DeKALB – Last year, Katherine Olsen struggled to finish races due to an iron deficiency, and even had a trip to the hospital after collapsing.
This year, with an improved diet and hard work in the weight room, the junior runner sped her way to a trip to the Class 3A State Championship and a Daily Chronicle 2017 Girls Cross Country Athlete of the Year Award.
“She’s really taken the initiative and worked on improving her diet and making sure she’s getting the calories she needs and also the right mix of nutrients. So she’s really taken that role,” DeKalb cross country coach Mike Wolf said.
That commitment to maintaining her health and fitness led to her strength and durability this year.
“I can’t remember a time where I had to have her cut a workout short or have her lay back because of some kind of physical problem or soreness. She’s very durable,” Wolf said. “Her work in the weight room during the track season I think helped make her overall physically stronger. That was a springboard into the summer and the fall.”
Olsen started the year strong by finishing third in the opening meet and continued to be strong all season winning the Hononegah regional title, finishing fifth in the Waubonsie Valley sectional, and finishing 36 at the IHSA 3A state meet out of 210 runners.
“It was kind of exhilarating seeing how I was placing at the meets," Olsen said. "I wasn’t expecting to place at regionals, especially, and sectionals. It really went quick."
Olsen said she has confidence – from both internal and external sources – every time out on the course.
“I know I can do it. I know I would be upset with myself I didn’t do what I could do," Olsen said "I like working hard and doing what I can. Obviously, my family and my team and coach inspire me to do the best I can."
Olsen is also very involved in other activities at school, which her coach thinks gives her a mental advantage.
“She works hard at anything she gets involved in – academics, music, athletics,” Wolf said. “Since she’s involved in all these things, she’s not one dimensional. When she’s here at practices, she’s focused on practice. When she’s racing, she focuses on races. She doesn’t overdo it. I think that balance helps her a lot and being able to be focused while she’s here, but not being overwhelmed by it.”
Olsen competes hard in every race and practice, even when the coach wants her to hold back a little.
“She’s very competitive. She likes to race. Sometimes in work outs or in some meets we’ll talk about pulling back and stuff like that, but usually she has some difficulty doing that,” Coach Wolf said. “I’ve pushed her a little more than most of the other kids on the team because she can handle it both physically and mentally.
Despite her competitiveness and drive, she still just wants to get the race done and that’s how she prepares herself.
“I just kind of tell myself that it will be over soon," Olsen said. "This is what I’ve been working towards. I just have to be strong for this time then I can eat lots of food and lay down afterwards."
Girls cross country
POY – Katherine Olsen, jr., DeKalb
Rachel Richtman, soph., Kaneland – Richtman finished 12th this year at the Class 2A State Tournament. Her season-best time was a 17:35, and beat Olsen once in their two head-to-head matches. She was the individual champ in three meets this year.
Andrea Wells, sr., Kaneland – A four-year varsity runner, Wells had a best time of 18:52 this year and was a consistent placer for the Knights. Her best time this year was an 18:52.
Grace Purcell, jr., Kaneland – Purcell kept improving as the season went on, peaking with a 44th place finish at the state tournament. Her best time was an 18:26 this year.
Olivia Franklin, fresh., Kaneland – The freshman peaked in the postseason for the Knights, placing 55th at the state tournament. Her best time this year was an 18:37.
Hannah Kirby, jr., Sycamore – Melton averaged a 20:15 this year, peaking with a 19:40. She placed in every meet the Spartans attended up until the sectionals.
Joely Overstreet, soph., Genoa-Kingston – Despite battling an injury most of the year, Overstreet got stronger as the year went on – posting a season-best 19:37 at the Class1A Winnebago Regional.
Inga Collin, soph., DeKalb –The sophomore spent the entire year on the varsity team, notching a season best 3-mile time of 19:51.
Honorable mention – Megan LeBlanc, soph., DeKalb; Cassie Delask, jr., DeKalb; Sarahi Porcayo, jr., DeKalb; Alexandra Jerbi, jr., Genoa-Kingston; Sophie Melton, sr., Sycamore