June 24, 2010
One national championship, eight All-America awards, and three school-records later, Katie Follett's Husky career has come to a close. The fastest mid-distance runner in Washington history, evidenced by her mile and 1,500-meter records, will now take on the challenges of a professional career, starting with this week's USA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.
Follett took time to reflect back on the past four years, starting with freshman year struggles and going to individual Pac-10 titles and an NCAA win for UW in cross country. She then talks about what the future holds, as she will run in Europe this summer and then remain in Seattle to train with Head Coach Greg Metcalf.
When I look back on my four years at the University of Washington, certain moments stand out vividly in my mind. I remember standing on the starting line at Sundodger in Lincoln Park on a crisp fall morning with sunlight filtering gently down through the trees, surrounded by my new teammates. It was the very first time I wore my Washington jersey. I was, and remain, proud of the University I represent. At that moment, I felt like the world was my blank canvas. What would happen? Where would I go, what would I see, who would I meet, how fast could I run? I was not disappointed.
I remember coming down the homestretch at Pac-10s three years later, seeing four purple jersey's ahead of me and crossing the finish line just in time to glance back and see Amanda Miller right behind me. The joy in everyone's eyes was the only reward required after months of toil and sweat. I remember the feeling of awe as I stood with tears in my eyes when they handed us our first NCAA trophy, and watching Metcalf sleep with it the whole plane ride back to Seattle. I will never forget Mel Lawrence's feisty pep talks before big races, Falesha Ankton's hilarious dance moves on the bus, falling for Zack Midles' pranks, or the hours of long runs out at Redmond watershed where I truly got to know my training partners. Those are the moments that will stick with me forever.
But athletics, and life in general, is not only about relishing the successes. It is also about surviving the disappointments and finding the strength from within ourselves to persevere and not give up. If there is one thing I have learned in my career, it is that one's character can become most evident in failure. It provides a valuable opportunity to learn, evaluate, and make changes that might not happen from success alone. I remember struggling to finish my freshman cross country season, as I finished towards the back of the field at both Pac-10s and Regionals, weak from anemia. Those two races changed me. I became a student of my body, attempting to learn how I could transform from a back of the pack runner into something more. I remember sitting in the warm-up field at Hayward Track in Eugene only a week ago after I finished tenth in the 1500m final. Although my career did not conclude the way I dreamed of, I knew that the next day would be the same as every other day of my career. I would wake up, it might sting a little at first, but I would put on my shoes and go for a run. For me, every day of running is a gift from my Creator to be enjoyed, and I have a lot to be grateful for. I am thankful for the freedom that comes from an identity in Christ, and the confidence that Jesus has paid the price for all my shortcomings. I am thankful for the inspiration that comes from watching my teammates persevere through injuries and setbacks to achieve what they never thought they could.
I am also thrilled for the opportunity to continue my running career. Brooks Running Company is looking to establish a local training group of track athletes in Seattle and I am happy to be among them. With Brooks as my sponsor, I will be able to continue to train in Seattle with Coach Metcalf and make the transition from college athlete to professional runner. I will begin my summer at the USATF Championships in Des Moines, Iowa and travel from there with an Athletes in Action group to Belgium where I will compete in the Flander's Cup track series.
I conclude my season at the U-Dub with similar feelings as I had at Sundodger four years ago. I am optimistic of the future and feel that my time at the University of Washington has prepared me well for whatever challenges lie ahead. As I transition from athlete to alumni, I am grateful for relationships with teammates and coaches, and the experiences shared along the way that have helped form me into who I am today.