San Francisco’s St. Ignatius High has assisted the UCSB women’s track team more than it will ever know.
Two of the prep school’s stars and current Gaucho juniors, sprinter Jasmine Washington and distance runner Katie Appenrodt, have brought their talent and toughness over to Santa Barbara. Now Washington and Appenrodt are the cornerstones of a team on the rise.
Both runners had a final chance to showcase their talents at last week’s Big West Championships in Irvine. Both put up strong final performances in a record-breaking season.
Appenrodt won the 5,000-meter and finished second in the 1,500-meter. Washington finished second in the 400-meter and also helped her team place third in the 4 x 100-meter relay. Even though Washington didn’t win the 400, the championships were exhilarating.
“The girl who won that race [Cal State Northridge senior Annetta Wells] would never have qualified for Nationals if Jasmine hadn’t pushed her,” junior pole vaulter and team captain Deborah Samson said.
The stiff competition provided by Washington wasn’t enough to get her in, but her contribution to the race did not go unrecognized.
“Right after she [Wells] crossed the finish line, she turned around to hug me,” Washington said. “I think that more people were actually congratulating me than her at the end of the race.”
Of course, the consolation of helping someone else couldn’t replace the satisfaction of winning, but Washington took the mild setback with a grain of salt.
“I would have loved to win, and I knew that the only way she could beat me was if she ran a 52 [second race],” Washington said. “Then she went out and ran a 52.”
Washington’s best race of the year, though, came at the Nick Carter Invitational, hosted by UCSB on May 4 at Pauley Track. Washington ran a personal record in the 400-meter in a heat that had only one other girl competing. Most track runners run their best times when surrounded by top competition, so Washington’s feat turned a few of teammates’ heads.
“It’s amazing how fast she runs even when she doesn’t have any competition,” freshman distance runner Nathan Berner said.
While it goes against general track and field logic, Washington’s reasoning makes sense.
“I just feel better when there are fewer people on the track and I can just run my own race,” she said. “It allows me to just focus on my mechanics and not everyone else.”
Washington also impressed her teammates by running cross country in the fall, something that not all sprinters enthusiastically participate in.
“It’s one thing to come out and stay in shape during the off-season,” senior middle distance runner Jacob Green said “But she’s such a competitor, she actually went out and beat some cross country runners.”
The other half of the team’s dynamic duo has been running some different events as well recently. As a result, she acquired some rather cheesy nicknames.
“Coach Pete Dolan just keeps coming up with them,” Appenrodt said “First it was ‘Captainrodt’ when I was the team captain, now ’10Katie’ after I ran the 10K.”
Appenrodt has a point: The nicknames are pretty cheesy. But the second point is more of a compliment than a nickname. After all, Appenrodt didn’t just start running the 10,000-meter – she set a school record the first time she ran it.
“We all knew she was a strong runner, but I don’t think anyone expected her to pull that off in her first race,” Berner said.
Appenrodt destroyed the school’s previous best by more than seven seconds. Not only that, but she finished the race with a bleeding foot.
“She had a blister on her foot that started in the middle of the race,” Samson said. “She was so focused that it didn’t matter.”
“I felt like I had a rock in my shoe,” Appenrodt said, explaining that the blister wasn’t even there until she started to race, but that it had popped by the end.
One can only imagine what her time might have been with a healthy foot.
If you can believe it, Appenrodt was never even supposed to run the 10,000. It all began as a joke between Appenrodt and junior distance and steeplechase runner Brandon von Guenthner that backfired on Appenrodt.
“Last year I pretty much only ran the 1,500-meter, but one day I convinced the coaches to make Brandon run the 10,000,” Appenrodt said. “But then everyone on the team got into making me run it just to get me back. The coaches suddenly decided it would be a good idea too, and eventually I caved in.”
It’s a good thing she did too, as her name now rests on top of the school record board in that event and she still owns another year of eligibility.
Now, the joke is on the coaches.