By Rob Kiser
RUSSIA — Former Russia state champion Katie Borchers had no idea how one fateful decision before her freshman year in high school would impact the next eight years of her life — and will continue to impact young girls in the Russia community into the future.
Borchers finished her career at Ohio State as won of the most prolific distance runners in Lady Buckeye history — both on the track and academically.
Which has also given hope to many young girls in Shelby County, including Russia.
“I would never say that I am a role model,” Borchers said in a phone interview after returning from the NCAA outdoor track nationals in Oregon last week. “If I have given them (young girls) something to strive for and encouraged them to follow their dreams — that is great. I have always been one who preferred to let my actions show for me, if that makes sense.”
And those actions, speak volumes
In indoor track, she was a second-team All-American in the 800, while earning three-time honorable mention All-American honors in outdoor track.
Borchers was a three-time all Big-Ten selection and is the school record holder in four individual events and five relays. She was Big Ten Athlete of the Week this past February.
In cross country, she earned All-American honors the past two seasons, becoming Ohio State’s first All-American in the sport.
She was a first-team All-Big Ten selection once, as well as being a second team All-Big Ten selection once. She received the 2014 Big Ten Sportsmanship Award and two time All-Great Lakes Region. She was also a Big Ten Athlete of the Week in cross country.
Borchers had PRs of 16:19 in the 5K and 20:11 in the 6K.
Academically, she was just as impressive.
She won the 2015 Big Ten Medal of Honor and was a 2014 Big Ten Distinguished Scholar. Borchers is a two-time Capital One Academic All-District selection and two-time USTFCCCA All-Academic selection, as well as a four-time Academic All-Big Ten selection and four-time Ohio State Scholar-Athlete.
“If you had told me four years ago what I was going to accomplish, I probably wouldn’t have believed it,” Borchers said. “I had kind of a rough freshman year, but I had a new coach my sophomore year who told me to believe in myself and I did.”
Borchers recently defended her Big Ten title in the outdoors 800, breaking her own school record with a time of 2:04.74, a top 25 time in Division I this year.
“Everything just came together,” Borchers said. “That was one of my goals to defend the title. I had a teammate in the race that helped me and had a number of teammates there encouraging me, which helped a lot.”
She followed that up by qualifying for nationals by again breaking her school record with a time of 2:04.62 in the finals to finish second in her heat and 10th overall at the East regional. She had advanced with a time of 2:05.17 in the preliminary round.
“Definitely, finishing my career at nationals was a big goal,” Borchers said. “It is a beautiful facility and it was great to end my career there.”
At nationals, Borchers ended up in what would be the slowest of three heats.
That worked to her disadvantage, as she couldn’t overcome the slow first lap and ran a 2:09.17 to finish seventh in her heat and 21st overall. Borchers banged her hands together as she crossed the finish line.
“It is not the way I wanted to finish,” Borchers said. “But, I got stuck in the middle and couldn’t get out. There wasn’t anything I could do about that. While the race was disappointing, when I look back at all my accomplishments — it has been an amazing career.”
The only question now is whether her career is over.
“A lot of people have asked me that,” Borchers said. “Right now, I don’t have the answer to that. I am back home, just chilling with my family and friends.”
Something that has also meant the world to Borchers.
“This community (Russia) is so amazing,” Borchers said. “I have only been home one day and it is amazing all the people who have come up and congratulated me.”
Borchers admits she has a funny feeling as she prepares for grad school.
“I have always had this training schedule since junior high,” she said. “Now, I am just kicking back and relaxing. I am an adult now. It is kind of a weird feeling. When I left Columbus, I looked at my coach and said, ‘I guess this is it’.”
And what was the fateful decision Borchers made so long ago?
She was torn between running cross country or playing volleyball her freshman year at Russia.
“It it wasn’t for coach (Russia cross country coach Doug Foster) Foster and a couple of other people in the Russia community who convinced me to run, I wouldn’t be where I am,” Borchers said. “Coach Foster was such a great coach. I think what it came down to was one 5K I ran the summer before. If I hadn’t run that race, I probably wouldn’t be here.”
Which would have deprived the entire community of one of the best role models any young girl could ever have.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.