Photo by Brandon Miles
Katherine Walker of Brooke Point has proved to other female distance runners that you do not have to be running phenominal times out of the gate as an underclassmen to become of the state's elite athletes as a high school senior. Walker had modest times as a junior last year of 5:23 in the 1600, 11:22 in the 3200 3200, and 19:57 in the 5K while qualifying for her first state meet in the spring in the 3200 meter run with a 13th place finish at Todd Stadium. There was little indication of the huge jump which Walker would make in the following year.
A new and vastly improved runner emerged in the fall as Walker was running consistently in the 18 minute range for 5K, pulled out an upset win at the Northwest Region Championships, and nearly claimed a state title as a first-time qualifier at Great Meadow falling to second in the final stretch of the Group AAA race. After two strong races and lifetime bests in back to back weekends with a 4:59 1600 two weekends ago at North Stafford and a 10:38 3200 this past weekend at Mountain View, Walker has asserted herself as one of the top state title contenders this spring.
Interview with Katherine Walker
MileStat.com: How did you first get into running?
Katherine Walker: Well, I first started running my freshman year in high school during the indoor season. I actually played Varsity Field Hockey fall of my freshman year and started track simply for conditioning purposes. I never expected to fall in love with the sport that was categorized as “punishment” for others.
(Photo right by Nicoll Knudsen)
MileStat.com: You really seem to have no fear or hesitation to go to the front and push the pace in many of your races. Where does the fearlessness or willingness to be the pacemaker come from?
Walker: Honestly, my coach always tells me to run my own race and to run like no one else is there. It’s just easier to do that when I can’t see anybody I guess.
MileStat.com: Many of our state's top female distance runners have been among the state's best since they were a freshmen. You took a very different path and was not considered among that top tier prior to your senior season. How proud are you of yourself for being able to make this jump in your final year of high school?
Walker: This state is so full of wonderful athletes that I often find myself humbled and in awe of the sheer talent at home here in Virginia. The path I took to get to where I am today is unique in that it derived from a fork in the road that I came upon the indoor season of my junior year. I remember sitting in the back halls of Liberty University alongside my mother after two rather discouraging races asking what I should do from that point on. She told me that the only way to reach my goals of being a runner was to work hard and be driven. I took that advice and literally ran with it to where I am today. I don’t view where I stand with pride, but rather with thankfulness and humility. I am thankful for the people who support me and I am humbled by the others who run with me. As for this all happening during the final year of my high school career, I see it as the perfect timing for my own individual path of running. Life has a way with timing and I am happy with mine.
MileStat.com: What changed for you or clicked in order for you to go from running decent as a junior year to running unbelievable as a senior?
Walker: What clicked for me from junior to senior year were the results that I saw and felt from working hard, listening to my coaches, reevaluating my nutrition, and in some cases making sacrifices I wouldn’t have made a year prior to.
(Photo left by Ryan Kelly)
MileStat.com: Do you find that you have the ability to inspire other high school runners who might be among that second tier and want to be among the best but don't think its possible?
Walker: One of the main sources of inspiration for me as a runner and as a person has been the famous quote by Steve Prefontaine, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” If anything comes from my actions I hope that I have inspired those who want to improve to find their gifts and to utilize them to achieve their goals.
MileStat.com: What made you decide on UVA as your future college?
Walker: UVA has always been my dream school. From its wonderful campus to its engineering program, I always hoped to see the day I’d call it home. This past year, with the added element of running, I realized yet another reason to love UVA. The coaches, team, and running facilities are everything and more. I feel at home at UVA and I feel that it is the best place for me to be in order to take the next step in life.
Photo by Brandon Miles
MileStat.com: Are you excited about college and the potential for you to develop more as a runner since running at this high level essentially has been very new to you with a lot of unknown potential to explore?
Walker: The way I see it, I am still a new runner. Each day I put on my shoes I learn a little more about the sport and I am excited to see where the future takes me. I will continue to do my best, listen to my coaches, and enjoy everything the sport has to offer.
MileStat.com: One of your regional rivals and top competitors in Ariel Karabinus is also going to UVA which the two of you will be roommates next year. Especially since she is runner who can sometimes stand in the way for you in terms of wins and titles, how did the friendship between the two of you to come about this year and looking forward to next year with her as a roommate and teammate?
(Photo right by Ted Plunkett)
Walker: I have always and will always respect Ariel as a person and as a runner. I am really looking forward to being able to call her my teammate and roommate. Due to the respect I have for her and her abilities as a runner, I view her as an inspiration rather than a rival. As respect grew through competition this past year, our friendship began and grew as well.
MileStat.com: After you finished your 3200 meter race last spring at the state meet and had some time to think about the upcoming year...what did you realistic expect of yourself and the goals for the following year? I'm sure you have had to readjust a few goals as this year has gone on.
Walker: My goal for this year and for the years to come is to do the very best that I possibly can on any given day. I set that goal junior year and thankfully that is a goal I do not have to adjust.
MileStat.com: Which of your personal best times that you have ran this year that afterwards you were in shock about how far you have improved last year with senior year performances of 4:59 1600, 10:38 3200, and 18:06 5K compared to junior year performances of 5:23 1600, 11:22 3200, and 19:57 5K?
(Photo left by Ted Plunkett)
Walker: Honestly, everything that I have done this year comes to me as a bit of a shock. I ask my mom to pinch me every now and then.
MileStat.com: You nearly won a state title in the fall when you battled with Kaitlyn Davis down the final stretch. How much has just coming up short with the win there motivated you for the rest of this year in trying to get that title?
Walker: I learned a lot from that race and I am very motivated to continue to improve.
MileStat.com: In light of where you were last year, does it make it easier to take and deal with any letdown races considering an off race for you is still well ahead of your PR's from last year?
Walker: If I can walk away from the finish line, regardless of place and time, knowing that I gave my best, then no race that I have run can be qualified as a letdown.
Photo by Linda D'Amato
MileStat.com: How intense has it been to be racing in the Northwest Region this year with some of the state's best in the region featured in many of your invitationals and championship meets week after week in Kaitlyn Davis, Ariel Karabinus, Hannah Lowery, and others? Do you feel this has helped your performances facing against this competition each week? Do you sometimes wish you could get an off week or two of racing against them?
Walker: What’s a week off and what’s a race without competition?
MileStat.com: How much are you looking forward to running in the Penn Relays 3K in a couple of weeks? Have you ever been to Penn and what are your goals for that race?
Walker: I am really honored and exited to run in the Penn Relays for the first time on April 22nd. My goal is to put it all on the track, have no regrets, and to be happy with whatever happens. I am so pumped!
MileStat.com: You had two straight wins against top competition in the 4:59 1600 last week against Kaitlyn Davis and Hannah Lowery then the 10:38 3200 this past weekend against Kathleen Lautzenheiser, Kaitlyn Davis, and Hannah Lowery. How high is your confidence right now after two great races and how important is it to have this confidence entering your future races?
Walker: The past two weekends have served to be encouraging and exciting. I look forward to taking what I have recently learned and applying it to my next races.
MileStat.com: What advice would you give a high school junior currently that might be in a current situation as you were last year who really wants to have a breakthrough senior year and finish out high school on a high note?
Walker: If I were to give any advice, I would tell upcoming seniors to train over the summer, listen to your coaches, ask for help, eat a lot, get your sleep, make good choices, never give up, realize that good days exist because bad days do too, and most importantly, enjoy every minute of it.