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Ralstin completes remarkable career

Competes in seven state championship events
By: Matt Long
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Samantha Ralstin entered Oak Ridge in the fall of 2008 dreaming of being the next Mia Hamm. Last month she left Oak Ridge for the last time as one of the best runners to ever attend the school. Ralstin, 17, wrapped up an amazing athletic career at the school that featured seven trips to the state meet, four as track and field 800-meter runner and three as a member of Oak Ridge High’s cross country team. In the fall she’ll attend Cal Berkeley on a partial athletic scholarship and will run on the cross country and track teams. “I’m happy with my high school career,” Ralstin said. “I made it to the state meet all four years in track and not too many can say they did that. I also ran really well in cross country. To be going to Cal Berkeley, I’m super excited about that.” Her cross country and track coach at Oak Ridge, Rob Fairley, said Ralstin is the only athlete in the last 17 years to qualify for the state meet all four years in track, and it’s likely that she could be the only Oak Ridge athlete to ever do it. “Sam’s had a very good career,” Fairley said. “Coach (John) Mansoor and I saw early on her freshman year that she was blessed with great speed and had great running ability. Qualifying for the state meet as a freshman was a big thing for her and I think that’s when she decided that she was going to be a runner and not a soccer player.” Ralstin just missed qualifying for the state meet in cross country as a freshman, but still had a successful rookie season. “I moved here from L.A. and met Jackie (Mansoor) during the cross country season,” Ralstin said. “She convinced me to go out for track in the spring and I told her I’d do it one time. After finishing third in the section in the 800 and making it to the state meet, that’s when I decided that I should be a runner. I had no idea that I would be that good at it.” According to Fairley, Ralstin ranks second all-time in the 800-meter run and third all-time 1,600-meter run at Oak Ridge. Her best 800-meter time is 2 minutes, 11.97 seconds, while her best time in the 1,600 is 4:56. She also has the second-fastest cross country time of 18:18 seconds, run at last year’s state meet at Woodward Park in Fresno. Her favorite cross country moment came this year at the Section championships, where she placed third at the Willow Hills course with a personal-best time of 18:42. “That’s a really big barrier on that course and it was my personal-record there,” Ralstin said. “That was my best race, but my favorite memory of cross country was our trip to Portland this year. It was a super-fun trip and we placed fifth up there and ran really well.” Fairley added, “Sam never fell in love with cross country, but she definitely benefitted from it in terms of it helping her strength and endurance. She had a great senior year, though. It was her best season.” Ralstin top track moment also came this season at the Division 1 section meet when she posted her personal-best time in the 800 of 2:11. Another highlight was important for personal reasons. “One of my hardest races this year was at Woody Wilson,” Ralstin said. “I hadn’t run the 800 yet this season and yet I was supposed to go out and win it and I was just freaking out because I didn’t think I could do it. This was coming after the Arcadia meet where I ran poorly too. Coach pulled me aside and told me that I could do and it’s what I’ve been training for. I went out there and just hammered it and no one followed me and I ran a season P.R. at that point of 2:13. That was big for me.” Ralstin is thrilled to have earned a scholarship to Cal and is looking forward to the next step in her running career. While at Cal she plans to study either biology or chemistry. “I think Sam’s got a lot of potential as a collegiate runner,” Fairley said. “She’s got good, natural leg speed and she’s got a lot of great athletes to train with. If she stays healthy she’s got a bright future. She can improve in the 800, but I see her as a very good collegiate runner in the 1,500.” Samantha Ralstin’s state meet stats Cross Country, 3.1 miles Freshman - Did not qualify Sophomore - 19:10, 61st place Junior - 18:46, 42nd place Senior - 18:18, 23rd place Track, 800-meter run Freshman - 2:18.52, 21st place Sophomore - 2:16.57, 16th place Junior - 2:14.14, 16th place Senior - 2:18.39, 23rd place