After coming from a small Aroostook County town with 1,687 residents, reaching the U.S. Olympic Trials with a chance to represent her country in the Rio Olympics was understandably nerve-wracking for Carsyn Koch.
For the former Washburn High School standout, performing on the grandest of track and field stages at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field represented not disappointment but a desire to improving on her God-given talent.
“I didn’t end up racing as well as I would’ve hoped, but that’s just the nature of athletics,” Koch said Wednesday.
That positive mindset has led to tremendous success at the collegiate level for the Cedarville (Ohio) University junior, who won her third collegiate national championship in the 800 meters at last weekend’s Division II national championship meet in Birmingham, Alabama.
It marked the second straight time Koch has claimed the 800 meters indoors, adding to the half-mile outdoor title she won as a sophomore.
Saturday’s final — in which Koch used a second-half surge to break the tape in 2 minutes, 5.65 seconds — presented one of the bigger challenges of her athletic career.
“This was day three [in a row] of racing for me,” said Koch, who had run the 800 prelims Thursday and a mile leg on Cedarville’s third-place distance medley relay team on Friday. “I had never raced three days in a row. It’s just hard to know how much reserve you have.”
It turns out she had plenty. Koch made her move with two laps remaining and used her speed in besting runner-up Fellan Ferguson by nearly two seconds.
“It was definitely a mental battle,” Koch, a five-time All-American at Cedarville, said.
She she was a model of versatility at Washburn. She helped lead the school’s basketball team four straight Class D state titles and also excelled in cross-country, soccer and track, in which she was a state champion in events ranging from the 100-meter dash to the high jump.
But running full time? That was new to Koch when she arrived at Cedarville.
“I was thinking I might be bored just running all-year round,” she admitted. “That has not been the case and it’s definitely been a good decision.”
Cedarville head coach Jeff Bolender is glad she made that decision.
“She is a very hard worker and it’s been a process as she’s become more of a full-time runner,” he said. “I knew she was going to be a good runner — I was pretty confident of that.”
The hard work helped Koch qualify for the trials in the 800 last summer, an experience that led her to prove herself even more.
“It put a fire in my belly to get better and come back and race some of the bigger races and choose to be a competitor that people can respect,” she said.
The nursing major has a rigorous academic slate to balance with her running, but that discipline has been a huge factor in her success.
“You have to learn how to create a schedule and learn how to stick to that and learn how to do things when you don’t want to do them,” she said.
If that continues, Koch could find herself competing for a chance to represent her country in the Olympics three years from now.
“In that moment of going to the trials it became a little less of a dream and a little more of a goal,” she said.
Koch’s outdoor campaign kicks off in two weeks.
Follow Ryan McLaughlin on Twitter at rmlcaughlin23.