Western long-distance runner Katelyn Steen is finishing her career at Western in dominating fashion, qualifying for nationals for her sixth time.
This spring season, Steen had two national qualifying times in both the 5,000-meter and the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Steen said her greatest accomplishment so far in her career is her performance at nationals for cross country and track her junior year. During the track season, she finished fourth in steeplechase, and finished fifth in cross country.
Steen feels as though she has become a student of the sport since joining Western’s track team.
“I’ve really accepted the competition aspect, and respected the coaches and learned a lot from them,” she said.
At the Great Northwest Athletic Conference championships, Steen won the 3,000-meter steeplechase title in 10:14.16. She finished the race 17 seconds ahead of her closest competitor, setting a new meet and stadium record.
“When she runs, she is so determined,” teammate Bethany Drake said. “The steeplechase is an incredibly technical and exhausting race. It takes a lot out of an athlete, but she attacks it head on, which is really cool.”
Earlier in the season, at the 34th Annual Ralph Vernacchia Track and Field Open meet, Steen won the women’s 5k in meet-record time. She finished the race in 16:35.53, breaking the record time by 25 seconds. This was also a season-best time for Steen, knocking off more than eight seconds from her personal record and sending her to nationals.
Steen also set a conference and school record in the 3k steeplechase, finishing the race in 10:13.01 at the Mt. San Antonio College relays. Despite falling with three laps remaining, this time automatically qualified her for nationals.
“I bruised my leg pretty good,” Steen said. “I was really into the race at the time and had all the adrenaline going, so I couldn’t feel the pain and kept pushing through.”
This is Steen’s final season as a Viking. She will be graduating this spring with a degree in kinesiology.
“I am trying not to think about it because [running] has been such a huge part of my life,” Steen said. “I’m just taking it one day at a time, and one step at a time, and enjoying the moment.”
In her final year at Western, the senior from Sammamish has been awarded the Great Northwest Athletic Conference athlete of the week three times.
“She is a very competitive athlete, and she’s grown stronger and more durable over the years,” said Pee Wee Halsell, cross country and track and field head coach.
During the fall track season, Steen was GNAC Athlete of the Week for her performance at the UW Sundodger Invitational. She placed eighth in the 6,000-meters with a time of 21:20. She then earned GNAC athlete again for finishing third at Lake Padden Park in the 6,000-meter.
In the spring, Steen earned Athlete of the Week for breaking the conference and school record in the 3K steeplechase and running the ninth fastest time in GNAC history in the 5K at the Beach Invitational at Long Beach, California. She finished the race in a time of 16:44.97. Later in the season, she beat this time again by eight seconds, setting a new personal record.
Drake took note of Steen’s influence on the entire team.
“She has such a love for running, more than anything, she just absolutely loves what she does and that is super influential and encouraging to the rest of our team,” Drake said.
Drake describes Steen as someone who is inspirational, passionate and hardworking.
“She’s such a huge leader,” Drake said. “When you have people who are working hard and competing at an intense level, it brings the team to a whole new level.”
Halsell noted that Steen has been a strong contributor since day one.
“She’s always been one of our top athletes since she has been here her freshman year to her senior year,” Halsell said. “[Losing her] is going to be a big loss.”