Almost every student at Cedarville University recognizes junior track star Carsyn Koch as a record-breaking athlete who went to the United States Olympic Trials this summer.
Koch set a school record in the 800 meters almost every time she ran last season. She beat the Olympic trial qualifying time of 2:03 back in May, finishing the 800 in 2:02.39. Koch went on to Oregon for the trials in July, where she finished fifth in her heat with a time of 2:05.57 seconds. She did not make the Olympic team.
Despite accomplishing so much in her two years at Cedarville as a track athlete, Koch said athletics is not how she wants people to identify her.
“I want people to know that I love God and that I love Cedarville,” Koch said.
She said she believes she is simply using the gifts God has given her.
“I’m not a super human,” she said. “I think I was put in a situation where God picks each of us and gives us special talents. Mine just happens to be running.”
Koch said she hopes that when people get to know her they will realize she is more than just an athlete.
“I hope that if people get a chance to talk to me they can see that I love people and I love nursing and I love my friends and family and where I grew up. Running is a part of me, but I don’t think I’m just that runner.”
However, she was more than excited to qualify for the Olympic trials. She said she almost did not run in her final race to qualify because it was the week before her final exams and she was under a lot of stress. She said running the qualifying race was a great idea. She was very happy when she heard she qualified.
“I felt like my hard work had paid off,” Koch said, “I was really excited.”
After her final exams and NCAA Division II nationals, Koch stayed in Cedarville for almost a month to train with Cedarville’s head track coach Jeff Bolender. She also had days when she trained alone. As a social person, Koch said being mostly by herself most of the summer made the whole training process difficult at times.
“It was tough mentally to push yourself when you feel like you are the only one,” Koch said. “It is easy to think ‘What am I doing this for? or ‘Why am I away from my family so long?’ I think when I got to the experience of the race and the trials it made it all worth it.”
Koch said it was great to have Bolender with her to encourage and motivate her. Bolender also helped organize transportation for himself, his wife and Koch to go to the trials. Koch’s family as well as former Cedarville track star Jane (Romig) Brooker joined them in Oregon to watch her compete. Most of the records that Koch has broken at Cedarville were previously held by Brooker. Brooker has also competed in three United States Olympic Trials.
“She has been someone I’ve looked up to as a role model and athlete that I hope to be like some day,” Koch said. “She was there to give me advice and help me through the emotional and nerve-wracking side of that. I had quite the support team out there. It was good because it was definitely needed.”
Koch said the atmosphere was serious, but the intensity at the race was calm. She said it is because everyone there knows they have trained really hard to get there. She said the day of the race is when you trust in your training.
“You might not be the best, but you could be the best on this day,” Koch said. “Every single person that made it there is a contender.”
Koch said interacting with the athletes made her realize they are people too. She said all the people she looks up that may seem untouchable have a personality and get nervous too.
“It’s not just competition,” Koch said. “These people started from somewhere just like I’m starting off.”
When it came time to race, Koch said she was more nervous than any race she has been in. She said she knew a lot of people were watching her from school, her hometown, and on TV.
“I wanted to do my best for Cedarville, Division II, coach and represent God the best I could,” Koch said. “I felt the pressure of being representative of a lot of things and I wanted to have a PR [personal record] race. It is one of those things where you work so hard that part of the fear of the situation is that you might not get what you want.”
Koch said she was not satisfied with where she placed at trials. She said she let her nerves get in the way and that she was disappointed with her race strategy.
“That is the funny thing about athletics,” Koch said. “You can work your butt off for months and months and then in two minutes it is gone. For some people it is 10 seconds and it is gone. I think I let the competition get in my head.”
Koch said she has been used to getting a new personal record (PR) in almost all of her races. She said eventually she knew she was not going to get a PR. She said coach Bolender also told her that just because it is a big race does not mean a new PR. She said the day of trials was that day.
“Still to this day the most frustrating part is that I know that my body was in shape for a PR,” Koch said. “But it is not an excuse for how I ran the race.”
Koch said the trials were a wake up call for her in that her identity is mostly athletics. She said she does not want to be known as just a runner. She said she realized there is more to life and that athletics should not make you feel disappointed in yourself.
“Your relationship with God and your relationships with other people should make you feel those intense emotions, not the selfish emotions of your own performance,” Koch said. “I left thinking ‘Wow, I’m so lucky to be a Christian.’ You look at some of these people and their blood, sweat, tears, and entire life is in running. When they fail it is like they failed at life. It was a good wake up call that I did not fail at life and that this isn’t my life.”
Bolender said he was not disappointed in Koch at all. He said people do not realize how hard she and the other athletes worked to get where they are.
“I think some people lose the concept of how difficult it is watching people break world records. For the normal person you don’t realize how incredibly hard it is to put that kind of time and energy in it,” Bolender said. “The things Carsyn accomplished were really amazing. It was fun to be apart of that process and all she accomplished.”
Koch said has a few goals she hopes to achieve in the future. She wants to continue to pursue a career in nursing while at the same time staying in shape and running. She said she hopes to return to the trials in four years.
“Lord willing, if this body is still healthy in four years, that is the plan,” Koch said. “It would be nice to be sponsored by a company that could pay for all the running and help get me a good training plan.”
Josh Burris is a senior journalism major and the sports editor for Cedars. He is interested in sports broadcasting and reporting. He enjoys watching sports, lifting, and listening to rock and rap music.