Steeplechase Runner a Step Ahead of the Rest

Rosalinda Coronado
El Vaquero Staff Writer

After moving to and from Norway within seven years, Ana Gjesdal has not only gotten back to normal in the United States, but has greatly excelled in the steeplechase.

“She is very determined and a fierce competitor,” said Glendale Community College women’s track and field coach Eddie Lopez.

At this time, Gjesdal is ranked first in the state among California community colleges in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, with a time of 11:31.88.

Now in her second semester at GCC, Gjesdal, 19, is also competing in the 1,500 meters (with a personal best of 5:00) and at times in the 800 meters. She has come a long way since her days at Crescenta Valley High School, particularly in attitude.

“I think I am a lot more motivated now than I was in high school, as far as running, because I have more time to focus on it now,” Gjesdal said.

She didn’t start running until her junior year in high school. “I wasn’t great, but I wasn’t bad,” she said. “For both cross country and track, we’d make it to CIF preliminaries, and then that was [as far as we went].”
Gjesdal was team captain in track and was also named most valuable player. In cross-country she was named co-MVP, she said. As for her academic side, Gjesdal said her grades were important to her and that she graduated 21st among her senior classmates.

But why didn’t she run before her junior year?

“When I was 10, my family and I moved to Norway. My dad’s Norwegian, and he wanted my brother and I to experience a different culture,” she said. “That’s why I didn’t start running until my junior year.”
In Norway, Gjesdal practiced a form of karate called Kyokushinkai. She was pretty good and earned a brown belt, she said. To earn the next belt, Gjesdal said she would have to go five straight hours without water and do back-and-forth technique fighting and pushups, sit-ups, etc.

Then, at age 13, Gjesdal placed fifth in Norway’s national karate tournament for women. After spending seven years in Norway, the 17-year-old Gjesdal at the time and her family decided to move back to the United States.

Following high school, Gjesdal ran cross-country at GCC last fall, where she placed 23rd in state competition.

With the hectic training schedule Gjesdal has, one would not think she would have time for anything else, but she does. Gjesdal also works 30 hours a week at Office Depot in La Crescenta.
As for the last track meet she competed in, Gjesdal won the 3,000-meter steeplechase, with a time of 11:31, and the 1,500 meters at the Elite meet in San Diego. The meet was held in the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, coach Lopez said. As a result, Gjesdal made First-Team All-American among community colleges.

“This event is very demanding, especially the barriers on the course,” Lopez said. “She’s hit the barriers a couple of times, and if you hit a barrier, it doesn’t move – you do. But the main thing is she has been able to jump back. It’s a very intimidating race.”

When Gjesdal started training for this event, her motor skills impressed her coach. He says to compete in this event a runner must be mentally tough, which is what Gjesdal is.

“She picked up the steeplechase very quickly,” Lopez said. “She probably runs [this event] at about 11:10, which is really outstanding.”

Lopez says that along with being the top runner in the state, she could even be one of the top runners in the country.

Although her coach says she still needs improvement on the water jump obstacle, Gjesdal is always improving and works hard on the track, her coach said.

After GCC, Gjesdal hopes to transfer and compete at the University of Michigan, a Division I school. The cooler climate is also a factor.

“I like the cold; I don’t like the heat,” Gjesdal said.

Gjesdal wants to major in kinesiology and eventually go into sports medicine.
As for the future, Gjesdal is scheduled to run the steeplechase at the Southern California Preliminaries on May 4 at the San Diego State Aztec Invitational.