Every so often at Historic Hayward Field, you can see something – a race, a throw, or a jump – that will surprise and impress you. And expectations were high for Katie Rainsberger, a senior from Air Academy High in Colorado Springs, Colo., when she raced at Hayward twice this year. I was fortunate enough to watch her compete in the 1500m at the Oregon Twilight this month, and she is deserving of the hype.
Rainsberger has incredible running genes in her family. Her mother, Lisa Rainsberger, was the last American woman to win the Boston Marathon in 1985. She has also won the Chicago Marathon in back-to-back years in 1988 and 1989 – via Chad Konecky of USAToday. So she has some family history on her side.
According to Neil Devlin of the Denver Post, her coach Steve Rischling believes Rainsberger is “special, a once-in-a-career athlete.” Truly, she is one of the best the state has ever produced. ”Colorado has a very rich history of female distance runners. … Probably no one is better than she is.” This could just be a classic case of coach bias, but her numbers speak for themselves.
Rainsberger burst onto the national stage after winning the 2015 Nike Cross Nationals by shattering the previous course record. It was the cumulation of four years of hard racing at the Glendoveer Golf Course for the 2015-16 Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year. She is the first XC winner from her home state.
In a stacked Twilight race, Rainsberger, running a blistering 4:14.20, placed just behind Treniere Moser, arguably one of the greatest woman distance athletes in U.S. history. Rainsberger had to run the 5th-fastest time ever by a high school girl, and Moser, 4:13.59, was only just ahead of her.
Moser trains with Alberto Salazar of the Nike Oregon Project, and has proved herself as a 5-time outdoor USA champion. The fact that Rainsberger can keep up with her already is a good sign for things to come. Also below Katie’s name were three current members of the UO track team, as well as beloved alumna Jordan Hasay, another member of the Nike Oregon Project.
In April this year, she won the 1500m at the Oregon Relays, beating former 800m Olympian Geena Gall in the process. Rainsberger ran the fastest time high school girl time of the season going 4:17.52. As head coach Robert Johnson put in via the Register Guard, ”She’s a stud.” Not bad for her first ever race at Hayward Field.
“I think the atmosphere and the magic here is part of the reason I came here,” Rainsberger exclaimed in a post-race interview with RunnersSpace. “I felt like I had really good momentum going [when chasing down Gall]. I said it’s now or never.” While watching this race, it’s easy to tell she is a smart, calculating runner.
Rainsberger will be racing at the prestigious Prefontaine Classic held May 27-28th, and the elite competition in this meet could propel her to the Olympic Trials qualifying time of 4:09 for 1500m. With all the success she has had individually, you would think she’d be focused on her goals alone. But as coach Rischling says, ”As much as she has accomplished, she has more concern about how her team does.”
With this team first mentality, one can only imagine how much better with team will be once Rainsberger finally dons that Oregon singlet.
Top Photo by TrackTownUSA