Fort Atkinson grad in NCAA steeplechase finals
Ryan Gasper didn’t let the elements rain on his NCAA Outside Track and Field Championships parade.
The Fort Atkinson High graduate, now a University of Wisconsin junior, qualified for the finals in the 3,000-meter steeplechase by finishing second in his heat in Wednesday night’s semifinals at Fayetteville, Ark.
Heavy rains hit Fayetteville early Wednesday evening, putting the national meet on hold. Gasper’s steeplechase race did not actually start until after midnight.
Gasper did not let the wait affect him.
“It actually worked out really well for me because I had a lot of time to really concentrate on the race and I wasn’t rushed into it,” Gasper said in an interview posted on the UW Web site. “(Assistant coach) Mick (Byrne) and I were talking during the storm, and he told me that, either way, I had to be ready to go.
“You can’t let stuff like that bother you.”
Gasper, who finished second at the WIAA State Cross Country championship as a junior and senior while at Fort Atkinson, will run in finals tonight.
Gasper is the two-time defending Big Ten Conference champion in the event, which consists of 7½ laps of the 400-meter track, with competitors having to jump over 28 barriers—four on each lap. One of the barriers includes a water pit than runners either jump into or over.
Gasper was clocked in his heat at 8:44.32. His best career time in the event is 8:43.42, which he recorded in May.
Steeplechase races involve more strategy than a normal distance race. Gasper ran in the back of the pack and made his move on the final lap.
“Everyone was there with three laps to go and I knew I was going to have to really close,” he said. “We’ve been doing a lot of workouts where we really close down, and I think that helped me out.”
Gasper finished 23rd nationally in last year’s NCAA event, failing to get out of the semifinals.
“I think that was the biggest thing, making that jump,” he said. “It’s another stepping stone to move on to the next level.
“And, when things are disappointing, you always want to make up for them.”
The final is scheduled to start at 6:40 tonight.