Watch the 2017 Stanford Invitational LIVE on FloTrack this Friday and Saturday
By Taylor Dutch, FloTrack
University of Notre Dame sophomore Anna Rohrer, a 2015 graduate of Mishawaka (IN) High, remembers watching her teammate Molly Seidel win her first NCAA crown.
Rohrer -- a high school senior at the time -- was watching the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Championships from her living room when she saw her future teammate claim an upset victory in the 10K. In just her third attempt at the distance, Seidel ran a masterful race to earn the first of her four collegiate titles.
Inspired by the performance, Rohrer remembers being excited about the future of training with an NCAA champion.
Almost two years later, Rohrer is now a four-time All-American and in preparations to run her first 10K at the Stanford Invitational on Friday. It's a debut that has been years in the making, well before she watched Seidel run at NCAAs.
"My high school coach would always comment on how he knew I would end up bing a 5K/10K runner. I might not have the best leg speed, but I can run really fast for a lot longer than most people," Rohrer told FloTrack. "It's been something that has been on my mind for awhile."
While competing for Mishawaka High School under the tutelage of Chris Kowalewski, Rohrer won two Foot Locker Cross Country Championships and set the national record in the indoor 5K with a 16:10 victory at New Balance Nationals.
The lack of leg speed to which she refers is evident in her 4:50 mile personal best. But she has more than made up for it with four top-six finishes at every NCAA long-distance championship that she has competed in so far.
In her most recent NCAA performance, Rohrer set a brisk pace while leading the majority of the indoor 5K at Texas A&M University. Ultimately, NCAA cross country champion Karissa Schweizer out-kicked Rohrer with a title-winning time of 15:19. Erin Finn followed for second in 15:27, and Rohrer closed for third in 15:29, a new personal best.
"My speed is definitely improving, but I know that if I want a shot at winning, I've got to push it hard from the start," Rohrer told UND.com after the race.
Though fearless in her racing style, Rohrer is aware that her strength lies in her endurance. She's excited at the prospect of competing in an event that is twice as long as any race she's ever run on the track. Notre Dame coach Matt Sparks has advised her to utilize the competitive field to ensure success at the new distance.
"[Sparks] knows and I know that my strength is when I'm with people in a pack. My strength is just grinding it out for a long time," she said.
Historically, Stanford has hosted some of the best 10K performances in the NCAA and the world. In 2016, 18 of the top 25 NCAA men's 10K performances were run at either the Stanford Invitational or the Payton Jordan Invitational. Twenty of the top 25 NCAA women's 10K performances were also run on Cobb Track. Olympian and NCAA champion Dominique Scott is just one example of a distance talent who took her first stab at the 10K at Stanford. She made her debut at the 2012 Stanford Invitational, and four years later won an NCAA crown in the distance.
Rohrer will have plenty of fast packs to choose from on Friday. NAZ Elite's Stephanie Bruce and Kellyn Taylor should command a quick pace, and a strong All-American contingent of Lauren LaRocco, Sharon Lokedi, Bethan Knights, Jordann McDermitt, Maggie Schmaedick, and Alice Wright should notch standout performances.
The conditions are ideal for a successful debut, especially one that has been a source of inspiration for years.
"I would be happy if I could just stay with the top group for the majority of the race," Rohrer said. "I haven't even looked at heat sheets or anything, because I know there's probably going to be some professionals in the race and a lot of girls who are more experienced than me, but I don't really think about that. I just go in and run my race. I don't have a time goal at all but finishing and feeling like I gave it my all will be satisfying."
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