Sunday afternoon on a wet track at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, Allie Ostrander was running the race of her life, jostling with the fastest middle distance runners in the nation for a spot at the Rio Olympic Games.
Wednesday evening at the sunny Tsalteshi Trails, Ostrander was back to her humble beginnings, encouraging young kids to run as fast as they ever have.
Enter the life of “Allie O,” who returned from her sensational trip to Oregon to enjoy the home crowd and festivities at race No. 2 of her own creation, the Salmon Run Series, where she could be seen guiding the next generation of promising peninsula prodigies just days after she was the one playing the role of up-and-coming novice racer.
“I feel like once they grow up, running isn’t cool anymore,” Ostrander said about the runners ages 5 to 8 that competed in the one-kilometers kids race. “I want to make sure they’re having fun.”
The Salmon Run Series, now in its fifth year of existence, brings out runners from around the central Kenai Peninsula for five races each summer with the goal of promoting the sport of running and its benefits.
More importantly, the series provides donations to the Kenai Watershed Forum, helping to support the eradication of invasive plant species along the Kenai River and the program’s summer camps.
Last summer, the five-race series peaked at well over 100 racers, and Wednesday night’s event drew 139 runners.
“The community support is amazing,” Ostrander said. “I hope it can continue for many more years, and I hope it encourages others to keep running the trails.”
Ostrander said she was happy to be back home after her attempt at the Olympic trials, which she raced as the only collegiate runner in a field of professionals.
“I miss the mountains and the people,” she said.
Chugiak’s Ty Jordan took some time off from his summertime set-netting job to race the event, and cruised to the win in a time of 18 minutes, 7 seconds.
Jordan removed the weight of the expectations placed upon him by capturing the Class 4A state high school cross-country championship last fall at the Bartlett High trails in Anchorage. Jordan had come close in prior years, but never could beat the three-time state champ Levi Thomet of Kodiak.
Wednesday’s Salmon Run race was just a tuneup for Jordan, who was seeing where his current fitness level lies.
“Of course, when you have Allie around, it doesn’t look as good,” joked Jordan, whose career best time of 15:37 for a 5K distance is outmatched by Ostrander’s 15:21.85.
Of course, Ostrander’s blazing fast time was set on a 307-meter indoor track, while Jordan’s was run on a rugged Alaska trail. Ostrander’s best trail run in the 49th state came at the Michael Janecek Trails in Palmer, a notoriously fast course that she completed in 16:40 as a senior at Kenai Central.
Ostrander’s road to the qualifying trials was not easy by any means. The 2015 Kenai Central graduate missed two months of running due to a tibial stress fracture that was discovered a week after she stepped off the track in the women’s 5,000 meters at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field championships on March 11.
Instead of running, Ostrander had to find other ways to keep up her training, including but not limited to the use of an underwater treadmill.
Ostrander said her preliminary time of 15:27 on July 7 answered a lot of questions about her fitness level after the injury.
“It was a huge relief,” she said. “My times were definitely as good as I could’ve hoped for.”
With Ostrander keeping up right in the middle of the lead pack, the field opened the first mile at close to five minutes flat, but soon realized they would need to pick up the pace. It wasn’t long before race leader Molly Huddle pushed the field to a 4:49 middle mile time, before finishing with a wicked 4:39 final mile. Ostrander faded in the final 800 meters and finished with a final mile time of 4:58.
The experience left a starry-eyed Ostrander in awe. In the prelim, Ostrander beat one of her most admired peers, Abbey D’Agostino, a standout collegiate runner who became the most decorated Ivy League cross-country and track runner for Dartmouth University. D’Agostino, who now runs for New Balance at the age of 24, got the better of Ostrander in the final.
After Sunday’s final, Ostrander found race winner Huddle and asked for an autograph.
Unfortunately, Ostrander never received the John Hancock she was after.
“We have to go through this reporter’s tunnel, and then an athlete’s area, and it took awhile,” she explained, adding that Huddle was a bit surprised to hear another competitor wanted an autograph.
Even though Ostrander finished eighth, about 14 seconds behind third place, the difference between a spot at Rio and going home, the experience was one that provided a valuable standard for her to improve on. Assuming she will be back for future Olympic attempts, Ostrander could battle for a spot in the summer games at ages 23, 27 and 31, the same age of Huddle.
In attendance for Ostrander’s races in Oregon was her family. Paul, Teri and sister, Taylor, were situated close to the finish line of the preliminary and had near-perfect views of the 19-year-old claiming a spot in the women’s final by virtue of a fourth-place finish, which was run in the faster of the two heat races.
“My sister was pretty persistent, she managed to find me fast,” Ostrander said. “But they had such good seats for the prelims.”
The three were seated farther along the curve, past the finish line, for Sunday’s final, and Teri said Allie was not aware where her family was situated before the race, but the views of the race were still great.
“She ran perfectly,” Paul said. “It was absolutely great.”
“She looked up at us after the finish, she knew right where we were,” Teri added.
Of course, running the Olympic trials also meant skipping the super-popular Mount Marathon race in Seward on the Fourth of July holiday for Allie, but the six-time junior girls champion wasn’t too fazed by it. Mount Marathon happens every summer, while the Olympics roll around once every four years.
Ostrander said she was intrigued to hear reporters at the trials asking her questions about Mount Marathon, a race that has gained serious attention in the last few years after the premiere of the film, “3,022”, which Ostrander credits for the biggest rise in interest. The film was created by a group of Anchorage natives that was led by former Service High runner Max Romey.
The debut of the film last summer also coincided with the debut races of a few world-class athletes and professional runners from Europe, who have taken on the challenge with record-breaking results.
In 2015, Spanish mountain runner Kilian Jornet entered and won with a dazzling record time of 41 minutes, 48 seconds, and Swedish girlfriend Emilie Forsberg pulled off an astonishing victory in the women’s race, crushing the 25-year-old record of 50:30 by Alaskan icon Nancy Pease with a 47:48. Jornet’s record was broken this year by Alaskan David Norris with a time of 41:26.
For the record, Ostrander also dipped below Pease’s time with a 50:28, but Forsberg’s race somewhat overshadowed what the Soldotna native accomplished.
At Wednesday’s Salmon Run race, Ostrander said she would welcome another go with Forsberg next year.
“I’ll be interested to see if they come back,” Ostrander deliberated.
The final three events of the Salmon Run Series will be held July 20, 27 and Aug. 3 at the Tsalteshi Trails.
Salmon Run Series Race 2
Wednesday at Tsalteshi Trails
1. Ty Jordan, 18 minutes, 7 seconds; 2. Adam Reimer, 20:12; 3. Taylor Ostrander, 20:27; 4. Addison Downing, 20:42; 5. n/a, 20:42; 6. Mike Crawford, 21:01; 7. Brian Beeson, 21:09; 8. Jeremy Kupferschmid, 21:20; 9. Bradley Walters, 21:23; 10. Karl Romig, 22:17; 11. Scott Huff, 22:37; 12. Tony Eskelin, 22:39; 13. Joey Klecka, 23:35; 14. Carl Kincaid, 23:39; 15. Connor Leaf, 23:42; 16. Jiabao Leaf, 23:43; 17. Kent Peterson, 23:45; 18. Rebecca Hitchcock, 23:53; 19. Bree Mucha, 24:19; 20. Paul Ostrander, 24:24; 21. Kevin Lauver, 24:25; 22. Michael Tallent, 24:25; 23. Anna Harper, 24:46; 24. Addison Gibson, 24:51; 25. Hannah Pothast, 24:57.
26. Rena Anderson, 25:01; 27. Thomas Kobylarz, 25:01; 28. Jeffrey Helminiak, 25:27; 29. Cody Watkins, 25:30; 30. Savai’i Heaven, 25:33; 31. Dylan Hogue, 26:11; 32. Jake Streich, 26:20; 33. Alexander Lisenby, 26:29; 34. Ben Hanson, 26:47; 35. Elizabeth Hardie, 27:04; 36. Jamie Nelson, 27:08; 37. Ashley Tonione, 27:12; 38. Lissa Juliussen, 27:25; 39. Rob Carson, 28:03; 40. Susan Craig, 28:15; 41. Krista Arthur, 28:38; 42. Chad Arthur, 28:38; 43. John Roderick, 28:40; 44. Jacquelyn Kennedy, 28:41; 45. Dave Litchfield, 28:58; 46. Carter Cannava, 29:03; 47. Sandra Stonecipher, 29:50; 48. Katrina Cannava, 29:55; 49. Jodi Hanson, 30:05; 50. Tom Yukman, 30:08.
51. Markie Shiflea, 30:12; 52. Jennifer Showalter, 30:21; 53. Kate Swaby, 30:25; 54. Alice Anderson, 30:33; 55. Patty Moran, 30:45; 56. Teri Ostrander, 30:49; 57. Kimberly Tornow, 31:21; 58. Paul Tornow, 31:21; 59. Sandi Yukman, 31:34; 60. Sara Bundy, 31:34; 61. Jim Krein, 31:48; 62. Jack Laker, 32:11; 63. Steve Cothon, 32:17; 64. Bob Boll, 32:18; 65. Alexanda Packa, 32:28; 66. Katie Bigelow, 32:29; 67. Julie Laker, 32:40; 68. Ree’Lynn Lisenby, 33:21; 69. Henry Heft, 33:21; 70. Elizabeth Lisenby, 33:24; 71. Alexandra Reed, 33:28; 72. Jordan Chilson, 33:53; 73. Breanna McConnell, 33:56; 74. Kyaran Matturo, 34:01; 75. Cassie Collins, 34:20.
76. Noelle Lattin, 34:22; 77. Jared Williams, 34:40; 78. Chase Laker, 34:41; 79. Mark Laker, 34:48; 80. Stephanie Bias, 34:57; 81. Leah Streich, 35:10; 82. Ethan Hogue, 35:16; 83. Kelly Hicks, 35:33; 84. Landen Showalter, 35:37; 85. Danny Mayfield, 35:39; 86. Jessica Larsen, 35:49; 87. Katie Tallent, 35:51; 88. Anna Lattin, 35:57; 89. Ariana Cannava, 35:57; 90. Aubree Renfro, 35:58; 91. Jessica Hulen, 36:24; 92. Rosene Brown, 36:31; 93. Sarah Cochran, 36:46; 94. Terri Cowart, 37:09; 95. Sheilah-Margaret Pothast, 37:11; 96. John Pothast, 37:11; 97. Julie Cisco, 37:20; 98. Sharon Oyao, 37:35; 99. Kim McMilin, 37:36; 100. Miranda Ralston, 37:38.
101. Molly Streich, 37:50; 102. Terri Nettles, 39:04; 103. RaChelle Gruenberg, 39:20; 104. Patti Berkhahn, 39:23; 105. Gauge Berkhahn, 39:23; 106. Amy Hogue, 39:25; 107. Maria Sweppy, 39:31; 108. Elizabeth Earl, 39:39; 109. Connie Wheat, 40:19; 110. Mary Rhyner, 40:24; 111. Stephanie Kobylarz, 41:20; 112. Robert Carson, 42:23; 113. Carole Cashman, 43:08; 114. Brenda Ahlberg, 44:12; 115. Willow Graham, 44:16; 116. Kyle Graham, 44:19; 117. Lani Lauver, 45:04; 118. Lauri Lingafelt, 45:40; 119. Natasha Reuton, 45:57; 120. Penny Furnish, 46:32; 121. Taylor Ruffner, 46:53; 122. Tara Ruffner, 46:54; 123. Matt Brown, 47:59; 124. Karen Scroggins, 50:00; 125. Monica Henson, 50:12.
126. Kayla Musgrove, 50:28; 127. Hanah Burrell, 50:28; 128. Aiden Huff, 51:11; 129. Myla Edwards, 51:53; 130. Kristen Edwards, 51:53; 131. Mallory Musgrove, 53:36; 132. Morgan Musgrove, 53:36; 133. Kirsten Huntsman, 56:05; 134. Christine Roubidoux, 58:01; 135. Joni Roubidoux, 58:01; 136. Lucia Carson, 58:16; 137. Rinna Carson, 58:19; 138. Sammy Roderick, 58:26; 139. Holli Wattcing, 1:02:44.
Note: Time, place unknown for Sarah Eskelin.