- Val T.
Don’t fly first class, fly ‘Och:’
After overcoming stress fracture, Rochester senior wins Zebra Invitational
Rohr wins 2nd straight boys title, leads team to title
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Rochester senior cross-country runner Araceli Ochoa admitted that she was worried whether she would run the way she did when she was a sophomore.
Ochoa was on what she thought was an easy run during cross-country practice two years ago, but the pain she felt was so great that she could barely run. She told then-coach Scott Stalbaum, and they went to a doctor for an X-ray.
The doctor diagnosed her with a stress fracture in her leg. The injury ended her sophomore season in 2020. The injury lingered into the track season in the spring of 2021 and in both cross-country and track in the 2021-22 school year.
Finally, she has healed, and the field at the Zebra Invitational found out how good she is feeling Saturday. Ochoa flew past teammate and defending champion Zoe Seward to win the title in 20:35, topping a field of 28 runners.
Seward was second in 20:40, and the 1-2 combination helped the Lady Zs win the season-opening meet with 29 points.
The race consisted of three complete teams. Manchester was second with 36 points, and North Judson was third with 57.
Meanwhile, Rochester also won the boys meet with 15 points. Though four schools were represented in the boys race, Rochester was the only school with a complete team.
Senior Chris Rohr won the race for the second straight year, pulling away from teammate Wes Steininger and Manchester’s Kyler Dale. Rohr’s winning time was 17:50, eight seconds faster than Steininger and 11 seconds faster than Dale.
Ochoa, whose personal best of 20:19, called her recovery from her injury “gradual.”
“My goal was to be back to where I was before I fractured my femur,” Ochoa said. “They told me just to rest and don’t run on it. So I didn’t have the rest of my cross-country season because of it, and then I didn’t have much of a track season that year either. And then they told me to take it easy the next year, my junior year. So I took it easy that year, so I was 21:30 during cross-country and then last year track also, I started getting better. And then this year, cross-country is feeling great so far.”
She said the second mile was the best part of her 3.1-mile race.
“I started catching up to Zoe, and she really helped me a lot throughout the rest of the race after that,” Ochoa said. “I got to stay up with her and then ended up passing her towards the end.”
Rochester coach Alex Gudeman said to not read too much into the girls results.
“I think the big thing for Zoe today was she didn’t have anybody to run with, so she tends to take it pretty easy when there’s no one to run with, so that person turned into Celi today, so that equated into Celi having a really good race and Zoe having not a great race, but this is just a factor of this being a small meet and no one to really push Zoe, but it was a good race for Celi.”
The Rochester girls team consists of seniors Ochoa, Seward, Kendyll Bradley and Maddie Heinzmann and freshmen Allyson Calloway and Kadence Bradley. Calloway ran a 23:28 and finished seventh in her prep debut, and Kendyll Bradley was ninth in 23:38. Heinzmann, who tore her ACL nine months ago, ran a 25:47 and placed 12th. Kadence Bradley was 23rd in 29:01.
“This is her first high school cross-country 5K, but she is one that’s been putting in a lot of work over the summer,” Gudeman said. “So I expected her to have a good race. I’m really excited for that time.”
The other area girls team participating was Argos, who had an incomplete team. Ava Stackhouse ran a 24:50, Savannah Lyon ran a 25:04, and Lexi Gibson ran a 28:45.
Rohr ran 17:52 at last year’s semistate and improved on that time to start the new year. He said he ran 50 miles a week during the summer but has cut down to about 40 now that the season has started. Rohr said afterwards that he felt “exhausted,” but he said it is part of Gudeman’s long-term plan. He said Gudeman is setting up a “culture.”
He topped a field of 15 runners on Saturday.
“It was a PR for me on this course,” Rohr said. “I wouldn’t say I’m ecstatic to have that time, but seeing that the team is running a lot of miles this year, doing a lot of hard workouts at the beginning of the season, I’m pretty happy with it.”
Gudeman has implemented more speed workouts for Rohr. In cross-country terms, they are called “fartleqs” – one minute on, two minutes off.
“We’ve been putting in some workouts focusing mostly on speed these past couple weeks just because runners like Chris, that’s something he needs,” Gudeman said. “Speed isn’t his strong suit, and with some of the newer runners not quite ready for some of the longer, more endurance-style workouts, so it’s a good thing to start the season out with. And yeah, he’s probably sore, even though we dropped his mileage. He has been working in two hard workouts a week. So he’s going to be sore this first race, and as far as his time goes, this is the toughest we’re going to run on all year, and it’s the beginning of the year, so 17:50 is a great way to start the year.”
Gudeman also praised Steininger, calling him a “real competitor.” He also had kind words for freshman Grant Bailey, who ran a 19:07 and finished fourth overall. Bailey is also a defender on the soccer team.
“Grant Bailey is probably the most talented kid we have on the team right now,” Gudeman said. “Of course, he’s only a freshman, so the juniors and seniors will be ahead of him just because they have more experience, but by the time Grant’s a senior, I’m expecting big things from him.”
Also for Rochester, Adrian Ochoa was eighth in 20:03, and Lane Shank was ninth in a personal best 20:12.
Plymouth Lincoln won the girls middle school title with 21 points Tecumseh won the boys middle school title.
The girls and boys varsity races were held simultaneously at 11 a.m. after an early morning thunderstorm caused a delay in the middle school races beforehand.
Zebra Invitational girls results: Rochester 29, Manchester 36, North Judson 57, Argos (incomplete team), Whitko (incomplete team)
Rochester results (29 points, champions)
1. Araceli Ochoa – 20:35 (1), 2. Zoe Seward – 20:40 (2), 7. Allyson Calloway – 23:28 (7), 9. Kendyll Bradley – 23:38 (9), 12. Maddie Heinzmann – 25:47 (10), 23. Kadence Bradley – 29:01
10. Ava Stackhouse – 24:50, 11. Savannah Lyon – 25:04, 21. Lexi Gibson – 28:45
Zebra Invitational boys results (points in parentheses): Rochester 15, Manchester (incomplete team), North Judson (incomplete team), Whitko (incomplete team)
Rochester results (15 points, champions)
1. Chris Rohr – 17:50 (1), 2. Wes Steininger – 17:58 (2), 4. Grant Bailey – 19:07 (3), 8. Adrian Ochoa – 20:03 (4), 9. Lane Shank – 20:12 (5)
The Rochester girls cross-country team won the Zebra Invitational Saturday with 29 points. From left – Allyson Calloway, Maddie Heinzmann, Zoe Seward, Araceli Ochoa, Kendyll Bradley. Not pictured: Kadence Bradley.
The Rochester boys cross-country team won the Zebra Invitational Saturday with 15 points. From left – Wes Steininger, Lane Shank, Chris Rohr, Grant Bailey, Adrian Ochoa.
Argos sophomore Savannah Lyon Rochester senior Chros Rohr runs ahead was 11th overall in 25:04 at the of Manchester’s Kyler Dale during the Zebra Invitational Saturday Zebra Invitational Saturday. Rohr won the individual title in 17:50 and led the Zebras to the team title.
The girls and boys had a simultaneous start at the Zebra Invitational Saturday after a lightning delay.