Long path to running success

Allie Ostrander discuses running and coaching

Kyle Morrison, News Editor

Allie Ostrander, Boise State NCAA DI steeplechase legend and now a Brooks Beast training under coach Danny Mackey, counting out splits as runners passes the starting line. (Jacky Chen)

Seattle Pacific University’s new assistant cross-country and track coach and Olympic hopeful Allie Ostrander believes that running is an excellent analogy for life.

“People always say you get out what you put in, which I think is true to a certain extent, but you see in life, that sometimes you put everything into something and it doesn’t work out, and like that’s the same with running,” Ostrander explained.

If running and life are mutual indicators for each other, Ostrander’s time on this planet is bound to be a successful one.

After attending Kenai Central High School in Seward, Alaska, where she played a multitude of sports, including basketball and cross country skiing, she made the decision to run for Boise State University.

It wasn’t long after arriving in Boise that the height of her athletic ceiling became apparent to her.

“My freshman year of college I had more success than I expected when I first joined the team at Boise State,” Ostrander said. “At the end of that year I saw some of the girls that I had been competing pretty closely with, signing pro contracts and even going on to run in the Olympics, and I was like, ‘Oh wow! That could be me.’”

Ostrander went on to win three Division I steeplechase championships from 2017-2019, but despite her unquestionable individual greatness, it’s the team accomplishments that are dearest to her heart.

“I had some great memories with the team. Like when we placed sixth at cross-country nationals and when our DMR (Distance Medley Relay) got fifth in the nation and winning conference as a DMR team three times,” Ostrander said.

When you look deeper into the special moments of Ostrander’s running career, you will find deep appreciation for the everyday moments that bond training partners and teammates.

“All the training and the hanging out in the training room and just going and doing stuff together, it was all so team oriented, and those are where the good memories come from, so it just makes sense that all my favorite racing related memories are also with the team,” Ostrander recalled.

Ostrander decided to skip her last year of eligibility at Boise State and go professional. She now runs for the Brooks Beasts track club in Seattle, where she said she has a great set of training partners and teammates. She hopes those teammates can push her towards her ultimate goal of running at the Olympics.

When COVID-19 postponed the Olympics, she took the extra time to get a plasma injection in her Achilles, to facilitate the healing process of a nagging injury. As she has gotten back into training, she says that she misses the comfort and companionship of regular training partners.

“For a while, we weren’t able to meet as a team, and we had to train individually,” Ostrander explained. “It’s not as fun and it definitely makes me appreciate it more when we are able to meet as a team. It hasn’t changed the way I train, but it has made me change the way I think about training, like I’m not going to take it for granted when I’m able to do a workout with a group or go on a run without a mask on.”

When Ostrander reached out to SPU’s Associate Head Coach of Cross Country and Track Chris Reed about a possible coaching job, the hiring process didn’t take long.

“She emailed me and asked if she could join the staff, and I said yes,” Reed explained. “She did start the process and it was pretty late, it was probably two weeks before students returned to campus.”

Her ability to be a great teammate, and to make other athletes better has immediately transferred to her role as a coach.

“She sees the best in people,” Associate Head Coach for Cross Country and Track Chris Reed said. “She never doubts that someone can do something, and she never doubts that someone can accomplish something and that’s been really cool to see, she sees the potential in people.”

Her individual accomplishments and greatness have made her an obvious mentor for the many athletes under her tutelage. But it’s her ability to provide positive feedback that brings out the best in the runners who now call her coach.

“She’s helped us be better runners, just because she is someone who is inspiring, and while I don’t think I’ll ever be on her level, she just continues to encourage us to be the best runners we can be, just by her presence,” SPU Women’s Cross Country runner Dania Holmberg said. “For someone who’s dished out such incredible performances, it does feel really encouraging for her to say, ‘Hey you did a good job today!’”

Ostrander says that the impact she has as a coach takes on double the magnitude of any personal individual accomplishment.

“Coaching is obviously more of that second hand reward, so like you see someone else achieve it, but that almost kind of doubles the impact,” Ostrander explained. “Someone else achieves it and you’re super stoked for them, and at the same time you feel like you’ve achieved something, because you wrote the training and gave them the resources to get there.”

Reed believes that some day Ostrander will be able to take over a program of her own, but don’t expect that day to come in the near future. Ostrander still hopes to run for Team USA at the 2021 Tokyo Games.

It’s undeniable that she has already achieved greatness, and her willingness to share that greatness with others, whether as a teammate or as a coach is truly selfless and remarkable. But underneath the layers of humility and selflessness is a relentless competitor, hungry to see how much further she can push herself.

“I just enjoy that challenge, like the really slow burn,” Ostrander said of racing the 10K. “Who can take this the longest?”