During her time at Washburn District High School in Maine, Carsyn Koch won four high school cross-country state championships, 17 individual and team state championships and was valedictorian.
Last week, the Cedarville University sophomore ran the 800 meters in 2 minutes, 02.39 seconds for the fastest time in women’s Division II history. That time also qualified her for the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., in July.
So, is there anything Koch can’t do?
“I can’t dance and I cannot bowl to save my life,” Koch said, laughing.
Koch came to Cedarville with a personal-best 2:21 in the 800 out of high school. She never thought seriously about competing at the national level in the event until Yellow Jackets coach Jeff Bolender gave her the notion she could compete with the best in the country.
“I was never the kid that had big Olympic dreams,” said Koch, who started running as a freshman in high school.
“He has an eye for potential and I think he saw that in me. I came from a very tiny high school with very minimal training. I knew I was finding success in running but I don’t think I saw the potential he did. Cedarville has been so much more than running for me.”
The top 32 times in the country compete at the Olympic Trials from July 1-10. Koch’s time is 17th among all indoor and outdoor 800s this season.
Among college runners, her time ranks fourth this season behind the leading time of 2:01.02 clocked by Stanford sophomore Olivia Baker at the same Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational in Palo Alto, Calif., meet where Koch set her qualifying time.
That Koch is No. 4 among her college peers doesn’t turn heads. That she’s from D-II Cedarville does.
“I have gotten that question over and over: Where in the world is Cedarville? It’s cool for me because I get to tell them about a school I love,” Koch said. “I am in a way out to prove a point that you can do Division II and match levels with people who are considered levels above you.”
Koch said she didn’t get much attention from D-I programs coming out of Maine. But the nursing major with a Bible minor found the perfect fit with Cedarville.
“She’s just a great young lady,” Bolender said. “Very humble and very strong in her faith. She’s a joy to work with.
“Obviously I thought she was going to be pretty good. There was no indication she would be this good.”
Assuming her top-32 time holds, Koch goes against the country’s top runners in Oregon. While Koch wants to run in the lead pack with them, she’s also keeping her first Trials experience expectations in check.
“The goal is to PR or get a place. It would be nice to finish in the top 20. I think that would be a good goal, but I haven’t sat down and evaluated what my specific goals are,” Koch said. “I think at this point I’m just looking to PR. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this.”