When all is said and done, this year in Bronco sports is sure to be remembered as "the year of the true freshman". Paris Austin is doing upperclassmen type things on the basketball court, on the gridiron, Brett Rypien was named first-team All-MWC (and freshman of the year), and a diminutive (like, seriously diminutive) runner from Alaska has taken the cross-country
country world by storm. That runner's name is Allie Ostrander, and as far as freshman go, she's the best of the bunch.
It's not that running is particularly hard...running is extremely hard. In fact, given the choice between running a cross-country race or a little "light" waterboarding, I may just say, "to hell with the Geneva conventions". Of course, I've never been built for running...I'm more in the Gimli mold in that I'm more dangerous over short distances, but long-distance running appears to be exactly what God intended when he made the Ostrander mold. Allie is small...like, jockey small, but has gone toe-to-toe with some of the biggest names in the sport right out of the gate...and left most of them in the dust. To suggest that Allie could be the greatest runner in Boise State history may seem a little like clearing shelf space for Brett Rypien next to Kellen Moore...I mean, Emma Bates just graduated—but if Allie continues her torrid pace, she might end up the most decorated Bronco ever, and it's really not much of a stretch.
Just look at what Ostrander has accomplished in her short time on (and off) campus: National cross-country runner-up, NCAA West Regional XC champion, Mountain West XC Champion, Wisconsin Adidas Invitational Champion, World Mountain Running Champion, Mountain West Student-Athlete of the Year, Mountain West Freshman of the Year...and on the list goes. Ostrander won the MWC title by 16 seconds. Ostrander won the NCAA West Regional by 21 seconds. Ostrander finished 19.5 seconds ahead of any runner at nationals that will return next year. Fair to say she's going to be the favorite from here on out...and she's going to get better.
I know people like to throw out sports comparisons when a new hotshot comes on the scene, "he's the next Jordan" they'll say, or at the very least, "he's the next Scotty Skiles"...but I'm not sure Ostrander has a peer in her particular specialty. Had she overtaken Notre Dame senior Molly Seidel to win the national title a few weeks ago, she'd have been the first freshman to win an NCAA championship in the sport in over 30 years—even the fact that she was the favorite in some books was unheard of. Speaking of which, she's a finalist for the Honda Sport Award for cross-country...another award that hasn't gone to a frosh since New Coke was still on the shelves at IGA.
Maybe the biggest accomplishment for Ostrander is getting a fast-twitch guy like myself to care about women's cross-country. Sure, the love of blue and orange does strange things to a man, but we're truly witnessing history with the ascension of the 80 lb phenom from Kenai, Alaska, so if you aren't paying attention yet, maybe now's a good time to start.