Allie Ostrander was the only college runner in a field otherwise filled with professionals and the only teenager amid a collection of 20- and 30-somethings, and yet she more than held her own Sunday in the women's 5,000-meter final at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
And the 19-year-old from Soldotna, just a year removed from Kenai Central High, continued to show she could be the future of American women's distance running.
Ostrander finished eighth in the field of 16, sticking with the pack for the majority of the race at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, and clocking 15 minutes, 24.77 seconds.
The top three finishers – American record-holder Molly Huddle, Shelby Houlihan and Kim Conley – qualified for the Rio Olympics.
Ostrander's performance against a field with an average age of 26 proved even more impressive considering she trained for just five weeks before the Trials after a knee injury kept her from running for two months this spring. Ostrander cross-trained during her hiatus from running, and only five weeks ago began training by alternating running and walking.
Fresh off her freshman year at Boise State, Ostrander qualified for Sunday's final by posting the fourth-fastest time (15:27.13) in Thursday'spreliminary rounds. Her time Sunday was three seconds slower than her personal best for the 3.1-mile race.
Sunday's qualifiers for Rio owned years of experience compared to Ostrander – Huddle (15:05.1) is 31; Houlihan (15:06.14) was the second youngest in the field at 23; and Conley (15:10.62) is 30.
Ostrander has enjoyed enormous success for years now, and Sunday's race wrapped a stretch of 14 months in which she has in myriad disciplines — track, cross country and mountain running.
Ostrander closed her prep career in 2015 by breaking her state track records for the 1,600 meters and 3,200 meters. That came after she won her third straight state high school cross-country championship in the fall of 2014.
The six-time junior Mount Marathon champion and record-holder made her senior-division debut in that race on Independence Day in 2015 and merely finished second to Sweden's Emelie Forsberg, a professional mountain runner who ranks among the best in the world. Forsberg and Ostrander topped the 25-year-old Mount Marathon record of icon Nancy Pease.
Ostrander won the world junior women's mountain running championship in North Wales last fall, then as a freshman finished runner-up at the NCAA Division I cross country championships.
She clocked a personal-best 15:21.85 indoors at the University of Washington Invitational in January, which qualified her for the Trials in the 5,000. Ostrander dropped out of the 5,000 midway through the NCAA indoor nationals with the knee injury that sidelined her for much of the spring and caused her to miss the outdoor season.
Yet she rebounded strongly in Thursday's preliminaries at the Trials.
Five Alaska-connected athletes competed at the Trials.
Former Eielson star Janay DeLoach finished third in the women's long jump to make her second straight Olympic team. She won bronze at the 2012 Games in London.
Former Bartlett High shot putter Jordan Clarke finished ninth in the men's shot put and Ketchikan's Isaac Updike closed a breakthrough season by finishing 12th in the men's steeplechase. Also, Paige Blackburn of Soldotna finished 21st in the women's discus.
Another Alaskan attempting to qualify for the Olympics was derailed by injury. Long jumper David Registe of Palmer, the former UAA standout, this summer attempted to qualify for Dominica – he owns dual citizenship – but recently reported on Twitter he suffered a hamstring injury.
Three Alaska track and field athletes in history have reached the Olympics. DeLoach prospered in 2012. Former East High standout Don Clary ran the 5,000 meters at the Games in Los Angeles in 1984. And Chris Clark, a doctor in Anchorage, shocked in 2000 when she won the women's marathon at the Olympic Trials and finished 19th at the Sydney Games.