Kentucky track and field legend calls end to college career

·6 min read

One of the best sprinters in the history of Kentucky’s storied track and field program has announced the end of her college career.

Abby Steiner, an NCAA and SEC champion and record holder, said she has run her final race in the colors of Kentucky.

Steiner spent the weekend in Eugene, Oregon, sprinting to victory in the 200 meters at the U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships and securing a spot in July’s World Outdoor Championships, also to be held in Eugene.

But after running on Saturday, Steiner said the weekend would be the last time she wears the Wildcat uniform.

This paves the way for a highly anticipated professional career to begin, and signals the end of Steiner’s four-year career at UK.

Steiner had one more college season still on the table after the NCAA added a year of eligibility for athletes in school for the 2020 pandemic season.

In mid-June at a press conference, Steiner had said “nothing has been decided yet” regarding her future at UK.

Originally a two-sport athlete at Kentucky, Steiner spent only one season with the soccer program before morphing into a sprinting phenom who set college and national records.

Steiner’s list of accolades from her time in Lexington includes:

The American, collegiate, SEC and UK record in the indoor 200 meters (22.09 seconds).

The collegiate, SEC and UK record in the outdoor 200 (21.80 seconds).

The collegiate, SEC and UK record in the indoor 300 (35.80 seconds).

Part of the collegiate record outdoor 4-by-400 relay (3:21.93).

School records in the indoor 60, outdoor 100, indoor and outdoor 200, indoor 300 and the indoor and outdoor 4-by-400 relay

Kentucky sprinter Abby Steiner set an American record in the indoor 200 meters at the SEC championships in February.
Kentucky sprinter Abby Steiner set an American record in the indoor 200 meters at the SEC championships in February.

In addition to those records, Steiner has plenty of hardware from her time with the Wildcats, including the following:

NCAA outdoor 200-meter champion (2022).

NCAA outdoor 4-by-400 relay champion (2022).

NCAA indoor 200 champion (2021 and 2022).

SEC indoor 200 champion (2020, 2021 and 2022).

SEC outdoor 4-by-400 relay champion (2022).

Fifteen-time All-American.

Kentucky’s Abby Steiner was first in the 200 meters, third in the 100, and was part of the team’s gold medal-winning squad in the 4-by-400 relay and silver medal-winning 4-by-100 relay at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Oregon last weekend.
Kentucky’s Abby Steiner was first in the 200 meters, third in the 100, and was part of the team’s gold medal-winning squad in the 4-by-400 relay and silver medal-winning 4-by-100 relay at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Oregon last weekend.

Steiner managed to accomplish all of this despite several obstacles during her career, in particular during outdoor seasons.

As a freshman in 2019, just months after devoting herself to track full-time, Steiner made it to the SEC outdoor championships, but failed to win any of her events.

The 2020 NCAA and SEC outdoor championships never happened due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Steiner was forced to sit out most of the 2021 outdoor season because of a left Achilles injury.

“I hope that my journey can inspire other younger girls to not be scared of adversity and change and to face it head on,” Steiner said in May. “Everything happens for a reason. I just hope that my journey with injuries and becoming a two-sport athlete and then transitioning to one can help inspire people to go after their dreams and don’t be afraid of change that happens along the way.”

Steiner’s college career culminated with a strong showing at the 2022 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

She set a new collegiate record in the 200 meters and was part of the NCAA title-winning 4-by-400-meter relay team for UK.

“It was super surreal reflecting back on the journey of everything and how much adversity we’ve had to overcome,” Steiner said in June. “It was so special … there were some tears shed for sure on the track.”

Abby Steiner entered UK as a dual-scholarship athlete playing soccer and running track and field. After her freshman season, she switched exclusively to track and has developed into an All-American.
Abby Steiner entered UK as a dual-scholarship athlete playing soccer and running track and field. After her freshman season, she switched exclusively to track and has developed into an All-American.

Steiner becomes a track star

Steiner grew up as a dual-sport athlete in Ohio, but only started to run track in the eighth grade to complement her soccer career.

Steiner said she was repeatedly the fastest player during club soccer tryouts when she was a kid.

“I think I started to see glimpses of speed just from being on the soccer field,” Steiner recalled.

Despite having to recover from a torn ACL during her junior year of high school, Steiner set Ohio state records in four different track events and won 16 state track titles.

Steiner said that growing up in Ohio, she took inspiration from her older sister, Riley, a lacrosse player and runner who was diagnosed with leukemia while a senior in high school.

“She was a big motivator for me once I started really getting into competitive sports,” Steiner said. “Just seeing her and how she dealt with adversity and how strong she was.”

Steiner — a human health sciences (pre-physical therapy) major at UK — also had individual success during her brief time with the UK soccer team.

She started all 19 games and scored twice during the 2018 season on the pitch, but Steiner’s choice to focus solely on track enabled her to become one of the fastest women on the planet.

“The beautiful thing about Abby, she’s disciplined. When you work the gift, success follows the gift if you work it. When talent prepares, it’s hard to beat talent,” UK track and field head coach Lonnie Greene said earlier this year. “She’s a student of her craft. She studies what she does. She knows her body, she rests. ... I think as a result of that, God honors that. He honors that obedience and the work she does.”

Greene — who was hired as UK’s track and field head coach in summer 2018 — said that Steiner’s choice to come to UK that same year was “a blessing.”

“Everybody and their mother tried to recruit Abby as a track and field athlete, but fortunately she committed to play soccer at the University of Kentucky,” Greene said. “As a result, the track and field program benefited from it.”

Greene hasn’t shied away from what he thinks Steiner can accomplish in the future.

“The sky’s the limit for where she’s getting ready to go. At the end of the day, if done well, if done right, her name’s going to be up in lights,” Greene said last month. “I might be at the World Championships crying like a big sissy when she medals.”

Abby Steiner, center, wins the women’s 60-meter dash during the Rod McCravy Memorial track and field meet in Lexington in January. Steiner leaves UK as one of its most decorated athletes.
Abby Steiner, center, wins the women’s 60-meter dash during the Rod McCravy Memorial track and field meet in Lexington in January. Steiner leaves UK as one of its most decorated athletes.

UK track program continues progress

Steiner’s choice to come to Kentucky has helped UK achieve recent team success, which has led to future enhancements for the track program.

The Kentucky women finished in third place at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in early June.

The Wildcat women also finished in third place at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in March.

Earlier this year, significant facility upgrades were announced for UK’s track programs.

A standalone indoor track and field facility will be built, while Nutter Field House, which the UK track and field program currently calls home, will undergo football-focused renovations.

UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said the new track facility, which will cost an estimated $20 million, will be constructed in part on the site where Cliff Hagan Stadium, formerly UK’s baseball stadium, currently stands.

And starting in July, a new five-year contract for Greene will go into effect.

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