INDIANAPOLIS — She dove head first across the finish line.
Eastern Hancock head coach Jerry Cain shook his head and smiled as sophomore Kirsten Schrope slid on the gravely track at the tail end of the 1600-meter race, narrowly snatching the win at the 22 team invitational. At speeds like that, any runner is getting skinned up, he said; the Royals secured a victory because the brand new athlete had taken a dive for the team. Literally.
It was 2012, and only the fourth competition Schrope had competed in, Cain said. To Cain, that meet symbolized just how competitive a distance runner Schrope would grow to become. But even before then, he knew he had a champion on his hands.
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Watching her compete during this year’s track season at Marian University, she proved him right again.
Schrope, now a senior at Marian, is making her final strides in track and cross-country at the final bend of her college career. Schrope has set university records to match the ones she made running in high school, and she is primed to finish her track and cross-country career after qualifying for nationals in track, which will be at Gulf Shores, Alabama, this May.
At Eastern, Schrope was a two-time 800 champion at the school’s sectional competition and Mid-Hoosier Conference champion her senior year. Her name is currently in the high school’s record books for the 800 meters at 2:19, the 4×800 relay at 10:26 and the 4×400 at 4:13.
After graduating from Eastern Hancock, Schrope never slowed down.
By her freshman year of college, Schrope held the 4×800 record at Marian as well, with a total team time of 9:18. She made it to indoor nationals four times in that race and twice in the indoor season.
But her proudest moment in college was last year during the conference meet’s steeple chase, Schrope said. She soared through the 3k race in 11:31, crushing Marian’s record by 12 seconds.
Cain travels to watch his favorite former athlete compete whenever he gets the chance to, he said. He remembers Schrope as a tremendous team leader, confident yet humble, with a stubborn yet uplifting presence.
“She was more than just talk,” Cain said. “When somebody needed to be encouraged or someone needed picked up, it was Kirsten.”
“And the girl can just flat run,” he added with a chuckle. “She can run all day, I’m telling you.”
Schrope, slated to receive her nursing degree this May, was named an academic All-American in 2016. When she first attempted to balance clinical trials, nursing school, cross country and track practice, time management was an understandably big challenge, she said. But her teammates, family and former coaches provided her with a support net, keeping her on track to excel in doing what she loves, she said.
Rachel Dever, Schrope’s roommate, teammate and nursing school classmate helped her enormously during her college years as they learned to balance their collegiate obligations together, Schrope said. Dever is on the same record-breaking 4×800 relay team and will run with her at nationals in May.
For three years now, the girls have woken each other up for early-morning training runs and stayed up late studying for exams, Dever said. With all the time the two spend together, it’s a wonder they get along so well, Dever joked.
Schrope always helps her hit that switch mid race that makes her work harder, Dever said. Wrapping up their final season together has been bittersweet, but they’re looking forward to celebrating as they move closer to graduation, she said.
“I’m just glad that Kirstin will always be my friend even when the running stops,” Dever said.
Schrope said the support of her teammates are what keep her moving forward. The strong team chemistry is what got her this far in track and in college alike, she said.
That’s what makes her sport so special, she said. Enduring stressful times is tough in the moment but rewarding at the end, and being part of a team striving for a common goal makes every challenge easier to overcome.
“That’s kind of special when you realize everyone’s running the same race as you,” Schrope said.