December 10, 2013 Updated: December 11, 2013 at 9:23 am
There's a little-known secret behind the success of running phenom Katie Rainsberger, and it has nothing to do with mileage or amount of training.
Long before the Air Academy sophomore took to the track and cross country paths, she took to the pitch, and that soccer background has translated quite nicely into achievements in other arenas.
"I've been playing soccer since I was 2 or 3, and I didn't start running until the seventh grade," Rainsberger said. "The reason I started out so strong in running is that I had such a good base from soccer. The two sports definitely help each other."
On Oct. 17, Rainsberger defended her individual title as region champion, crossing the finish line nearly one minute ahead of her nearest competitor.
But it was another accomplishment that highlighted the day after the Kadets claimed the team title, edging The Classical Academy by one point at Monument Valley Park.
"I don't think it was ever a goal to win at regionals," Rainsberger said. "We just wanted to come out and run to the best of our ability. It was a magical moment for both our boys and girls to win the title."
An individual state title once again eluded Rainsberger at the state cross country meet Oct. 26 at the Norris-Penrose Event Center. One year after getting caught just before the finish line by Niwot's Elise Cranny, Rainsberger finished second once again to her Niwot counterpart, this time by 40 seconds.
While missing out on that goal, Rainsberger continued to forge ahead, finishing the cross country season with a sixth-place finish at the Nike National Cross Country Chapionships, Dec. 8 in Portland, Ore.
"State wasn't my best performance," Rainsberger said. "You set goals, so when you achieve it, it's more special. I was able to improve from 13th to sixth at Nike nationals. I had a goal to get better, and that's what happened by the end."
Last season, Rainsberger made the transition from being the top runner at Cheyenne Mountain Middle School to finding her place on the Air Academy team.
For the second time around, Rainsberger knew what to expect and made sure to enjoy the moment.
"My freshman year, if I had a bad race, I'd think there was something wrong with my training," Rainsberger said. "This time, I knew there might be a bad race, but I couldn't let it get me down. I learned that for every three bad races, you'll have one great race, and my team was there for me."
In the spring, her soccer team will start its season, and Rainsberger also will set her sights on track success in the 800 and 1,600 meters, both of which ended with runner-up finishes to Cranny at last season's state meet in Lakewood.
But to Rainsberger, the soccer is just part of the plan to keep things enjoyable when she's not pounding the terrain around the Pikes Peak region.
"Running is my priority," Rainsberger said. "But I like to keep things fun, and I do it with soccer."