Thursday Trifecta - Boise State's Marisa Howard


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Welcome to Thursday’s Trifecta. Each week, one Mountain West student-athlete will be featured by answering a series of questions.

Entering the Trifecta this week is Boise State’s Marisa Howard. The Pasco, Washington, native is in her senior year with the Broncos’ cross country and track and field teams. She’s coming off an exceptional 2013-14 campaign that included a stirring second-place finish in the 3000 Steeplechase at the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Her time of 9:43.82 at Historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, set a new all-time MW record, in addition to earning her first-team All-America honors.

Howard’s junior year also saw her finish third at the 2013 MW Cross Country Championship, defend her Conference title in the 3000 Steeplechase and also finish second to teammate Emma Bates in the 5000 Meters at the 2014 MW Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Oh, and before the 2013-14 academic year began, the former Marisa Vander Malle married Jeff Howard, who was a cross country and track and field competitor at Boise State, and now serves as the team’s graduate assistant coach.

Question: You’ve been able to carve out your own niche at Boise State with the 3000 Steeplechase. How did you decide to focus on that event?

Answer: I ran the Steeplechase a few times in high school. In Washington where I grew up, some meets would have the event on the schedule and I’d enter, just for fun. After doing the Steeplechase a couple of times, I realized I was pretty good at the event and began to take it pretty seriously. I voiced my interest in competing in the event when I came to Boise State. My freshman year I did alright but had a huge breakthrough my sophomore year, going all the way (to the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships). Making it to nationals wasn’t expected, so when I did qualify, it made me work that much harder going into last season.

Q: Watching the 3000 Steeplechase race at the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, you started from the back of the pack and worked your way up throughout the race, building to an exciting final lap. As you crossed the finish line, what were the emotions you experienced?

A: Shock was the number one thing going through me after finishing the race. Going into nationals I had dealt with so many issues with my knees at the beginning of the year; I was crying every week and getting back to that level of competition a few months down the road was incredible. I think going into the race my coaches and I had a lot of different ideas of how the race would go; my coaches said if I was in the mix with a lap to go I could be top-three. I was fifth to start the last lap and felt really good and wound up running the second-fastest last lap, so I knew I had good kick in me.

Q: In the race, your transition through the hurdles seemed smoother than your competitors, despite you being the shortest runner in the field. Do you feel your lack of height (Howard is 5-foot-3) works to your benefit in some ways?

A: (laughs). I’ve been told I have long legs and the hurdle comes up to around my mid-thigh. I don’t know if because I’m closer to the ground that helps me or not. I’m definitely one of the shorter competitors out there. I am quick between the barriers. I remember my sophomore year I talked to some of the guys and they gave me a great piece of advice, which was to run straight through the water. That’s something that comes natural, it’s really hard to learn. Thankfully for me it was something I picked up quickly and that’s been huge for me.

Bonus Trifecta Questions

Q: You’re listed as a nursing major. Is there a specific area within the nursing field that you’d like to focus on when you begin your career?

A: I haven’t quite decided yet. I do plan on running professionally for a few years, at least through 2016. There’s always jobs in the field, which is good for when I do enter the profession. Right now, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around the hours a nurse works as a runner.

Q: Outside of competition, do you ever listen to music when you run? Why or why not?

A: I don’t. I am usually running with people and I get to run alone so rarely, that I really want that time to think. It’s peaceful running without music and I don’t like distractions.

Do you have a student-athlete you’d like to see featured in an upcoming Thursday Trifecta? Contact Dan Johnson at