Home Team: Confident Renquist starting to hit her stride
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa – She was tired. She was weary. But Wren Renquist glanced at her stopwatch and couldn’t suppress a small smile.
Between heaving gasps for breath, she made her way back to the finish line at the Kishaba Housing Area cross country course on Camp Foster. There, her Kadena coach, Tom McKinney, and rival Kubasaki coach, Paul Campball, the meet’s host, were recording times in the district’s second meet of the season.
“Hey, coach. I think I got 19 flat!” the junior and Kadena’s team captain said, still somewhat exhausted from her exertions of the afternoon.
“Yep, you did it,” McKinney told her.
Renquist had broken the Okinawa mark of 19:07 set on Oct. 16, 2013, by former Kadena runner Ana Hernandez - a former two-time Far East champion and a teammate of Renquist when the former was a freshman.
One week earlier, Renquist posted a time of 20:04 on the hilly Jack’s Place course on Kadena.
“The courses are a lot different,” Renquist said. The Kishaba course “is flatter and a lot easier to run. I felt pretty good that day, too. I’ve been really determined this year. I think that really helped me push myself.”
On Okinawa Christian’s slightly tougher course Wednesday, she posted a 20:00.55.
Renquist, the reigning island champion, has lived on Okinawa for 13 years. She plans to graduate in June 2017. By then, she and her coaches feel she could be challenging the 18-minute mark.
“She’s driven,” McKinney said. “She really wants to be the best. She wants to get what she can out of here, because the end goal is she wants to run at a Division I school. I think by the time she’s done, we’ll get low 18s by her senior year, because she has the drive.”
Renquist wasn’t so sure for much of last season.
She began last season by clocking the Kishaba course in 19:38, but it was pretty much uphill from that point on. Though she won the island finals, it was with a time of 20:27, and she placed ninth in the Far East meet, in 21:59.6.
“She just got to a point and she got stuck,” McKinney said.
“I figured out I was anemic during the season,” Renquist said. “I had a really bad showing. I’m hoping to make that better this year and I know it’s my junior year. So I want to really push myself this year and see how far I can go.”
The road back began with visits to camps in the States over summer, where McKinney said she “worked hard, met new people and talked to different coaches from different colleges, and they helped her. She came back and she had her goals set.”
Renquist has also focused on maintaining her health, watching what she eats and drinks, continuing a vigorous workout regimen, exercising, stretching and listening to her coaches.
She has also raised the bar in the classroom, taking five Advanced Placement courses. One is Japanese, which she speaks fluently, being of American and Japanese descent. She’s also a National Honor Society inductee and a Junior Class senator, third in her class with a 4.0 GPA.
“I like working toward different goals, and academic achievement is one of them as well,” Renquist said. “If you’re determined in one thing, it makes sense that you’ll be determined to do your best in everything else as well. I like doing my best in everything I do. I don’t like putting limits on myself.”
Though she might have done that a year ago in the sport.
“She had it coming. She should have been here last year,” Campbell said, adding that in general the more productive students get, the higher self-esteem they have. “They start to get a little bit more of that self-esteem and ability and it shows in their results.”
The junior year, in particular – where Renquist is now – is where stress picks up, Campbell says.
“It’s when students learn to drive, you have PSATs, SATs, ACTs, most of your AP classes, you start to look at colleges, star of the class play, it’s a huge year for most kids. The hardest but the most fun year for most kids,” Campbell said.
Just how low can she go?
“I do feel I have room to grow,” Renquist said, adding that she feels she can do better than 19 flat in her next meet at Kishaba, and possibly “get into the high 19s” in one of the next two meets at Jack’s.
She also gets her third crack at Far East on Nov. 2 at Camp Fuji in Japan, where she finished second in 2013 and hopes to better her finish of last season.
“We kind of know the path,” McKinney said. “The weather’s always nice to us. We’ll be all right. She’ll be good.”