By Gary R. Rasberry
Already a veteran of running at the national level, Kris Roth will have to jump a little as well.
The Celina graduate will head to the University of Texas next week to take part in the NCAA National Outdoor Track and Field Meet starting Wednesday and ending Saturday.
"It's amazing. It's been my dream all track season," said Roth in a telephone conversation from the North Carolina State campus in Raleigh. "I've been through some tough times during the season, but I stayed injury free. Even if I didn't make the nationals, I would have been happy.
"Now that I know that I am going to nationals, I'm so excited."
Roth has been to a national meet before, taking part in two national qualifying teams for the NC State women's cross country team. This time around, Roth will take part in the steeplechase.
The 3,000-meter event -- seven laps around the track -- is a mix of distance running and hurdling. Around the track there are four sets of hurdles to jump over. The big obstacle is a rail that goes over a small pool of water. Runners can either hurdle the water jump or can jump onto the rail and go over the water.
Roth has the experience with the distance events, winning four 1,600 and 3,200 open titles in the WBL and the state 3,200 title her junior season. The jumping part was new.
"It's probably one of the most brutal races out there," said Roth. "You have to be coordinated to get over the barriers. I probably have one of the worst forms out there. I manage to get over (the barriers), so it works out. It's very tiring. On laps 5-6 is when the fatigue sets in from jumping all those barriers. You just have to be prepared for those last couple laps.
"For me, I'm actually glad those barriers are on the track. It feels that I am falling asleep on those laps and the barrier wakes me up. You have to surge in to get over the barriers to have the momentum carry you over. It keeps you aware. It's fun. I have a blast running."
Roth first took part in the steeplechase in her junior season at the Addias National Meet in Raleigh. Roth fared so well in the event, placing second, that schools, including NC State, began to recruit her.
"It's such a fun event," said Roth. "It's starting to get some notoriety. I think this year it's an exhibition event at the Olympics. Hopefully four years from now in the next (Summer) Olympics, it will be a medal event. That's great. Briana Shook (A former Seneca East and University of Toledo star, now the reigning national champion in the steeplechase) is like my idol right now. She's the one I really respect and I strive to be like one day. She runs under 10 minutes, which is what I want to do. Now that I have my PR, that's my next goal."
Roth made the nationals after placing fourth in the regional championships May 29 at the University of Florida.
To make the nationals, Roth needed to better the national qualifying time of 10:57.18 and be in the top five.
"I felt pretty good at the beginning, so I tried to stay at the front," said Roth. "At times the pack would get a little bit ahead and a gap would be formed. I knew it would hurt (to get back with the pack) but I dug in deep. I thought to myself 'I'm already hurting, you might as well be hurting some more.' I pushed away the pain and tried with the top five five or six to go.
'With two laps to go, I was in sixth. I started picking it up. With 200 meters to go, I caught up with the third-place girl from Boston College (Jennifer Donovan) and was going stride-for-stride. We came to the water pit and I hurdled it. Some just jump on the hurdle."
What happened next nearly put a crimp in the reservations to Austin.
"My trail leg hit the barrier and I did a dive into the water," said Roth, who landed on her back in the pool of water. "I got up as fast as I could. I was in a state of panic. All this fear rushed into me, because I wanted that fifth place spot so bad and I knew there were two girls right behind me. I just sprinted, jumped the last barrier and made it across."
Roth crossed the line in 10:18.33. Columbia's Delilah DiCrescenz was fifth in 10:18.52 with New Hampshire's Lesley Read missing the trip to the nationals by just 0.03 of a second in sixth place.
"Somebody got it on tape," said Roth. "It was so cool. It's the craziest fall ever. I can't believe I looked like that.
"It was a bittersweet, because two of my teammates (Lucinda Hull and Claudin Hull) didn't make it (finishing seventh and ninth). They're good steeplechasers in their own right and things just didn't go their way."
Wednesday is the preliminary heats for the finals. Roth's goal is simple.
"I just want to make the finals," said Roth. "I'm going to do whatever I need to do to make the finals. I really trust my coaches. They give me lots of advice. They know what I am capable of doing."