In the end, it was not to be.
Soldotna runner Allie Ostrander missed out on a spot at the summer Olympic games in Rio, Brazil, with an eighth-place result in the women’s 5,000-meter final at the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon.
Ostrander crossed the finish line with a time of 15 minutes, 24.74 seconds, just over 14 seconds behind third-place finisher Kim Conley, the difference between an Olympic berth and going home.
The 2015 Kenai Central graduate executed a smart race, hanging close to the inside rail for the majority of the event and staying between fifth and 10th place.
However, the Boise State sophomore dropped back from the lead pack with about two laps to go and could not make up the gap in the stretch run. 2012 Olympian Molly Huddle won the race in 15:05.01.
“It was awesome to get our there and run with some of the best in the nation and put a solid effort on the track,” Ostrander said in a postrace interview by LetsRun.com.
From the starting gun, Ostrander jockeyed with the pack to find a comfortable spot in the lead pack. At the 3,000-meter mark, Ostrander sat 10th with a split of 9:27.82. Ostrander moved into fifth place with three to go, her highest running position of the race, but dropped two spots on the ensuing lap as the leaders picked up the pace from a 16-minute finishing time to a 15:10 target.
With the top six duking it out ahead of her, Ostrander began losing significant ground to the pack. At the sound of the bell, signifying the final lap, Huddle made her move, putting on a surge of speed to distance herself from the lead pack and crossed the line at 15:05.01, beating runner-up Shelby Houlihan by 1.13 seconds. Conley finished third and picked up the final Olympic qualifying spot, 5.61 seconds behind Huddle.
Ostrander could only be left to pick up the pieces in the final lap, officially finishing 14.12 seconds behind a coveted spot at Rio.
“I was hoping to compete with the top girls a little more, but I think the slow start to the race kind of put a damper on my racing style,” Ostrander said. “I like a little more of a steady pace, and the constant pick up of the entire race was really hard for me to keep up with and in the end, I just didn’t have the legs for it.”
Ostrander’s result is made all the more impressive considering her circumstances. Ostrander was the only collegiate runner in the field of 16, and was racing after an injury setback put a hold on her spring training. Ostrander was diagnosed with a tibial stress fracture after stepping off the track at the Division I Indoor National Championships on March 11.
“This did a huge amount for my confidence,” Ostrander said. “Coming back from the injury, I definitely wasn’t sure where my fitness was at, and there’s always the fear that you’re never going to run fast again.”
After discovering the injury, Ostrander resorted to other training options to keep up her fitness, including the use of an underwater treadmill in her cross-training.
Ostrander said she had been back to full time running only five weeks before Sunday’s final, which was contested at Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus, one of the most prestigious running schools in the nation and a recruiting candidate of Ostrander, who eventually chose the Boise State Broncos in Idaho.
“It’s amazing, it’s such an awesome atmosphere,” she said. “It’s not just that it’s Hayward Field, it attracts so many people to this venue, and the entire town is out watching.”
Ostrander also had her parents, Terri and Paul, and sister Taylor in attendance and watching from the sidelines.
Ostrander’s next focus will be on the fall cross-country running season with Boise State, where she will try to add more accolades to her already-impressive list, which includes three Alaska high school cross-country state championships, state records in the girls 1,600- and 3,200-meter track events, six Mount Marathon junior girls titles, a World Mountain Running junior championship, the 2014 Nike Cross Nationals prep championship and a runner-up finish at the NCAA Division I cross-country nationals.