Abby Steiner Has Never Stopped Driving Forward

* Former Dublin Coffman graduate Abby Steiner is on a path toward claiming her first NCAA Championship

Note: Kentucky's Abby Steiner tied the collegiate record for 200 meters on Saturday at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas, producing a winning time of 22.38 seconds. Her Kentucky women's program also placed fifth in the 4x400. MileSplit looked back on Steiner's high school career ahead of the competition.

"I look at her and say she's absolutely capable -- if she can stay healthy and keeps doing it, she's capable of being an Olympic medalist." -- Greg King, Dublin Coffman track coach

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By Logan Stanley - MileSplit USA Correspondent

    The very first time Greg King saw Abby Steinerhe knew immediately that something special was in front of him.

    King, the long-time coach of the girls track and field team at Dublin Coffman (OH) High School, had already had his fair share of talented athletes come through the program.

    But Steiner was clearly different from the others.

    "I knew she was a top-tier athlete the first time I saw her run a middle school track meet," King told MileSplit recently. "I looked around and was like, 'Woah. She's fast.'"

    In 2016, when she was just 15 years old, Steiner began to garner the attention of collegiate scouts for her prowess on the pitch -- Steiner excelled as a wingback and forward in soccer.

    But from the initial moment she stepped onto the track as an eighth-grader, King saw something different. Even before her star began to rise in soccer, it was obvious that Steiner's talent could be extended to the oval.

    Now, five years later, Steiner has done just that for the University of Kentucky. Once a two-sport collegiate athlete for the Wildcats, she has since dropped soccer for track. And this indoor season, the 21-year-old has unquestionably been the top sprinter at 200 meters in the NCAA.

    She's recorded times of 22.83, 22.69, 22.52 and 22.41 for the distance across the winter season and will likely finish the season in the running for the coveted Bowerman award. 

    The time for long-awaited glory has arrived with the 2021 NCAA Indoor Championships set to take place this weekend in Arkansas. Steiner is in a position to claim her first national championship, as her mark of 22.41 seconds is the fastest time in the NCAA this season (by 0.14 seconds).

    Photo Credit: University of Kentucky athletics/Tony Neely

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    She currently sits at No. 2 in the world.

    On Friday in Fayetteville, she'll line up in Heat 2 of the semifinals on the Randal Tyson Center track with hopes of reaching the NCAA Championship final on Saturday.

    But that's not all. Steiner could also become an All-American -- or even win -- in the 60m, where she's the eighth-best sprinter in the field at 7.21 seconds. And Kentucky is ranked third in the 4x400, too.

    In King's eyes, it's kind of crazy to think about sometimes.

    As a freshman, Steiner qualified for New Balance Nationals Indoor in the 60m and 200m. But even before that, there was a particular moment he recalled that was an integral point in Steiner's career.

    It was Feb. 22, 2015, and Steiner was gearing up to race in her first ever indoor 200m at the Capital University High School Meet. She had already qualified for the state meet that year in the 60m, but Steiner told her coaches she wanted to try out the 200m.

    Arriving a few hours early to the meet, the nerves began to build.

    But they soon dissipated as Steiner bolted to a first-place finish in a time of 25.45 -- then the No. 1 time in Ohio ... as a freshman ... in her first time ever running the distance.

    King and his coaching staff gathered. The emphasis was clear moving forward.

    "We really want to make sure we don't screw her up," King remembers saying. "We're going to make sure we don't over-race her, and we'll keep her progressing."

    Steiner ended up qualifying for New Balance Nationals Outdoor in the 200m, too.

    "It was pretty amazing," King said about Steiner's resiliency following the injury. "To see her go on and win the 200m, basically after tearing her ACL and then getting a month to train -- of all the things that she did, that was maybe the most impressive to me."

    She would go on to win three state titles that year. The future was clear: Steiner's path pointed toward a historical Ohio prep career.

    Then the injury happened.

    Steiner tore her right ACL the summer heading into her junior year while at a soccer camp in Oregon. The dual-sport athlete, who had already committed to Kentucky on a joint soccer and track scholarship, now faced the task of having to just learn to ride a bike again.

    Months of intense rehabilitation followed as she strengthened her right knee in pursuit of reclaiming her status as one of Ohio's best prep sprinters. Eventually, she did, winning two state titles in the 100m and 200m.

    "It was pretty amazing," King said about Steiner's resiliency following the injury. "To see her go on and win the 200m, basically after tearing her ACL and then getting a month to train -- of all the things that she did, that was maybe the most impressive to me."

    Steiner finished her high school career as one of Ohio's most decorated prep athletes, winning a total of 16 state championships. She was Ohio's state record holder in the indoor 60m and 200m and outdoor 100m and 200m. 

    Soon came college, and with it the realization that being a full-time two-sport athlete at the Division I level would be taxing on her body. Perhaps Steiner came to a conclusion after one particular high point: She set the SEC freshman record for 60m indoors.

    After featuring for the Wildcats' women's soccer team her freshman season and playing in 19 games -- she scored two goals and handed out five assists -- Steiner made the decision to focus exclusively on track as a sophomore.

    The next season was even more rewarding as she took her talents to new heights, becoming a three-time NCAA All-American in indoor track while setting a school record in the 200m (22.57).

    Steiner's time was the fastest in the world for the abbreviated 2020 season.

    While King had always surmised that Steiner had that level of talent, she showed in 2020 that she was one of the quickest people on the planet.

    Photo Credit: University of Kentucky athletics/Tony Neely

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    At Kentucky, that potential has been carefully molded.

    "Kentucky's done a really good job with her," King said. "Coach [Lonnie] Green really -- one of the things about Abby is that she wants to know why you're doing stuff. Don't just tell Abby, 'Do this.' It's, 'Hey, we're doing this to work on this. We want you to change your arm motions so you can do this.' And he [Green] gets that with her."

    King has noticed how Steiner has improved her arm carriage. It is a distinguishable feature of her running style, especially when compared to her opponents.

    Out of the blocks, it almost seems as if Steiner's elbows are swinging out too wide. As she exits the acceleration phase and hits her stride, the frequency of her arm carriage enters a frenzy upward.

    But this is all by design, King says. 

    "I know people who will look at the videos and be like, 'Why is she moving her arms like that?'" King said. "I'm trying to explain because, 'She's running on a 200 meter track at really high speed.' So she's cut down the arm swing a little bit and moved it outside a little bit cause you need a little more across your body arm carriage when you're running on an indoor track to keep your body aligned."

    Those small developments to her start and posture have made a world of difference. As a whole, the results have been electrifying.

    Steiner is undeniably one of the best runners in the NCAA. And on Friday and Saturday, she has a chance to make her dreams a reality.

    But, in King's eyes, this is only just the tip of the iceberg for Steiner.

    "I look at her and say she's absolutely capable -- if she can stay healthy and keeps doing it, she's capable of being an Olympic medalist."

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    Steiner After Her Final Ohio Outdoor State Championships: