The pistol cracked on the afternoon of April 28, signaling Rachael Ingoldsby and the six other women to begin the 3000m Steeplechase at the 2016 GSAC Championships. Ingoldsby raced into the wind, clearing each hurdle as it came. Then she felt her right knee slam into a hurdle. It hurt, but she kept running.
A few laps from the finish line, an opposing runner pulled even with Ingoldsby. Both girls ran stride for stride approaching the eight-foot water jump. They leaped and pushed off the hurdle. The other girl face planted in the water but Ingoldsby landed on her feet kept and running—leaving the past behind and focusing on what lay ahead.
Ingoldsby ran her first 3000m Steeplechase for The Master’s College at Occidental Distance Carnival on March 11, 2015. She clocked 11:40.15 and came eight seconds short of the “B” standard she needed to qualify for the 2015 NAIA National Championships.
During training for the race, Ingoldsby began experiencing discomfort in her left hip. The discomfort increased to pain and gradually spread, but she kept practicing and hoping her body would heal itself.
I didn’t. The pain in her hip got worse.
Ingoldsby stopped racing and began rehab such as running in the pool, exercising her core muscles and stretching. At the end of the season she was well enough to compete in the 2015 GSAC Championships for one last shot at qualifying for the 2015 NAIA National Championships.
“She is fiercely competitive,” said Ingoldby’s roommate and TMC senior runner Karis Frankian. “She was talking about running conference after not running for like a month or two—[that] just embodies her competitiveness.”
Hoping for a miracle, Ingoldsby ran but finished with a time of 11:58.98, thirty seconds short of qualifying for the 2015 NAIA National Championships. She was going home.
“I made it to nationals my freshman year,” Ingoldsby said. “So it’s really sad not making it my sophomore year when you’re supposed to be better. It was a really good experience though, because it really helped me to rely on the Lord and just trust Him, even though I didn’t know what was happening.”
Ingoldsby continued to run for short periods at home during the summer, then returned to The Master’s College in the fall for her junior year. During the cross country season her injury came back, but the pain disappeared after a number of rehab sessions with team trainer Dave Larsen.
“The trainers actually told me not to ever do it again,” Ingoldsby said about running the steeplechase. “They were like ‘No, you shouldn’t. It’s probably the reason you got injured.’ I was like ‘okay.’”
Ingoldsby would have been fully justified to give up running the 3000m Steeplechase, which is arguably the hardest race in track. The race is almost two miles long, features thirty-five hurdles and an eight-foot water jump.
“If you get attacked by a shark at the beach [or] in the water you’ll never go underwater again, unless you go in again,” Ingoldsby said. “I thought ‘I have to do steeple again this next track season or I will never will do it again. And I have to qualify.’”
Ingoldsby’s biggest obstacle to qualifying for the NAIA National Championships this season has been a shortage of iron in her body earlier in the year, which caused her to run slower. After being tested, she was diagnosed with anemia, which is common for runners.
“I was kind of worried,” Ingoldsby said. “I got my blood tested and started taking more iron and my levels started getting better.”
With her iron level back up, Ingoldsby had another opportunity to qualify in the 3000m steeplechase at the Pomona-Pitzer Invitational on April 9, 2016.
Ingoldsby took the lead after the first lap, passing Sheri Boyle, an older runner competing with a running club in Alberta, Canada. Boyle led the first lap, but died back into the pack of runners.
Convinced Boyle was tired, Ingoldsby pressed ahead but didn’t hear the older lady gaining ground behind her. Ingoldsby fell behind in the final 200 meters and finished 2.6 seconds behind Boyle, claiming second place with a time of 11:20.97.
“All the girls were out there cheering for me and hoping I was going to qualify,” Ingoldsby said. “It was funny because afterward she [Boyle] came up and was like ‘Hey good job, I felt like I was racing all of you, because you guys were all cheering for you.’”
Ingoldsby beat her previous personal record by 15 seconds at Pomona Pitzer and reached the “B” standard and qualified for the 2016 NAIA National Championships, but first would come the 2016 GSAC Conference Championships.
“Those of us who have qualified for nationals use conference as a stepping stone,” Frankian said. “[We] get into championship mind, racing tactical, not necessarily racing ‘all out from the gun.’ There’s different tactics and ways to race a championship kind of effort. We use that as practice.”
Ingoldsby finished fourth out of seven at 2016 GSAC Conference Championships in the 3000m Steeplechase with a time of 11:35.78.
“It was fun,” Ingoldsby said. “It was kind of a rough race [and] wasn’t as good as my last one, but it’s okay. The conditions weren’t very good [because] the wind was ridiculous. But, I’m excited for nationals.”
Ingoldsby will run again in the Oxy Invite on May 7, before returning to run at the 2016 NAIA National Championships from May 26-28 in Gulf Coast, Alabama. It will be Ingoldsby’s first time to nationals since her freshman year.
“It’s amazing,” Ingoldsby said. “It’s really exciting to have made it, because it’s the funnest trip ever. I’m there with the rest of the team and competing at a national level.”
By Jonathan Wais