SHORT GAP, W.Va. — Four years after taking up running as a means of staying in shape for basketball, Frankfort High School’s Katie Jan, multi-state champion and West Virginia All-State performer, has run her way straight to the United States Naval Academy, following in the footsteps, however unintentionally, of her father, Capt. Kolin Jan, USNA Class of 1974.
Nominated by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Katie, an honors student carrying a 4.2 grade-point average, chose Annapolis over the NCAA Division I scholarship offer she received from Virginia Tech, an offer she discovered to be surprisingly difficult to refuse.
“I went to Virginia Tech as a back-up and it turned out I loved it,” Jan said Friday afternoon, prior to helping the Frankfort girls basketball team to a 51-38 victory over top-ranked Southern. “It was the total Division I experience and I had to do a lot of thinking. But at the end of the day, the academy is where I wanted to go.
“I received a great offer from Virginia Tech and it was really strange turning it down. But I’m doing what I want to do. I’ll run at the academy, begin my career at the academy. I’ll be around people who are like me — driven.
“I just felt comfortable that this is where I wanted to go, so that’s what I’m doing.”
And just how pleased is Dad that his daughter is following in his footsteps?
“He’s very pleased,” Katie said. “By the time I had to make a decision, I think he was pulling for the academy. He was very hands-off to make sure it was my decision, but secretly, he wanted me to go there, I know it. We’re all very happy because we all knew in the back of our minds that this is where I wanted to go.”
Hands-off as he was through the process, Capt. Jan did provide valuable assistance to his daughter, although his personal experiences in Annapolis were never brought up.
“No,” Katie said with a laugh. “I don’t mean to point out his age, but it was really a long time ago when he went there. A lot of things have changed since then.
“Rather than tips on what I’d be doing there, he told me the main things I would be learning there. He was certainly a resource for me to tap into when I was making my decision. He answered my questions specifically when I asked them. He was really very supportive of both schools.”
Katie plans on running both cross country and track at the academy, hoping to avoid long distances in track, while sticking to her specialties in the 800 and 1600-meter runs. Though there is much unfinished business for her to attend to the remainder of her senior year, Jan is anxious to hit the Yard running.
“Cross country, I’m excited for,” she said. “When I get there I’ll be the low man on the totem poll and that excites me. I’m going to have to establish myself again, but I believe I can bring some cool things to them.”
Jan will major in either history or political science, pointing out, “That’s another plus of going there. I will receive a world-class education in the major I want to study. I’ll never have to wonder after four years what I’ll do with a history degree. I’ll be going to the fleet. Then, perhaps, I’ll get into the intelligence field and I’ll have two majors that will serve me well.”
Jan says making the military her career, as her father did, is clearly an option. “There is a plethora of things it can lead to; I don’t know them all,” she said. “But I’m excited to find out.
“As for the required five years service time after I graduate, I would expect it from anyplace that treats its students as well as the Naval Academy does us. I’m fine with it. I come from a military family, specifically the Navy. When I was younger I thought about what I might want to do, and the Navy was always an option. It feels natural to me going in the fleet.”
Athletically, her goal is to win a Patriot League conference championship in track or cross country, or both. She certainly understands what it takes to compete for and win championships, having won West Virginia state track titles last spring in the 800, the 1600 and 3200-meter runs. She also finished fourth in the 400-meter dash behind teammate Bria Welker as the duo combined to score 74 points to earn the Falcons a second-place finish in the Class AA meet.
Her sophomore year, she won the 800 state title, was second in the 1600, and finished fourth in the 400 at the state meet. As a freshman, she was second in the 800, fourth in the 1600, and sixth in the 400.
In cross country, Jan was second in the state meet as a senior and third as a junior and as a sophomore. She has also lettered in basketball all four years at Frankfort, helping the Falcons to three straight state tournament appearances.
The co-salutatorian for the Frankfort class of 2013, Jan said area basketball fans can expect to see the traditional late-season postseason run by the Falcons.
“Oh, I think it would be wise to expect it,” she said. “I don’t think it would be wise to bet against us. I’m loving my senior year, and I love the girls I play with. We’re working hard on getting back to the state again.”
So you’ll have to forgive Katie Jan if those Patriot League championships are to be put on hold for now.
“I don’t think words can describe how excited I am,” she said. “I love the fact that I picked where I want to go this early. I’m loving my senior year, and I’m looking forward to track with Bria. We’re going to have a really strong team, and we’re going to make another run at the state title.
“This year in track is especially important to Bria and myself. We’re best friends, and we want to go out with a bang.”
Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at email@example.com