In the third 3,000-meter steeplechase of her career, Soldotna's Allie Ostrander posted a personal-best that delivered the third-fastest qualifying time Thursday at the NCAA Division I Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
The Kenai Central graduate, a redshirt freshman at Boise State, clocked 9 minutes, 50.55 seconds. She was edged at the line in her semifinal heat by a pair of seniors, Hope Schmelzle of Northern Illinois (9:50.51) and Tori Gerlach of Penn State (9:50.54).
Ostrander easily qualified for Saturday's 12-woman final at Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus. Her time Thursday slashed 5.06 seconds off her previous best. Ostrander is also entered in Saturday's 5,000-meter final.
Ostrander last summer finished eighth in the 5,000 at the U.S. Olympic Trials. She was runner-up at the 2015 Division I cross-country championships. She has won a junior world mountain running championship. She owns the second-fastest women's time in history at Mount Marathon, the annual Fourth of July race up and down the rugged peak overlooking Seward, and won the girls junior race at Mount Marathon six consecutive times. She owns the girls junior record in that race.
Still, Ostrander is a newcomer to the steeplechase, which requires runners to negotiate sturdy barriers and a water jump. It's an athletic event, and she fits the bill — Ostrander also played soccer and basketball in high school, and dominated prep cross country and track meets. She owns state high school records in the 1,600 meters and the 3,200.
Ostrander, whose early college career has been interrupted by injuries, made her steeplechase debut March 31 at the Stanford Invitational. All she did was win in 9:55.61, which entering Thursday was the fourth-fastest time this season in Division I. She clocked 10:00.02 in winning the NCAA West Preliminary Round late last month.
If Ostrander races both the steeplechase and the 5,000 Saturday, she will be tackling an exceptionally difficult double. Only 91 minutes separate the starting times for those finals — the steeplechase will be run first — and the two events combine for five miles of hard racing.