Kenais Amber McGlasson competes in the 800-meter relay during the Kenai Invitational.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Ask Amber McGlasson what her favorite class is in school right now, and her answer quickly shows how the Kenai Central senior feels about a little hard work.
“This year it’s calculus,” said McGlasson, who holds a 3.3 grade-point average at Kenai Central. “That’s kind of random, but I enjoy the teacher. It’s a fun class. I like math.”
The dedication it takes to do well in calculus also serves McGlasson in sports. In volleyball, she made the Northern Lights Conference second team as a junior and senior in helping the Kardinals get to the state tournament both years.
In basketball, McGlasson played on the varsity all four years.
In track, she won the 300-meter hurdles state title as a junior, fulfilling the promise she showed in taking the 300 hurdles region crown as a freshman.
McGlasson’s coaches in each of the three sports all speak glowingly of her ability to work herself to the brink of complete exhaustion.
Kenai volleyball coach Jason Diorec is known for demanding tough workouts out of his athletes. Yet he had no problem with McGlasson’s commitment.
“Her work ethic was at the top,” Diorec said. “She dedicated herself to knowing not just the sport, but the limits to which she had to push herself.”
McGlasson has found Diorec’s workouts valuable for more than just volleyball.
“I really like his workouts,” she said. “They helped my ability to jump. I’ve been doing them throughout the year, but I don’t do it as much as he had us doing in the season.”
Diorec said McGlasson is about 5-foot-8 but still was probably the top middle hitter on the peninsula due to her leaping ability and her attention to proper defensive and offensive techniques.
“She had to really work with how to play her blocking styles at the net because of her height,” Diorec said. “But she was so coachable, she was exactly what my team needed.”
Kenai basketball coach Lee Moore said McGlasson first caught his eye when he was helping coach Nikiski’s track team during McGlasson’s freshman year. He remembered taking note of the gutsy hurdling performances McGlasson was turning in her freshman year.
In basketball practice every day, he got more of the same.
“She’d push herself to the point to where she would numb up and couldn’t go anymore,” Moore said. “I felt for her, but you’re not going to get any better until you hit that wall and push yourself to that kind of physical fatigue almost every day.
“It’s an amazing feat of strength and determination.”
Moore said McGlasson’s work on the floor turned her into the team’s best true jump shooter, but he said her athletic gifts also made it apparent something else was in store for McGlasson.
“I told her as a junior in basketball, ‘With your ability, there’s no reason you can’t be a state champion in track,’” Moore said. “I’ve coached state champion hurdlers before, and I’ve seen that ability level out there.”
Kenai track coach Tim Sandahl started teaching McGlasson to hurdle in seventh grade and by eighth grade was seeing McGlasson do some unique things.
By the end of her eighth grade year, McGlasson was taking just three steps between hurdles in the 100 hurdles. That meant she had to know how to step over the hurdle with her right or left leg, which Sandahl said is a rarity in eighth grade.
“There’s not a lot of kids willing to put in the time to do that,” Sandahl said. “She’s goal-oriented. She sees the future and goes after it.”
McGlasson’s ability to alternate legs helped her succeed immediately in the 300 hurdles as a freshman. However, the hurdles in the 100 hurdles are 3 inches higher in high school than in middle school, so it took McGlasson a couple of years to reach a top level in that event.
During her junior track season, McGlasson was one of the top athletes in the 100 hurdles but was disqualified for a false start during the preliminaries at state.
“She didn’t think she moved,” Sandahl said. “We all thought it was somebody next to her.”
Amber’s parents, Michelle and Rick McGlasson, were proud of how their daughter dealt with the situation by coming back to win state in the 300 hurdles.
“We were worried because the starter was an inconsistent starter,” Michelle said. “We were afraid she wouldn’t come out as explosive. We thought she might hold back so she didn’t get disqualified.
“But she kept her head.”
McGlasson has not even competed in the 300 hurdles yet this year due to a sore calf muscle and the cold weather. However, another cold track season in Alaska didn’t scare her off from accepting a track scholarship from the University of Alaska Anchorage.
The scholarship is for everything but food and books. McGlasson would like to study business and accounting at college and also is looking forward to competing in an indoor track facility in Anchorage that is scheduled to open in January 2007.
“It’s important to me because I like it here and I like to run here,” McGlasson said.
Sandahl, who trusts McGlasson so much he hired her as a baby sitter when she was in seventh grade, is looking forward to following her career.
“I’ve taught for 16 years, and when I look back at all of the kids I’ve taught, there’s a handful I want my own kids to turn out to be like,” Sandahl said. “The way she acts around people and behaves, she’s one of those that if my daughter can be anything like her it’d be quite an accomplishment.”
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