Odds are those traveling on the streets around The College of Wooster’s campus passed Kathryn Wieferich at some point during her junior and senior years, as the five-time All-American’s singular determination displayed by few others led to her developing into one of the top distance runners in program history.
“Katie worked incredibly hard her last two years,” confirmed head coach Dennis Rice. “In 30-plus years of coaching, I’ve never had a runner improve as much as Katie did in two seasons. She went from an excellent conference runner to one of the best runners in the nation in one season. She accomplished this through hard work and dedication.”
All indications were Wieferich would be in the mix for All-American honors on the cross country course as a junior. After all, she won five meets, including the North Coast Athletic Conference Championship by 38 seconds, and placed third in a field of 222 at the NCAA Div. III Great Lakes Regional. However, Wieferich came back from a training run limping six days before the Div. III Championships, then still turned in a gutsy performance and placed 54th despite the injury.
“We thought she would not be able to run at the national meet,” recalled Rice. “Katie hobbled to the starting line and ran one of the most inspirational races I’ve seen in my coaching tenure. This was the start of her success at the national level.”
Wieferich came off the injury more determined than ever, and kick-started her comeback by winning the NCAC indoor 5000 meters with a time of 17:38.13, a performance that marked the Marietta, Ohio native’s first individual all-conference track certificate. The 5000 meters, plus Wooster’s first-place time of 12:53.31 in the distance medley relay led to her earning the NCAC’s MVP award for mid-distance and distance events.
The distance specialist made it a clean sweep as far as major awards are concerned once the schedule flipped to the outdoor season thanks to first-place finishes in the 5000 (17:39.27) and 10,000 (38:26.43) meters at the NCAC Championships. Wieferich was tabbed as the MVP for mid-distance and distance events, an award she would earn again the following year with repeat blue-ribbon efforts of 16:44.68 and 38:05.45 respectively.
At nationals, Wieferich placed third overall in the 10,000 meters, and after a day of recovery, came back to finish fifth in the 5,000 meters. Seeded seventh in the 10,000 meters, Wieferich became the first Wooster women’s runner to cover it in less than 36 minutes, as she crossed in a school-record time of 35:53.55. Noteworthy, the third-place finish marked the best NCAA showing by a Scot in women’s track and field since 1988 when fellow Hall-of-Famers Univer Bukala and Stephanie Kazmierski were runner-ups in the triple jump and 400-meter hurdles, respectively.
Hungry to cap her career in style, Wieferich won every major cross country race leading up to nationals as a senior, including the All-Ohio Championships. Wieferich’s blue-ribbon time, 18:11.5, was the best by 13 seconds and she became the first non-Div. I winner in the women’s division since 2000.
At the conference meet, Wieferich defended her title successfully with a 24:11, and broke the tape at the Div. III Great Lakes Regional with a time of 22:07.5. With one final chance to earn All-American honors, Wieferich delivered a 14th-place time of 23:24 at nationals, and in doing so, became the second harrier in program history to earn All-American laurels.
Wieferich doubled-up on All-American certificates on the track, starting with a repeat third-place performance in the 10,000 meters at the Div. Championships (outdoor). Her final collegiate race was also a dandy and Wieferich’s 16:59.44 was good for a fourth-place showing in the 5,000 meters.
“I have been very blessed in my coaching career to have an opportunity to work with some great student-athletes,” summed up Rice. “Katie is one of the top distance runners, if not the best, to come through our proud program.”
A standout in the classroom as well, Wieferich twice earned College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-America® plaques, and the chemistry major cited the College’s “great academics” among the reasons as to why Wooster was the fit for her.
After graduating from Wooster, Wieferich attended the Ohio State University and earned a M.D., and she’s currently working as an emergency room physician at Washington Hospital just south of Pittsburgh, Pa.