Calloway conquers pain, has fun to make 3rd straight state finals
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
By the time she was a seventh-grader at Rochester Middle School, Madilyn Calloway had tried dance, gymnastics, softball, volleyball and basketball.
The diminutive Calloway – she’s 4-11 – especially smiles at her basketball experience.
“That was not a good time,” Calloway laughed.
That’s when Madilyn’s best friend Elena Bode suggested that Madilyn try cross-country.
Elena and Madilyn had become best friends running sixth grade track.
“She had done cross-country in sixth grade and told me that it was fun and that I should do it with her,” Calloway said. “So I did.”
And the six-year journey for Calloway, a senior, in running will reach an end when she runs at the IHSAA state finals at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross-Country Course in Terre Haute Saturday.
The girls race starts at 3 p.m.
Calloway will be making her third straight state appearance. She ran the 5K course at the New Prairie semistate in 19:34 last week to qualify for state.
It might seem likely that a runner who would make state as a sophomore and as a junior would do it again as a senior.
But it was hardly easy. If anything, it might be her most satisfying accomplishment.
Her journey to state was most unlikely after stress fractures in her right foot had her in a walking boot most of the summer and kept her from starting her season until the Culver Academy Invitational on Sept. 25.
But thanks to a unique rehab plan and some work in the weight room, she made it back to the state’s ultimate race.
She said she got anxious and set her expectations low. She wound up beating her own timeline by two weeks.
“I was just hoping to be able to run at sectionals, and maybe that would be it for me, but I think my recovery was a lot faster than I thought, and it went a lot better than I thought too,” Calloway said. “I didn’t feel super behind.”
From Richmond to Kokomo to Rochester
The daughter of Amy and Scott Calloway, Madilyn was born in Richmond.
She attended Northeastern Elementary School in Fountain City as a kindergartner. The family moved to Kokomo, and Madilyn went to Northwestern Elementary School in Kokomo from first through third grades.
The family moved again due to father Scott’s job with Duke Energy after Madilyn’s third grade year, and they ended up in Rochester for the start of Madilyn’s fourth grade year.
All along, she tried different sports, but Calloway goes back to gymnastics as something of a sporting start. The skills learned in gymnastics like strength, balance and flexibility can often be applied to other sports. For Calloway, gymnastics was not easy.
“Definitely I think gymnastics did because I just remember at such a young age, I was very muscular,” Calloway said. “That sport was very hard, and it took a lot of dedication because I did competitive gymnastics. I think that honestly helped me mentally prepare for the sports that I do now.”
She laughs about learning flexibility in gymnastics.
“I’m not very flexible at all,” Calloway said. “I used to be until I started running. And now I can barely touch my toes.”
She said she got to be Level 3 in gymnastics. After a year of traveling back and forth to Kokomo to continue gymnastics, she decided to give it up.
And then came running.
Did you like it right away?
“No, not at all,” Calloway said. “In seventh grade, I did not like it that much. I liked the team and everything, but as for running, I did not like running that much.”
But she said she liked being on the team, so she tried it again as an eighth-grader. It started to get better and a little easier.
So she came back out for cross-country as a freshman.
Often, a runner makes his or her biggest adjustment as a freshman. What might have been a fun 3K romp in middle school becomes a challenging 5K slog in high school.
For Calloway, though, this is when things clicked.
“Freshman year, once it turned into a 5K, I liked it a lot more,” Calloway said. “I like longer distances the best. I think for me, it has a little bit to do with my stride and leg length. My legs are a lot shorter than some of the people I run against. So when it comes to distance, the farther is better for me.”
She made the all-TRC team as a freshman in 2018. Then she ran a 21:42 and finished in 11th at the sectional in a race her teammate Mallory Hiatt won.
Then came an even better regional – 20:13 and an eighth-place finish. And then came an even better semistate – 19:56 and a top-30 finish.
As a sophomore, she was the No. 2 runner behind Hiatt’s No. 1 until the postseason. She made the all-TRC team again and helped the Lady Zs to the team title.
And then Calloway was the frontrunner and Hiatt was the No. 2. Calloway ran 19:27 and was second at the sectional. Hiatt ran a 19:53 at the 2019 sectional.
Hiatt then ran 19:21 and finished fourth at the 2019 regional, a five-second improvement from her 2018 regional time. But she couldn’t keep up with Calloway, who ran a 19:10 and finished second behind Warsaw’s Wini Barnett.
She said that’s when then-coach Scott Stalbaum became an important figure for her. Stalbaum told Calloway that she had put in all the required work to be a great runner. So he set a goal prior to the 2019 semistate – finish in the top 10.
And the 2019 semistate and the real “woah” moment – 18:51 and third place overall at windy, wet New Prairie.
The only runners to beat her were future state champion Karina James from Lowell and Valparaiso’s Ava Gilliana, who is running at the NCAA Division I level for the Air Force Academy.
Hiatt was nearly as spectacular in 19:03, good for fifth place.
Calloway joined Anna Bearss and Kelsey Tyler as the only Lady Zs to break 19 minutes.
“Mallory always to me seemed like an expert at running,” Calloway said. “Like, sophomore me looked up to her so much when she was a senior. And running with her was just really great because she was also a great friend. So that helped as well, so she not only gave advice about running but about everything.”
Calloway then finished 30th at state in 18:58 the following week, missing out on the all-state team by just six seconds.
Still, Calloway said she lacked confidence.
“I can’t honestly remember feeling confident until my junior year,” Calloway said. “Even with the success I had my sophomore year, I remember thinking then I still wasn’t confident at that time. … My sophomore year, I was still hard on myself and wish I could have done better than I did. Now I think, like, I don’t know why I was so hard on myself because those were some really good accomplishments.”
When Calloway spoke last week after she made state again about appreciating her running experience, that’s to what she was referring.
“When I was running the best I had ever ran before, I was so focused on it that I was still upset with myself for not placing higher than 30th at state or running any faster than I did at state my sophomore year, and now that I haven’t been able to run most of this season, it makes the runs that I do do and the races that I do now a lot more fun,” Calloway said.
That is just ‘toe’ bad
Calloway’s sophomore track season in the spring of 2020 never happened after the IHSAA canceled the season due to the pandemic. Having said that, Calloway had already broken a toe on her left foot – “I don’t know how” – and missed the month of May, which would have knocked her out of the TRC and postseason meets.
She started running again in June 2020, but she said it affected her training for her junior cross-country season.
And now with Hiatt having graduated, Calloway was the clear Lady Z frontrunner.
She won the TRC meet in 19:21, was second at the sectional in 19:24 and was fourth at the regional in 19:35. She then ran her best race of the season at the New Prairie semistate, finishing in eighth in 19:07 and making state again.
“I think it did affect me a little bit, my training,” Calloway said. “I had to run lighter miles all my junior season. So I kind of had to play catch-up.”
And playing catch-up might have led to worse problems later.
“And so I think I ran a little bit too much once I started running,” Calloway said. “So I think that did affect me a little bit last year because last year I definitely was not where I wanted to be. Considering what happened this year, I’m fine with that, and I’m so happy I was able to do that last year.”
The stress fractures
Calloway thinks her stress fractures were a combination of overuse and not enough calcium in her diet. She takes calcium as part of her diet to try to avoid more stress fractures.
Meanwhile, she started her rehab.
Part of her rehab involved running on an anti-gravity treadmill. The user of the treadmill wears a special belt and pants and is then zipped inside.
“So then it inflates with air and lifts you off so you’re at zero body weight while it calibrates,” Calloway said. “And then, once it does that, it puts you back on, and you can adjust how much body weight you want off. So once you do that, I think I was at 60 percent body weight to start the first couple times I went, and I ran five miles halfway in the air, and then by the end, I was able to get to 100 (percent), which was the purpose of that for me to eventually get to full body weight.”
She also was cross-training – biking and swimming specifically – as part of her rehab.
She also is a student in Clint Gard’s Strength and Conditioning class at Rochester.
“She told me what she had to run and that it would be tough,” Gard related on Twitter. “I told her I believed she had it in her. What! A! Tough! Kid! I knew she would because I’ve seen her quiet intensity in the weight room! BEAST!!”
Said Calloway of Gard: “He’s helped me a lot because he always helps me to push myself in weights, but he also knows the limits I have to take to not overdo it for running. So he’s really good with adjusting. He was really helpful with adjusting for my training when I was in a boot. I had a little bit adjusted workouts in the weight room, and he was very good with that. And he knows a lot about cross-country, and he’s always talked to me about races before and after. So that’s really helpful to me, when other people in the school are able to relate to the sport. Because it's kind of a difficult sport to talk about if you don’t really know anything about running.”
Calloway ran a 20:21 at the Culver Academy Invite.
“I can’t even remember thinking about running in it,” Calloway recalled of the Culver Academy Invite. “I feel like I was looking around the whole time. And then I remember waving to some people in the crowd. That race was just very fun. It made me remember how much fun cross-country was.”
Rochester coach Eric Linn, who replaced Stalbaum after he left to become the boys cross-country coach at Munster over the summer, said she conquered any mental hurdles quickly.
“We tried to bring her back really slow,” Linn said. “And that zero-g gravity helped out quite a bit, just that treadmill. It gave her some confidence. And that was the main thing. That first race was 80 percent for her. I told her to not go too fast and to get back into it. And it’s slowly been building up ever since then.”
Then she ran 20:09 and finished second in the TRC behind Maconaquah’s Abby Jordan while leading Rochester to their third straight team title. Linn said she ran “90 percent” at the TRC.
Then she ran 20:07 and finished second behind Warsaw’s Josefina Rastrelli at the Manchester sectional on Oct. 9, and the team advanced by placing second. Then she ran a 20:25 at muddy Culver Academy for the regional, and the team advanced by finishing second again.
She said she felt like she was back at the sectional and then again at semistate.
“The whole race was kind of fun,” Calloway said. “For some reason, I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be. … And I was nervous the whole week. But Saturday morning, something was different. I don’t know. I think it was because I was halfway thinking it would be my last race and halfway thinking I could make it out. And I really didn’t know.”
But as the race headed into the final 1,000 meters, any uncertainty disappeared.
“I was like, ‘OK, this isn’t my last race,’” Calloway said. “And then I just coasted and got 10th.”
Linn thinks Calloway will try to enjoy this run more.
“This is her third time being at state,” Linn said. “It’s more about just trying to have fun. … You do want to be loose when you’re running. I know we’re going to see the course on Friday and talk strategy then. I know it’s been about three years since I’ve the course. You never know how LaVern Gibson’s going to be. It’s got those hills and a few other things in there too that you sometimes have to see before you can talk through them.”
Back to Terre Haute
This will be Calloway’s fourth race at the state course. She also ran there at the Nike Midwest Regionals in addition to the two previous state meets.
She said she has made friends with runners from other schools, including former Culver Academy runner Lexi Allen, who is now at Princeton University; Jordan, the Maconaquah runner who beat her at the conference meet and who will also run at state; Hannah Moore, the Logansport sectional and Culver Academy regional champ who will run at state; and Indianapolis Chatard’s Lily Cridge, who is expected to win the individual state title after running a 17:04 at the Shelbyville semistate last week.
“Last year at the track state finals, there’s a picture of me and Lily Cridge,” Calloway said. “She’s lapping me, but we’re running right next to each other. Lily Cridge, I have talked to her a little bit and through social media and everything, so I think that’s really cool.”
She said she does not like to have a detailed pre-race strategy for races for fear of overthinking it. She said she likes to think up a strategy as the race goes on. But this year is different.
“This course is not my favorite, but I’m just really grateful for the opportunity to run one more time,” Calloway said.
Calloway said she plans on running in college, and she said she has talked to college coaches and gone on an overnight visit.
After trying a lot of sports as a younger athlete, she has settled on running. She just has not settled on a college yet.
“I’m not very good at making decisions,” Calloway said.
Rochester cross-country coach Eric Linn, left, stands next to Madilyn Calloway after Calloway finished 10th overall and fourth among individuals on non-advancing teams at the New Prairie semistate Saturday. Calloway ran a season best 19:34. She will run at the IHSAA state finals in Terre Haute at 3 p.m. this Saturday.