There’s a nationally elite cross country runner currentlydominating at the state level in Colorado, and chances are most people haven’t heard of her.
Her name is Katie Rainsberger; it’s a name that everybody should probably write down.
The Air Academy sophomore has won all three 5,000-meter races she has competed in this season, with her best effort coming last week when she ran the Coronado Cougar Classic in 17 minutes, 31.80 seconds. That time currentlyhas her ranked 10th in the nation.
“She’s very determined and she works hard in practice every day,” Air Academy coach Glenn Peterson said. “She learned some things last year that made a difference and helped her to improve. She ran a tremendous race; the other kids were there with her for the first mile, but then by the end of the second mile it was all over with.”
Before winning the Cougar Classic, Rainsberger won both the Arapahoe Warrior Invitational and St. Vrain Cross Country Invitational earlier this year, asserting herself as the top female runner in the state.
“It’s definitely been a surreal and crazy experience,” Rainsberger said. “You have to go into races confident in your own abilities, but also respect the other girls. I’m really excited for how the season is going. I don’t think I’ve reached my full potential yet.”
Rainsberger is also a talented soccer player and says she’s been playing since she was 3. She didn’t pick up running until seventh grade — and it was only because soccer wasn’t offered.
But she was almost predisposed to be a runner; it’s in her genes. Her mother, Lisa, is the last American woman to win the Boston Marathon, which wasin 1985.
“My mom wanted me to do whatever I wanted to,” Rainsberger said of growing up. “I tried soccer at a young age and still play it today. I didn’t start running until seventh grade, and I won the first meet and decided I loved it after two weeks of running.”
Peterson has been coaching cross country for 38 years, and says Rainsberger has what it takes to keep improving and become great.
“She has the talent, and she can run 400 meters in under 60 seconds, so she has speed,” he said. “Any coach would like to have seven like her.”
Rainsberger has already contacted major Division I programs, although she can’t be recruited yet. But for now her focus is solely on a state title — something that narrowly eluded her last season.
In an incredibly close race for the state championship last year, she lost to Niwot’s Elise Cranny by a tenth of a second.
“I’m excited to go head-to-head with her again,” Rainsberger said. “It’s hard to be second, but to be second behind such a great runner was an honor. Right now it’s all about getting geared up and ready for state.”
Other standout performers
Elijah Gilbert, Mesa Ridge
The senior had a tremendous game in a tough 32-29 loss to Canon City. Gilbert had 358 all-purpose yards and scored two kick-return touchdowns to go with a receiving score and rushing score. He also had an interception on defense.
Nicole Mack and Katie McKiel, Manitou Springs
The pair of sophomores continues to lead one of the best 3A teams in the state. In wins over CSCS, Salida and Platte Valley last week Mack had 63 kills, 46 digs and six blocks, while McKiel had 46 kills, 39 digs and eight blocks. The Mustangs are 12-0.
Zach Inman, Pine Creek
The senior won 6-0, 6-2 over Palmer’s Drew Dickey on Wednesday and rolled to a 6-3, 6-4 win in a dual win over Lewis-Palmer. He also helped to lead the Eagles to a third-place finish in the Douglas County Invitational.
Kelee Suggs, Woodland Park
In five wins last week, Suggs had 12 hits and 12 RBIs to go along with two triples and four home runs. The senior also had 13 runs scored and three doubles to help the Panthers improve to 12-3. Woodland Park outscored opponents 92-6 in the five wins.
Manitou Springs team
Drew Mendoza, Trever Hunt and Aidin Berns finished second at the 3A regional at Hollydot Golf Course to automatically qualify as a team for the state tournament for the first time in school history. The Mustangs’ cumulative score of 243 was only behind Trinidad’s 241.