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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Nearing end of athletic career, steeplechase runner Katie Thronson hopes to make one last splash at Olympic Trials

Former Lewis and Clark High standout Katie Thronson runs the 1,500 meters as a member of the University of Tennessee in 2021.  (Courtesy of Tennessee Athletics)
By Greg Lee The Spokesman-Review

Katie Thronson should have been busy these days wrapping up details for her wedding at her family’s cabin on Lake Coeur d’Alene.

After a highly successful undergraduate career at the University of Tennessee and a graduate season at Notre Dame, though, the Lewis and Clark High graduate thought she’d give professional running a try.

It paid off. In late April, Thronson met the automatic qualifying time for the 3,000-meter steeplechase for a berth in the ongoing U.S. Olympic Trials at the University of Oregon’s famed Hayward Field in Eugene.

At the Drake Relays, Thronson finished fifth in 9 minutes, 40.49 seconds – a personal best that earned her an invite to the trials.

Her best race at LC was the eight-lap 3,200. The transition to the steeplechase ended up fitting Thronson’s abilities and personality. It’s a 7½-lap race with 28 jumps (not hurdles, barriers) including seven jumps over water barriers. There’s no way around it. Athletes get wet.

With four barriers, including a jump over water each lap, the race isn’t so much for the fastest, although speed doesn’t hurt. But endurance is critical.

Thronson predicts that a blazing time near 9:10 will probably win the steeplechase at the trials. Her first goal is to qualify for the finals out of prelims.

She figures she’ll have to run another personal best to do so.

“My strategy is to put myself in a good position and hang on with all my might,” Thronson said in a phone interview from South Bend, Indiana.

In that statement, it’s obvious that grit is a definitive part of the race.

She has run this year for Tracksmith, a clothing apparel and gear company.

After finishing her collegiate career last year, Thronson signed with Tracksmith and decided to remain at Notre Dame and volunteer as an assistant coach. That allowed her to continue to be coached by Notre Dame head coach Matt Sparks. To help pay the bills, she has had an internship working in the Notre Dame Athletic Department business office.

She completed an undergrad degree in biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology at Tennessee. She thought she wanted to be a doctor, but an internship at a neuroscience clinic told her otherwise.

“I realized I was far too sensitive and emotional to be a doctor,” Thronson said. “I cared way too much. You’re not supposed to cry.”

When Thronson arrived at Notre Dame, she completed a master’s degree in nonprofit administration. She’s finishing up a second master’s in taxation.

Former Lewis and Clark runner Katie Thronson finished her collegiate career at Notre Dame in 2022-23.  (Courtesy of Katie Thronson)
Former Lewis and Clark runner Katie Thronson finished her collegiate career at Notre Dame in 2022-23. (Courtesy of Katie Thronson)

Her ambition is to be a tax accountant.

She loved her time in Knoxville, Tennessee. The only reason she left was her head coach was relieved of her duties.

Thronson will return to Knoxville this summer and rejoin her fiance. They’ve had a long-distance relationship while she’s been at Notre Dame.

“We got engaged last summer,” she said. “We had to put it off because of my running. He’s been a trooper.”

Thronson went to the U.S. Nationals last summer, finishing 19th in the steeplechase. That gave her hope of qualifying for the trials.

“Once you get a taste for the big leagues, it’s hard to say no,” Thronson said.

Her prelim in Eugene is Monday. It took 9:38 last year to get into the finals.

“I’m really hoping I can do it,” she said. “I think it’s doable.”

Her immediate plans after the race are still up in the air. She knows she’s nearing the end of her running career. She hopes it’s later than sooner, but she has settled it in her mind if the end is on the horizon.

“I think I’ll be hanging up the spikes,” she said. “If the opportunity were to present itself, I’d have to consider it. I hope the end isn’t real close, but as of right now it’s looking like it will be the end.”

She’s proud of many things.

“The thing I’m most proud of is I’ve never let a barrier actually become a barrier,” she said. “College athletics is scary enough. Then there’s running at the national level. Then Notre Dame recruited me. Then there’s the USA level. Just when I thought I wouldn’t be running anymore, this came along. I’ve been very proud. I’ve been able to overcome all of it.”

She runs between 8 and 9 miles a day and 12 to 13 on longer training days. She’ll taper off this week before the trials.

Thronson’s proudest athletic moment has nothing to do with what she did on the track.

“At Tennessee, I won the team volunteer award three years in a row,” Thronson said. “It’s a community service award. It’s my favorite.”

Thronson will be a lifelong runner. She wants to return to Spokane and compete in Bloomsday – a race she hasn’t run since before high school.

Before that happens, though, she has a wedding to arrange.