With the return of outdoor track comes the return of the steeplechase. This year’s field has the potential to be one of the most exciting in recent years as four of the top five finishers from 2018 are back in 2019. The name to beat this season is Allie Ostrander of Boise State. The redshirt junior is a two-time defending national champion in this event and currently sits at #8 on the NCAA all-time list with a mark of 9:38.57. After sitting out her freshman season, Ostrander has now won back-to-back titles and will be the clear favorite in 2019.
Both of her wins at National Championships have been in relatively dominant fashion. Each time she's won, the runner-up has been at least five seconds back of Ostrander, a relatively large gap for a race that's only 3000 meters. While she did not have a great indoor season, her marks were similar to those from 2018 which gives good reason to believe she will enter outdoors ready to run fast. One reason to believe in the Boise State star this season is that she has never lost a steeple race outside of prelims. She has been a perfect six for six over her two years in the NCAA and it seems unlikely anyone can beat her this season if she stays true to form.
However, one woman who could make a big jump and catch Ostrander in 2019 is Charlotte Prouse of New Mexico. Last season, she finished runner-up at NCAA's in her first-ever steeple season and ran a personal best of 9:45.45 which is just six seconds outside of the NCAA all-time top 10 list.
Prouse is coming off of strong performances in cross country and indoor track and will be looking to carry this momentum into outdoors. She was 9th at the Cross Country National Championships this past fall and placed 5th in the 5000 meters at the indoor national meet. Both performances are improvements from her freshman season and if she can continue to improve, she has a chance to beat Ostrander this spring.
Just behind Prouse at NCAA's in 2018 was Paige Stoner of Syracuse. Entering her senior season, Stoner will have one last shot at a national title after missing out on qualifying for the national meet this past indoor season.
Stoner owns a personal best of 9:46.98 for the steeplechase which she set at the national meet last spring. Her 2018 season was a huge improvement, dipping under the 10 minute barrier five different times despite never having broken it prior. Despite finishing 3rd at last year's outdoor national meet, Stoner will still be a dark horse entering 2019. Her track personal bests don’t quite hold up against either Ostrander or Prouse, and not qualifying for the Indoor National Championships definitely hurts. While she should certainly be making a trip back to NCAA's this outdoor season, it is much easier to see her finishing similar to last year rather than winning it all.
Someone who was not in the field last season was Madison Boreman of Colorado. As a freshman, Boreman finished 2nd behind Ostrander at the 2017 national meet when she ran her a personal best of 9:46.48. Since then, she has been largely absent from Colorado’s results, competing only twice since the 2017 cross country season.
Boreman did not race at all this past indoor season, but made her 2019 track debut two weeks ago at the Jerry Quiller Classic in Boulder, CO. At that meet, she ran 2:15 for the 800 (converts to 2:14) which is roughly seven seconds off her personal best. With only one track race in over a year, it’s hard to gauge where Boreman will fall this season.
On one hand, it is hard to rank her highly given her lack of racing. She also has only broken 10 minutes twice (both at NCAA's) which means she isn’t even a lock to qualify for Nationals. On the other hand, she finished runner-up as only a freshman and her personal best puts her among the best in the NCAA this season. This weekend should provide a better idea of her current fitness as she is entered in the 1500 meters at Stanford.
While Ostrander appears to be a level-up on the competition, less than five seconds separated last year’s 2nd through 8th place finishers at the Outdoor National Championships. Notable names from that group include Cierra Simmons of Utah State, who was one of only three women to finish ahead of Prouse in 2018. Simmons has run 9:49 and broke 10 minutes for the first time last season.
Val Constien and Sage Hurta of Colorado are two more Buffs that could be a presence at the national meet. Along with Boreman, Colorado has three women who are all capable of qualifying for NCAA's this season and Coach Mark Wetmore has a history of coaching talented steeplechasers (Jenny Simpson, Emma Coburn, Shalaya Kipp).
The Stanford Invitational this weekend should provide the first real steeplechase action of 2019. One notable entry is Erica Birk of BYU who is coming off of fantastic cross country and indoor showings. Despite having never qualified for the national meet in the event, Birk owns a personal best of 9:58 and should be in contention for national qualifying this spring. Both Charlotte Prouse and Cierra Simmons are also entered which could make for a tight race between the three and push them to a trio of fast times.
With so many unknowns, the women's steeplechase has the chance to the most entertaining distance event of the 2019 outdoor track season.