Skyview graduate O’Guinn reflects on running career at UAA

Right about the time Skyview High School was getting ready to close its doors, a former Skyview athlete was reaching one of the pinnacles of her career.

2010 Skyview graduate Ivy O’Guinn ended her running career at the University of Alaska Anchorage on May 24 by finishing third in the women’s 1,500 meters at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Allendale, Michigan.

It represented her best finish at an NCAA meet, while also earning her All-American status for the second time.

“It was awesome ending my collegiate career placing higher than I ever have before and running one of my better times,” O’Guinn wrote in an email.

Adding to the excitement of finishing on a high note, the 22-year-old also left her mark at UAA with her name on the wall as school record-holder in three events — the 800 meters (with a time of 2 minutes, 9.34 seconds), 1,500 (4:25.19) and 1-mile (5:06.75).

“It feels good to know that I’m making a mark on my athletics and representing my state as a homegrown small town girl but it’s just mark(s) and I hope it inspires my teammates I’m leaving and incoming mid-distance girls to challenge themselves,” she wrote.

The finishes O’Guinn garnered are temporary. The records stand much longer.

She added that as a freshman four years ago, athletes from opposing schools would give confusing looks to each other when talking to the Alaskan runners, not knowing where the 49th state was on a map. The pleasantries would extend as far as other runners asking to swap Alaska gear and pictures with them, as if they were celebrities.

But now, the Alaskan collegiate athletic program has gained a better understanding, both on the track and, well, on the map.

“My program grew tremendously within the last four years and I’m proud to be a part of making a successful legacy,” O’Guinn said.

And the experience has only helped her along the path to a national podium finish. In her early days, before important races, she would tense up and suffer from prerace jitters, something that’s she learned to contain as a senior on the team.

“Being a senior really put things into perspective and it affected me differently as a racer because I was a seasoned athlete,” she said. “Races like the Mt. Sac Relays, Stanford Invitational, and even nationals felt like just another race and gave me the confidence that I was just as good or even better than most the athletes in my races who felt the same nerves and anticipation I did.”

While O’Guinn was racking up accolades on the track, she was also wrapping up a college degree off of it. She graduated in May with a degree in history, and plans on finishing two classes in the fall to complete a minor in psychology.

There’s no doubt that compiling the kind of accomplishments that O’Guinn has only made the final race of her career all the sweeter.

On that Saturday in May, O’Guinn said that she knew the two girls that beat her and had raced against them in past events. She also knew they would be the biggest challenge, and would be leading early.

“I knew if I put myself up there with them I would finish well and could have a good chance of winning, so I stayed as close as I could with the front girls so I could respond to any moves,” O’Guinn said.

With just 200 meters left, O’Guinn knew she had to make a final charge, but the plan was nearly thwarted when three other runners tripped up and fell.

“I was able to squeeze through them and jump over one girl last minute and make it through the confusion,” she said. “That was scary because I saw it coming and I saw some girls elbowing and shoving before they tripped and in my head I knew if I fell it would affect my chances of making top 8 and All-American completely.”

Ultimately, O’Guinn finished with a time of 4:26.70, while Courtney Anderson of Cal State Stanislaus won at 4:23.33.

One of five Seawolves to earn All-American honors at the meet, O’Guinn’s triumph hasn’t tainted her hometown pride, and has continued to stay true to her roots. In reflecting back to her days at Skyview, she thanked coaches Kent Peterson, Aaron Dickson, Ted McKenney and Rob Sparks.

“They always made me feel like the best person, the best athlete, and continued to support me throughout my college career following my races and keeping in touch with me since finishing high school,” O’Guinn said.

O’Guinn said after the final state cross-country meet her senior year at Skyview, coach Dickson told her that he would be moving back to Anchorage, which left O’Guinn looking for McKenney, the cross-country coach, to ask him to take over for Dickson.

“He was who I wanted to coach my last season,” she said. “I might have done a little begging, but he accepted and he took up a position at Skyview as a distance coach and pushed me through an awesome last track season.”

The support she received from coaches like McKenney built and sustained a flourishing pride that has never flickered in her life. O’Guinn mentioned that she has thought highly of Skyview since the day she entered its doors, and that’s what makes the school’s demise all the more bittersweet for her.

“There’s nothing I would change about my decision to go there and I will always have a place in my heart for it, which is why part of me is sad that it’s no longer the high school it was when I left it,” O’Guinn said. “But I knew it was heading this way and it was something I fought for with my friends at borough meetings and as a part of NHS and Student Council at Skyview.”

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