Fifth in a series
Circumstances shape expectations, which is why record-setting, distance-running star Allie Ostrander of Soldotna enters the U.S. Olympic Trials with an atypical low-key approach – whatever happens, happens.
A knee injury caused her to miss her freshman outdoor track and field season at Boise State and kept her from running for the better part of two months, so Ostrander said she doesn't expect to feel much pressure when she races the women's 5,000 meters in Eugene, Oregon, next week.
"At this point, it's realistic for me to go in with absolutely no expectations,'' Ostrander said. "Just give it everything I have.''
Ostrander, 19, finished runner-up at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships as a freshman last November and won a junior World Mountain Running championship last fall in North Wales.
She also owns a national cross country prep championship, 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter Alaska prep track records, and three state cross country championships. And she's a six-time champion and record-holder in the junior Mount Marathon race and last Fourth of July finished runner-up – and was one of two women to break a 25-year-old record – in her senior-division debut in that storied race up and down the 3,022-foot peak in Seward.
So, Ostrander knows the pressure of running under big expectations — her own, and those of her supporters.
But her knee injury, which she said was an over-use issue, in March caused her to drop out mid-race in the 5,000 at the NCAA indoors championships, where she was among the favorites.
Ostrander cross-trained a couple of hours a day during her hiatus from running, then did limited running for two or three weeks. She's been running consistently for about a month, trying to patiently elevate her fitness.
"Coming back, it's so tempting to jump into things, bump up your mileage and run faster and faster, but you have to remember how you got in this situation,'' Ostrander said. "I had to exercise a lot of self-control.''
Ostrander said a strong track workout a week ago convinced her to give the Trials a shot.
Ostrander qualified for the 5,000 meters at the Trials with her clocking of 15 minutes, 21.85 seconds indoors at the Washington Invitational in January. That ranks her No. 11 in the nation this year and second among collegians, behind NCAA cross country champion Molly Seidel of Notre Dame.
The Trials prelims in the 5,000 are set for July 7. Mount Marathon is always on July 4. Given that the Trials only happen every four years, Ostrander long knew she would skip Mount Marathon and race the Trials, if health permitted.
"I'm not where I want to be, but I'm making really big strides every week since I've been (back) running,'' she said. "My nerves definitely won't be as much since I haven't raced in so long.
"I'm just excited to get out there and race. It's been too long.''