Methacton grad Ryann Krais was on cruise control heading from the comfortable surroundings of home in the Philadelphia suburbs to the sun and glamour of UCLA in southern California. That was in 2008.
As it turned out, it wasn't all sun and fun for the multi-talented, multis athlete who had won numerous state titles while in high school.
Krais had a somewhat rough freshman year, falling short of her own expectations and finding herself doubting her ability to compete at a high level.
But Krais is not a quitter. And with the full support of UCLA head coach Jeanette Bolden, the two devised a plan to help Krais meet those high personal expectations, and to succeed at the collegiate level.
It didn't work. At least on the west coast.
(Photo by PhotoRun.net)
But not only isn't Krais a quitter, she is not a blamer. And just days after posting a quite unexpected PR in the heptathlon in early August at the Thorpe Cup multis competition between the US and Germany – her fourth US world team in the last four years, by the way – Krais was looking ahead with enthusiasm, and back with gratitude.
"I thought I wanted to be a California girl" she mused. "But that's not me."
Krais had nothing but praise for Bolden and her two years with the program.
From a track perspective, Krais said she was grateful for all that she had learned from Coach Bolden and the rest of the UCLA staff.
But she reserved her most profound feelings for the personal side of the experience.
What Krais says most impressed her about Bolden is that she "genuinely cares about her athletes as people first."
"I never got the feeling it was about points. That's really something to look up to," she continued.
Needless to say, when Krais knew she wanted to head in a different direction, she was given permission to do so.
Her UCLA career neared its conclusion with her lowest heptathlon score since USATF Juniors as a college freshman, and before that, as a rising senior in high school. That it happened at the NCAA Division I Championships was especially disheartening to Krais. Virtually the only high point of the two days of competition was the final event, when she actually PRed in the 800 at 2:12.65.
To put it mildly, Krais hopes never to see 5236 again during her career.
Krais came home looking for renewal.
Remember, she's never been a quitter, so it was off to the "home" track at Methacton High School to see exactly what could be tweaked with the help of her prep coach, Rob Ronzano.
"Maybe it was the feeling of being home again – getting confident again" Krais said. "Whatever it was, my training just took off. I got relaxed and just let things happen."
With just two weeks before the USATF Outdoor T&F Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, Krais was looking forward to the second chance to finish her season on a high note.
Still competing as a UCLA Bruin, she started nudging the points upward with a 5-08.75 high jump. Her shot was disappointing (for her), but she PRed in the long jump with a non-wind-aided leap of 20-01.75. And after a spring of doing more distance training than speed work, her 800 had become a go-to event, which she nailed with a 2:13.07. The 5693 was a PR by 144 points and earned her 7th in the US..
Krais was back.
But her 2010 summer campaign was not quite complete.
That performance landed her a spot on the US team bound for Germany to compete August 7th and 8th in the multis-only Thorpe Cup.
With six weeks more for tweaking, and the familiarity of home as a base – Krais also had the opportunity of visit Kansas State and to finalize her transfer.
Heading into the competition, everyone told Krais not to expect a PR. She had had a rough spring, and after all, multis points don't just appear. Each one is the result of specific work.
Making the trip seem a little more like her future home was the fact that two volunteer coaches for Kansas State were on the team, and were being accompanied by the head coach, Cliff Rovelto.
Krais opened her event with a season-best 13.85 in the 100 hurdles. A bit off her lifetime best of 13.50 from high school, it was a great start compared to her previous two heps.
Having her soon-to-be-coach in Germany helped Krais immensely for the two days, but especially on her second event, the high jump. She could tell from video prior to going to Germany that she did not hold her head back long enough. When she approached Coach Rovelto after a miss, she thought that is exactly what he would say. Instead, he offered his thoughts on her approach. She proceeded to tie her PR of 5-09.75.
"The things he was telling me," Krais said, "I never would have looked that deep into it. I was impressed."
Krais' shot put was well off her PR, but a 34-09.75 will get you some nice points.
She closed out day one with her second best 200 of the season, a 25.49. Krais says that even though the results say no wind, there was a very strong headwind. "No one broke 25," she noted. Her lifetime best is 24.31 (from high school), so she knows where she wants to be.
Sitting in 4th place overnight, Krais was feeling more confident than she had in months. She had busted that 20+ long jump at USATF's. While she feels her 19-5 at Thorpe was good, she realized it was a vast improvement over NC's.
In the javelin – where she uses a five step run and five crosses, she has been steadily improving. She nearly PRed with a 133-8 – even with what she called a bad warmup. She had thrown two inches further in an open javelin earlier in the season.
With only the 800 remaining, she knew she was in her area. Her final 2:13.05 move her into second place, and a big PR.
Krais finally feels she is back on the path she envisioned since high school.
She has met and become friends with someone she can turn to for some occasional advise – fellow Pennsylvanian and Olympic medalist Hyleas Fountain (Central Dauphin East). The two talked during USATF's and were then formally introduced by Coach Bolden.
She believes that she has found her 'one voice' in Coach Rovelto. Someone who can watch her every move and step and help her achieve her dreams. Already, Krais says he has taught her to look at the heptathlon as a single event – not seven individual events. "You take the similarities in each of the events and use it."
She sees the magic 6000 points in her future. "With five feet on the shot and a half second faster in the 200, I am there," she notes.
She has found her major, making a change from Psychology to Kinesiology. "I would read book on physiology for fun. My friends thought I was weird."
And she has learned that patience and rest are as important to an athlete as training. "Sometimes it takes doing badly to do well."
And while most athletes were recovering from outdoor, Krais was competing, and improving, against the odds.
"My summer accomplished what summer is supposed to," she concluded.
That was said just days before she headed off to Manhattan, Kansas. And in those few days, she had her second summer vacation – "every kind of ice cream, New York cheesecake, and then another scoop. I love ice cream."