As one of the most decorated girls high school distance runners in Washington state history, Allie Janke could have continued her running career at just about any college she wanted to.
So why not join the defending collegiate national champion cross country team?
Janke did just that, announcing last month she signed a National Letter of Intent to join the University of Arkansas cross country and track programs.
Janke is a two-time cross country state champion, two-time 1,600-meter state champ, owns a first and second in the 3,200 and a second in the 4x400, and is the State 3A record-holder in the 1,600 and 3,200.
Oh, and she’s a two-time Gatorade state girls track and field athlete of the year.
“It was a complicated decision, as any college decision is,” Janke said. “It really just came down to, it was the school that had the longest legacy of really putting together these remarkable, competitive NCAA performance teams. They won nationals last year, but even before that they’ve always been up there, been a competitive program.”
It helped that Arkansas had an undergrad program in dietetics, which is what Janke wants to study.
“I went down and did a little independent visit a couple months ago and I really liked the area,” she said. “I got to meet some of the girls, and it just seems like they really have a great atmosphere to help runners go down there and really thrive as athletes and individuals.”
The geography reminded her of Spokane.
“It’s similar,” she said. “It’s right next to the Ozarks (Mountains), which are really pretty. There’s dirt trails to run on and country roads. Stuff like that, it really does seem like a runner’s paradise.”
Janke took her time deciding her future.
“I definitely had some options,” she said. “I’m really indecisive, so that made the decision even harder. It was really fun to be able to shop around and meet different coaches and learn about different programs.
“That’s not a normal experience and I really tried to not take that for granted – even though it was kind of stressful because I had so many options.”
Janke said some programs were surprised to hear from her.
“They kind of would know about me, but they didn’t really expect someone from Spokane, Washington, would reach out to them. I felt like that was a good way to go too, just open up my options even more.”
Like most athletes in Washington, Janke is still hoping to add to her legacy at North Central.
“I’m still training, just no season,” she said.
“The mental side is definitely harder,” Janke said. “A hard workout is a hard workout, whether you’re by yourself or not. But getting the motivation to go out each day and some days meeting with one or two other people but other days just planning your own thing and doing your best has been a challenge.
“I feel like mentally I’m going to come out the other end a stronger mental athlete because I’ve had to do so much to motivate myself.”
Going to California
Spokane hasn’t been known as a swimming mecca, but swimmers like NC’s Dariko Djatej are helping put the Lilac City on the map.
“Didi” to her friends, Djatej signed with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for the fall of 2021.
“I am excited to announce my verbal commitment to swim and study at Cal Poly SLO,” she said via Instagram. “I would like to thank my family, friends, and coaches for supporting me throughout my journey. Go Mustangs!”
Djatej swims year-round for the Spokane Waves Aquatic Team and is a breaststroke and backstroke specialist. Last summer, she competed at the USA Futures Championships in Mount Hood.
“The Spokane area, the swim community isn’t as well-known as it could be,” she said. “But it is a tight-knit community and I’d love for more kids to know about the team – because a lot of people don’t even know we have a swim team in Spokane. I’d love to get our team more out there.”
In 2019, she made finals at the Federal Way (Washington) Sectionals meet in the 200-yard backstroke, ultimately finishing 32nd. At the 2020 IES Junior Olympics, she made finals in at least one event in every stroke, and swept the breaststroke events.
“At the beginning of my recruiting process, I really hadn’t narrowed down my schools or where I wanted to go. I was definitely open to a lot of things,” Djatej said. “But I liked the athletic/academic balance at Cal Poly the best.”
She plans to study biomedical engineering.
“I’m continuing my STEM-related path that I started here at North Central.”
She appreciates those whose footsteps she’s following.
“To be honest, throughout the years we’ve had lots and lots of swimmers go throughout the program and going to college programs,” she said. “We had a girl go to UCLA, we’ve had a girl go to Boise (State), we had a kid last year make Olympic trials. So I certainly don’t see myself as a pioneer.
“I see myself more of a continuation of the legacy on our team we’ve created and the atmosphere we’ve created that’s been passed down for years and years.”
Djatej said her high school athletic career was unique.
“It is a little different,” she said. “A lot of the high school kids compete for one or two days in the week, every week, where (swimmers) compete for four or five days in a row, maybe once or twice a month.”
Swimming is not a varsity sport in the Greater Spokane League.
“The whole school environment doesn’t understand what you do because it isn’t on the school news or on the announcements every day,” she said. “It’s almost like you lead a separate life with your athletics from your academics. But I wouldn’t trade the friends and community that I’ve established at my club swim team for anything. They’re super supportive, super great. ”
Still, she was appreciative that she was recognized, alongside Janke, at a school assembly last month.
“It was super cool that they were able to recognize me signing to a college,” she said. “Just a cool opportunity.”
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