When Kelsey Schrader ran on Saturday, it wasn't in the black and orange she wore when she used to compete for the DeKalb cross country team and it didn't read Arkansas as it does now.
It said USA on the front as the college freshman represented her country at the IAAF World Cross Country Junior Championships in Guiyang, China.
"There's nothing like wearing a team USA jersey and being in the same race as, I think there was 15 other countries," Schrader said. "Just being overseas with other junior Americans and running up against Kenya, Ethiopia, China, seeing that caliber is pretty cool and definitely an awesome experience."
Schrader took 66th out of the 101 athletes in the race, finishing in 23:06. Ethiopian runners took five of the first six spots, including the top spot – Letesenbet Gidey won in 19:48. Kenya and Ethiopia combined for eight of the top 10 spots.
Schrader said that she knew the race was going to go fast from the starting, saying Kenyan and Ethiopian runners generally start fast out of the gates.
"It followed that plan, and from there on out you don't really realize you're competing against a person from China or a person from Great Britain," Schrader said. "It's just other runners. I wouldn't really say it's very different from running against Americans, it's just another race that's a step higher because it's a world cross country meet."
Schrader said the biggest difference between running internationally and running a traditional American race was more due to the track than the style of the runners.
"Honestly, the race itself was pretty challenging," Schrader said. "Not necessarily because of the competition, but mainly the course itself because there were man-made barriers in the race. The barriers were like three or four steps almost vertical incline. We had about six of those, and it was a 2K loop we ran three times. That just made it pretty challenging and tired you out quite a bit."
In the fall, Schrader was named to the Southeast Conference All-Freshman team. She competed in seven of the team's eight races, placing in Arkansas’ top five once. She finished in 19th place at the SEC Championship, setting a personal-best 6K time of 20:42.76 and ended her first year with a 154th-place finish at the NCAA Championship (Nov. 22), where she finished the 6K course in 21:35.7.
She said she is still undecided about track season. She will compete, she said she still needs to decide if it will be representing Arkansas, or if she'll take a redshirt and compete unattached.
Her international races are over for now. She can qualify for track junior nationals by hitting qualifying times in collegiate races, whether she is unattached or officially a Razorback. Junior national participants compete for a spot in the 2015 world track championships.
Whatever he international future holds, she said she relishes her first chance on that big a venue.
"I know I did well representing the country and everything, but I may not have been as happy because I didn't feel as good as I wanted to," Schrader said. "But I didn't really care that much about how I did, it was more just about the experience and get on the line with those girls."