By Josh Brown
EUGENE, Ore. — Katie Landwehr didn’t take much time to savor her accomplishment Thursday night.
She was already focusing on the next step.
“It was just like checking off boxes,” the Tippecanoe High School graduate and current Michigan State University senior said. “It was something that I wanted to do and knew I was capable of. But there’s still things I want to accomplish in the finals.”
Landwehr finished fifth in her preliminary heat of the 3,000 steeplechase Thursday night at the Division I Women’s Outdoor Track and Field National Championships at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field, running a time of 9:59.77 to automatically qualify for Saturday’s championship finals.
“Well, it’s awesome,” she said. “It’s something I’ve been working towards for a long time. The past couple of years, it hasn’t worked out for me. But now, to be here, it’s very special. But I’ve still got a lot of work ahead of me in the finals.”
Landwehr — who won a state championship in cross country for the Red Devils in 2010 — will carry the 10th-best qualifying time into Saturday’s race.
“I ran a 9:58 earlier this season,” she said. “It was close to my best, but not quite. I knew with the girls in the race, it would make it pretty honest. I also knew it would take a sub-10-minute time to qualify. I wanted to get top five and automatically qualify, and that’s what I did.”
Which is an achievement in and of itself for someone that didn’t get to run the race in competition before college.
“In college, the race is a bit longer — and the girls competing in it are a little more experienced with it. But I never got to run the steeple in high school,” Landwehr said. “I asked my coaches if I could, but they never let me. It’s pretty easy to hurt yourself if you don’t know how to run it. When I got to Michigan State my freshman and sophomore year, I started practicing some of the hurdle techniques for the steeple and asked my coach if I could run it — and he let me. After not being able to run it in high school, now it’s my favorite race to run.
“It’s been pretty fun to run. It’s basically just a long-distance hurdle race, but it’s a really unique event. You’ve got to be pretty athletic — and really fearless. Because the second you hesitate, something will go wrong.”
But going into Saturday’s final, Landwehr also knows that anything can happen.
New Hampshire’s Elinor Purrier will enter with the best qualifying time at 9:54.91, with two other times in the 9:55s. Five of the top 10 times are in the 9:59s, with one 9:58 and one 9:57.
“Aside from the top two or three girls, everyone’s pretty close together,” Landwehr said. “I just want to run my best and see where that ends up. It’ll be interesting to see how it turns out. It’s exciting going in, knowing that anything can happen.
“After I qualified, I was already thinking about how I wanted to move forward for Saturday. I know I can run harder, and that’s what I want to do. There are things that I know I can do better going into the final, and I just want to run my best race.”
The final will be at 3:54 p.m. and can be watched online on ESPN3.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.