Allie Ostrander is an exceptional young woman — kind, humble, self-effacing, an academic achiever, a volunteer in her community and, her family says, an excellent chef.
And, in competition, merciless.
That last quality emerged again Saturday afternoon when the Boise State redshirt freshman from Soldotna seized the NCAA Division I 3,000-meter steeplechase title in Eugene, Oregon.
Ostrander, 20, delivered a decisive surge on the final backstretch at storied Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus, flayed the field and won going away in a personal-best 9 minutes, 41.31 seconds.
Just 81 minutes after the Kenai Central graduate won her first college national championship, she toed the line in the 5,000 meters and finished fourth in a season-best 15:46.18 to give her two All-America honors Saturday and three for her career. Ostrander was runner-up at the cross country college nationals in 2015.
With her steeplechase victory, Ostrander joined select company. She is believed to be only the third Alaskan to win a Division I individual track and field national title, joining former Bartlett High strongman Jordan Clarke, who won four shot put national championships at Arizona State, and Chugiak's David Morris, who won an indoor 3,000-meter title for Montana.
Following her steeplechase victory, Ostrander told ESPN she watched Friday's men's championship races and was in awe of athletes who became national champions.
"I just can't ever imagine what that feels like, and now I can,'' Ostrander said.
Ostrander's parents, Teri and Paul, were in attendance. Paul said the couple was "a mess" after their youngest daughter's victory — older sister Taylor is a former college steeplechaser — and that Allie was likewise emotional when she visited her parents in the stands between races. Ostrander has endured injuries throughout the last year.
"I think it was just incredible vindication for all the work she's put in," Paul said by cellphone. "It was pretty emotional for the whole family."
Ostrander's parents also attended the West Preliminary, a qualifier for the NCAAs, two weeks ago in Austin, Texas.
"At this point, we just don't want to miss a single second of it," Paul said.
Ostrander is a newcomer to the steeplechase, the event of seven-plus laps that requires athletes to negotiate multiple 30-inch-high barriers and a water jump on each circuit. The steeple demands strength, athleticism and focus — clearing the barriers and water jump disrupts rhythm and drains energy, and also gets spikes wet — and Ostrander owns all of them, as well as a long history of victories.
She's been a world mountain running junior champion and six-time junior winner at Mount Marathon, where she also owns the second-fastest senior women's time in history for the Fourth of July race up and down the peak in Seward. She owns the Alaska high school records at 1,600 and 3,200 meters, and won a prep national championship in cross country. Last summer, as the only teenager and college runner in the field, she finished eighth in the 5,000 meters in 15:24.74 at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Ostrander also played soccer and basketball in high school, which honed her athleticism.
Dueling with New Hampshire junior Elinor Purrier on the final lap of the steeplechase — the pair were well ahead of their pursuers — Ostrander made the kind of move on the backstretch that coaches preach: Definitive. Ostrander didn't just move ahead of Purrier. She left her behind and finished more than five seconds clear of runner-up Madison Boreman, a Colorado freshman.
Ostrander's 9:41.31, the year's fastest time by a college runner, came in just the fourth steeplechase of her career and slashed an astonishing nine seconds off her previous best of 9:50.55, which came in Thursday's semifinals. That time makes Ostrander the eighth-fastest American steeplechaser this season — the seven women faster are all professionals.
Ostrander's time also qualified her for the USA Track & Field National Championships later this month in Sacramento, California. She also owns a qualifier for nationals in the 5,000, based on her time in the Trials final last July.
Ostrander was the only runner in the 24-woman 5,000-meter field Saturday who was coming off racing the steeplechase earlier. That was a daunting double — a combined five miles of championship racing within a span of roughly an hour and a half.
Still, Ostrander moved up from her early, mid-pack position to join the secondary contenders after Missouri junior and eventual winner Karissa Schweitzer (15:38.93) pulled away from the field.
Ostrander's 15:46.18 was her season-best, lopping 23 seconds off her previous best this season, which came in the only other 5,000 she has run since the Olympic Trials.
Ostrander at the Trials competed with only about one month of running training. She had redshirted the outdoor track season at Boise State last spring because of a knee injury. Injuries also caused her to miss the cross country season last fall and the indoor track season earlier this year.
Judging from Saturday's performances, though, she appears healthy and fit — and as merciless a competitor as ever.