Girls Track: Yorkville distance star gives steeplechase a whirl, and wins national AAU title

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Skyler Bollinger is no glutton for punishment, just talented at her craft.

The Yorkville distance runner extraordinaire, who has helped lead the Foxes to back-to-back IHSA Class 2A State Cross Country Championships, added a couple twists to her summer training in the past month as she prepared for her junior season.

Running the race for only the fourth time, last week she traveled to Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and claimed a national title in the 2000-meter steeplechase.

Bollinger won the girls 15-16 division of the 2014 AAU Junior Olympic Games, finishing in 7:14.91, six-plus seconds ahead of runnerup Rachel Lau of Plainfield.

It came about a week after Bollinger won her 15-17 age group in the Chicago Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon (13.1 miles).

“I enjoyed it more than open races,” Bollinger said of the steeplechase, which is just as much obstacle course as distance run, requiring competitors to clear five hurdles and a water pit each lap of the race.

“We don’t have it in high school (competition). It’s kind a fun to mix it up.”

Bollinger also qualified for the USATF nationals in Texas but chose not to make the trip.

“It’s something I might try in college if my college coach wanted me to run it,” Bollinger said of the race. “It’s tough, especially making the (water pit) jump when you get to that last lap.

“My high school coaches (Chris Muth for cross country, Ben Draper for track) didn’t really mind me doing it at all as long as I got my workouts in. I didn’t train specifically for the steeplechase, didn’t do any speed work, which is something I would do if I were focusing on it.”

Bollinger is a two-time all-state performer in cross country (5th and 16th, individually as a freshman and sophomore, respectively) and track (5th and 7th, respectively, in the 1,600-meter run).

In the half marathon, she finished in 1 hour, 26 minutes and 43 seconds.

She placed 138th of 13,864 competitors overall, 17th of 8,394 female runners and first of the 140 girls in the 15-17 division.

It’s the third time Bollinger has run the event, finishing 126th overall in 2013 and 331st in 2011.

Is there a full marathon in her future?

“Maybe in a while,” she said, “but not any time soon. It just wouldn’t be good for cross country training.”

Yorkville teammates Alexis Grandys finished 10th in the 1,500 for girls 15-16, finishing in 5:03.48, and Rachel Augius tied for 12th in the high jump for women 17-18, clearing 5-4.

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