Carsyn Koch has had what many would call an impressive year. The freshman runner has several first-place finishes during this track and cross country season, and she is knocking on the doors of Cedarville’s record books.
Koch has the ninth-best 400-meter time at Cedarville, the second-best 800-meter time and the best 1,500-meter time. Furthermore, she’s nationally ranked in Division II in all three events.
However, Koch said that at first she wasn’t sure if she wanted to come to Cedarville or even run competitively, but she said with diligence and help from God, she went on to have a successful season for the Yellow Jackets.
On the track to Cedarville
Koch grew up in Washburn, Maine, a town of 2,000 people. Koch attended Washburn District High School, a school of 120, where she played basketball, soccer and softball. Her first year at the school was also her first year of competitive running.
Koch said most of the team only saw track as a way to stay in shape for soccer, and this attitude made it hard for Koch to apply herself fully. She said there wasn’t much structure in terms of training because the track program was new during her first year of high school. Once she graduated high school, she was set on going to a college in the area, but she said her parents had other plans.
“My parents actually booked a plane ticket and told me, ‘We’re going to visit Cedarville this weekend,’ and I told them, ‘Take the ticket back, because I’m not going.’ I was against it,” Koch said.
Koch eventually relented because she had a few friends at Cedarville, and once she visited the campus, as she put it, “God completely changed my mind.”
Koch said she believes God also led her to run, even though she wasn’t sure she wanted to. Jeff Bolender, coach for women’s cross country and both track and field teams, said he recruited Koch because he was intrigued by her high level of success despite the lack of a structured running background. He said he also recruited her because she had a high level of success in a variety of sports.
Even though Koch said she enjoyed her visit and wanted to attend Cedarville, there were a few other roadblocks she still needed to overcome. Financial concerns were the main issue. Koch said she wasn’t sure if she could afford Cedarville without a certain scholarship. She took the SAT multiple times to get the necessary score for the scholarship, but she couldn’t get the score she wanted. Finally, she said she decided to try the ACT as a last-ditch effort.
“I prayed, ‘God if you want this to happen, make it happen,’” Koch said.
She ended up getting an even better score than she needed, but after she got the score, Koch said she started having second thoughts about running in college.
She said she wasn’t sure if she was good enough to run on the team. Once again, though, things fell into place, and she said she felt God encouraging her to run for the Jackets. So that’s exactly what she did.
The college scene
Koch has had a lot of success, but she said she’s had to work hard for it. She put quite a bit of time into sports in high school, but college is different because she’s putting most of that time into running, as opposed to running, soccer, and basketball.
“It’s usually around three-hour practices,” Koch said. “That includes workouts, lifting, and other stuff. There’s also outside things that we do like cross-training. Examples of that are biking and swimming.”
Koch said she finds college athletics more rigorous and time-consuming than high school sports. She emphasized the importance of balancing a social life with sports. Koch emphasized the importance of time management because college athlete’s lives are so busy. Koch said she assumed that high school and college would be similar in their demands, but she realizes now that college requires more time because academics are also more strenuous than in high school.
All the hard work has paid off for Koch, as evidenced by her record-breaking season. Coach Bolender said Koch has impressed him with her success.
“I knew she was going to be good right away,” he said. “I don’t know that I thought she was going to do this well this fast. You could see glimpses of it in cross country. But I would not have predicted this much success this quickly.”
Bolender said he likes Koch’s work ethic, but he said she has an advantage not everyone has.
“Carsyn has tremendous natural foot speed. She’s a naturally gifted athlete,” Bolender said. “She works really hard, too, but you don’t do what she does without being tremendously gifted.”
On top of being diligent and talented, Koch said she is extremely competitive.
“My parents instilled in me the mindset of giving everything 100 percent no matter what unless you have a good reason not to,” Koch said. “And I have a very competitive personality. It doesn’t matter if I’m playing Monopoly or running an 800, I still have that drive to win.”
However, she attributes much of her success to her teammates and coaches who’ve created an atmosphere where teammates lift one another up and God ultimately gets the glory for any success.
“(Cross country and track) are both individual sports, but you’re also doing it for a team, to lift up the team members around you,” Koch said. “You’re not just running to get times for yourself.”
Olivia Esbenshade, a fellow track and cross country team member and one of Koch’s closest friends, reiterated Cedarville’s strong team unity in track and cross country.
“Our entire team has crazy work ethic,” Esbenshade said. “Everyone works relentlessly to achieve the goals they’ve set for themselves, even if it means spending a lot of extra hours lifting, cross training, doing sprints or working hard to correct our form. Carsyn is no exception.”
Koch is currently competing in outdoor track, and she said her first indoor track meet provided her proudest accomplishment of her young career. She ran a 2:09 in the 800-meter dash and missed qualifying for nationals by one second.
Next year, Koch said she wants to qualify for nationals in the 800 in outdoor and indoor, but that’s not her only objective.
“As a team, our goal for next year is to make it to nationals (in track and cross country),” Koch said. “My goal hopefully, cross your fingers, is to break into the 17s (17 minutes for a 5k race) for cross country.”
Despite the intensity of training and competing, Esbenshade said Koch possesses a “fun, carefree demeanor” that helps lift the entire team’s spirits every day.
“Everyone loves having her on the team,” Esbenshade said. “There’s always someone better than you at your sport, and I’m really thankful to have that person as a teammate.”
Byron Brown is a junior global business major and sports reporter for Cedars. He plays for the JV basketball team here at Cedarville. His hobbies include playing sports, exercising, watching sports, eating and watching movies.