Ryan doesn’t let height stop collegiate career

Bob Reynolds, Sports Editor

Eastern senior hurdler Katie Ryan stands at five-foot-two on a good day.

But her height has not stopped her from doing a collegiate sport.

Ryan is a hurdler on the Eastern women’s track team, and her track career started back in sixth grade out of the blue.

The Physical Education teachers had a Jamboree day at her school, where they put together a fun track meet for the kids to do.

She was picked to do hurdles at that track meet, and she said that is where her passion for track all started.

“For some odd reason, they decided to have me, the smallest and shortest kid my age, run hurdles,” she said. “I somehow did well.”

Ryan had the athletic ability to do hurdles, with being a gymnast in her seventh and eighth grade years, along with high school at Bishop McNamara in Kankakee.

She thought she was going to be a gymnast throughout her college career, but she decided track was a better fit for her.

Ryan came in as a freshman in 2012 and got her feet wet right away and has improved every year in the hurdles event.

She had a best time of 15.98 in the 100-meter hurdles at the EIU Tweener in her first season at Eastern.

A year ago, Ryan broke 15 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles, and after she broke that time, she thought she would never be able to break the 14-second mark. She ended up breaking it.

This past weekend at the University of Illinois, she had a time of 13.87 in the 100-meter hurdles.

“That is something I will look back on for the rest of my life and remember how awesome that moment was to see that time next to my name,” she said.

Ryan said Eastern coach Tom Akers had a big influence on her track career.

After her freshman year of high school, she decided to attend a hurdle camp at Eastern and that is where she finally learned the 3-step technique.

“This was a huge deal for me back then,” she said. “I honestly don’t think I would be where I am now today without his belief in my potential”

Ryan said nothing in particular goes into preparing for meets.

She added that she is a little superstitious.

“If I ran a good time wearing a certain shirt for my warm-up for one meet, I wear it again for the next meet and that sort of thing,” she said.

Between each event, Ryan tries to eat something and relax until the next one.

She has realized that she doesn’t like to overthink her events.

“I rarely think about them prior to running anymore,” she said. “I just relax my mind, and let my body do what it’s trained to.”

Ryan has put a lot of hard work mostly training at a CrossFit gym back home in Kanakakee.

She thinks the strength training and mental toughness she has developed has helped a lot coming into this season.

“I also think my mentality has changed, knowing that this is my last track season ever,” she said. “I have nothing to hold back on, so I can relax and just give it everything I’ve got.”

At a point in the near future, Ryan hopes to get a Masters degree in sports nutrition and dietetics.

“The plan is to return home and help coach, train CrossFit and also use my degree in dietics to help those in the CrossFit community from home with nutrition,” she said.

After losing a close friend last year to a car accident, Ryan wondered if all of this was what she wanted to do.

“I was challenged with the fact of whether or not I was happy running track,” she said. “After a lot of contemplation to give it up, I honestly can say I made the best decision to stick with it, because this was the sport I was made to do. Especially since how the season has gone thus far, I’m glad I will be finishing my career, because I had a lot of progress left to make.”

The Eastern women’s track team has two more meets left, not including the Drake Relays this weekend, before the Ohio Valley Conference Outdoor Championship.

The championship will be May 15-16 in Clarksville, Tenn.


Bob Reynolds can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]