Allie Ostrander

In just her second track race in the last year, Allie Ostrander’s comeback journey continued Sunday in Eugene, Ore., where her hard-closing rally earned her 16th in the women’s 5,000 meters at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships.

She’s done better in this event at nationals– she finished eighth at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trails, which doubled as nationals.

But given Ostrander has barely begun racing since taking time off over the last year to undergo treatment for an eating disorder, and that she coaches herself since stepping away from her contract with shoe manufacturer Brooks, Sunday’s race was another step forward.

Forget about time. Ostrander ran 16:12.03 – she ran 15:26.50 two weeks ago and owns a personal best of 15:18.45 — to winner Elise Cranny’s 15:49.15. The temperature was about 80 degrees and humidity above 40 percent when the gun sounded at 9:30 a.m. local time, and those conditions all but guaranteed a relatively slow pace. Also, championship races often are tactical because either no one wants to do all the work required to front-run or no one wants to push the pace and risk fading in the most important domestic meet of the season.

In any event, Ostrander, 25, the Kenai Central grad from Soldotna who now lives in Seattle, hovered between 20th and 21st place in the field of 23 for nearly the entire race at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field.

Strength and endurance have long been Ostrander’s strong suits, and pure speed her shortcoming, but it appears the latter may be changing. Sunday, her 2:58.70 over the last kilometer – 1,000 meters, or 2.5 laps – was the 12th-fastest in the field and her final 400 of 1:08.02 was 10th-fastest.

Ostrander’s 16th place also bettered her seeding. Her personal best ranked just 21st among 25 initial declared athletes for the race and her season best was last among the 21 racers in the field who had raced a 5,000 this year.

This was Ostrander’s fourth time at nationals. In 2016, she ran 15:24.74 to finish eighth in the 5,000. In 2019, she finished fourth in the steeplechase and qualified for the World Championships – the U.S. had four qualifiers to worlds because Emma Coburn owned a free ride into the event based on her 2017 world title. And last year, Ostrander finished eighth in the steeplechase.

Ostrander earlier this season returned to racing of sorts when she rabbited a pair of track races in New York City. A week later, she won the Freihofer’s Run for Women 5K in Albany, N.Y., then ran a 5,000 (15:26.50) at the Portland Track Festival two weeks ago.

She said she struggled with doubt in that Portland race, but, like Sunday, she closed strongly.

“It wasn’t everything I wanted from this race,’’ she said on her YouTube channel later, “but I’m really proud I hung in there when I was doubting myself.’’

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