & Field (Javelin) - 2004 & 2005
Ben Cherrington — Wrestling (157 pounds) - 2006
Eleni Kafourou — Track & Field (Long Jump*) - 2009
Kurt Felix — Track & Field (Decathlon) - 2012
Emma Bates — Track & Field (10,000 meters) - 2014
Allie Ostrander — Track & Field (3,000 meter steeplechase) - 2017
*Indoor track season
Source: Boise State