BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
LOGANSPORT –- “I like to say I carried the team with my personality,” Rochester sophomore Zoe Seward cracked after the Logansport cross-country regional Saturday.
Even without one of their top runners due to a stress fracture and even despite graduating three all-Three Rivers Conference runners from last year’s team, the Rochester girls cross-country team will be where they have tended to be at this time of year.
Running at the New Prairie semistate.
And if the laughter following the usually humble Seward’s boast indicates anything, they’re having fun doing it.
RHS was fourth and Winamac fifth at the regional. The top five teams advanced to the New Prairie semistate. Start time for the semistate is 11:30 a.m. Eastern Saturday.
In a one-class sport, Rochester and Winamac stand out for their school size. Of the 20 schools that will run at New Prairie, Rochester ranks 18th in enrollment, and Winamac ranks 19th.
RHS earned their fourth straight trip to semistate. The semistate appearance comes three weeks after RHS won the Three Rivers Conference title.
The Lady Zs accomplished this despite losing state qualifier Mallory Hiatt as well as fellow all-TRC runners Ava Cannedy and Charlie Pocock to graduation.
They also accomplished it without sophomore Araceli Ochoa, an all-TRC runner each of the last two years who was out with a season-ending stress fracture.
So it was sophomores Seward and Kendyll Bradley who have made strides to get faster. Seward, who made semistate last year as a member of Maconaquah’s team, ran a personal-best 20:10 and finished eighth.
“Zoe’s carrying the team,” fellow sophomore Maddie Heinzmann said in a group interview before it dissolved into laughter.
Calloway ‘not super-concerned’
That might not be exactly right. Junior Madilyn Calloway, a state qualifier from last year and this year’s TRC champ, ran a 19:35 and finished fourth at the regional.
Calloway’s times have been between 19:21 and 19:36 all year. She said she was “OK” with her time. She said her goal is not only to make it to state but to run faster than the 18:51 that she ran at the 2019 semistate.
“I’ve kinda been stuck right there,” Calloway said. “Today I didn’t feel super-great in the race, but it’s only regionals, so I’m not super-concerned.”
“We are waiting for Calloway to have her breakout race where she drops off 45 seconds and just looks awesome,” RHS coach Scott Stalbaum said. “It hasn’t happened yet. She’s been very consistent. In these last two weeks here, we’re hoping we’re tapering off a little bit, and she’s going to feel a little bit fresher and is going to run a really good time coming off here at the end.
“We think she can run an 18:45. It just hasn’t happened yet.”
Calloway has been RHS’ frontrunner all season. Last year, she often literally ran in Hiatt’s shadow.
“It’s a learning curve for Calloway because last year she had Mallory to run with every day,” Stalbaum said. “Now it’s all on her own. She’s got to create her own race strategy out there.”
Seward follows family striding tradition
Seward said the third mile was the best part of her regional run. The second mile at Logansport is notorious for being run entirely in the woods.
By the third mile, she was passing up more fatigued runners. She said the key to having a fast third mile is to run a slow first mile. She said she ran her first mile in 6:30, which she said felt slow.
“I just was passing all the people I wanted to pass,” Seward said. “The second mile felt pretty good too. Honestly, it all felt good.”
Stalbaum has noticed steady improvement in Seward.
“Every week, she just keeps on getting better and better and better,” Stalbaum said. “What we’ve done is even out her splits a little bit. She used to be going out too fast. Now we’re trying to go even splits. Today she went like 6:30, 6:35, 6:25 (in the first, second and third miles, respectively). She literally made her last mile her fastest mile today and was passing all kinds of people, and that is a sign that a runner is really doing what they’re supposed to – when they’re really hammering that last mile.”
Asked who runs in her family, Seward said “everyone.” Seward was born in Wisconsin and went to elementary school at Eastbrook South in Upland. Then she lived in New Mexico for 2 ½ years.
Prior to the 2018-19 school year, the Seward family moved to Peru. Zoe said that Eli decided to attend Rochester because Rochester was better at sports than Peru. Zoe decided to go to attend the Rochester Schools because Eli would be able to give her a ride to school.
When Eli graduated, Zoe said she transferred to Maconaquah because she didn’t have a ride to school at Rochester anymore.
“Maconaquah had a bus from Peru, so I just went there,” Seward explained. “But I hated Maconaquah, so we moved to Rochester, and now I live there. … I feel comfortable here. I know all of them pretty well.”
She said she ran her first 5K at age 7 and said she ran it in under 30 minutes. Her older brother Eli ran for RHS and graduated in 2019.
She has an older sister Sophie, 24, who finished 19th at the 2013 IHSAA state track finals in the 3,200 meters and later was a four-time All-American at Western State, an NCAA Division II school located in Gunnison, Colorado.
Sophie Seward also participated in the U.S. Olympic trials in the marathon.
Bradley cuts time
Bradley chopped off 55 seconds from her sectional time and ran a 21:27 at regional.
Bradley also plays defense on the RHS girls soccer team. When asked if she was less fatigued at regional now that soccer season is over, she said she is looking forward to semistate. She thinks she can get even faster.
“I’m looking forward to next week because it will be very good,” Bradley said. “I had two workouts this week, like, long-distance workouts. I haven’t done any of those, so those made me tired. … I was mentally prepared.”
Stalbaum noticed how fresh Bradley looked.
“First week she’s not doing two sports,” Stalbaum said. “Heck, it’s just the way it goes. If you’re doing two things at the same time, you’re going to be worn down a little bit. She looked great today. We even gave her two hard workouts this week because she hasn’t done a speed workout for us all year. Because she didn’t have soccer, we were like, ‘Hey, let’s throw a couple hard workouts at her.’ So heck, she should have been a little tired because those were hard workouts. Next week, she’s only got one hard workout, so next week is only one workout and no soccer. Who knows – she’ll probably take off another 30 seconds.”
Heinzmann running through ‘dead’ legs
Maddie Heinzmann ran a 22:36 at the regional, an 18-second improvement from her sectional time. She said her legs have “just been dead.”
“We’re going too many miles in a week, and Stalbaum even said he could see it.”
Asked how many miles she ran over the summer, Heinzmann smiled.
“A lot,” she said. “Too many.”
Said Stalbaum of Heinzmann: “It feels like she just hasn’t been recovering as quickly as we’d like from her workouts, so we gave her a little bit of a lighter week this week. And it helped. She ran about 20 seconds faster than last week. Next week, we think she’ll drop off even more because she’ll be even fresher next week.”
Bode overcomes ‘dying,’ improves from sectional
Elena Bode chopped 16 seconds off her sectional time, going from a 23:29 at Manchester to a 23:13 at Logansport.
Her time became more crucial due to Ochoa’s injury. With Ochoa out, Bode essentially went from being the sixth runner to being the fifth runner. That meant her time was going to count towards RHS’ point total.
“Elena had her best time of the year today,” Stalbaum said. “And we needed her to step up. Because obviously, she was our fifth runner today, and she’s been our sixth all year. We’re really proud of her because she’s been working really hard to get back in shape after an injury-ridden summer. I think she’s going to be good.”
She said the team was confident.
“There was more pressure,” Bode said. “But, I don’t know, we still pretty much knew that we were going to go anyways. It was just whether or not we were going to beat Maconaquah.”
Bode said she hasn’t had the year she was hoping to have, but she said she’s having fun.
“Running isn’t actually always fun because you’re dying,” Bode said. “But then ... the girls always do stuff together. We carve pumpkins together and just have fun together all the time.”
Bode said she got into cross-country because of her older sister Paige, a 2020 RHS grad. She said she wanted to beat her.
“And I did,” Bode said, before the team laughed again.
Said Calloway: “This team is a lot of fun, especially the girls side. We’re all really close and do a lot of fun things together.”
Ochoa said she doesn’t know how she got injured.
“It just started hurting,” she said. “It didn’t hurt that bad at first, so I kept running on it, and I didn’t tell anybody until last week because it started hurting when I was running. It turns out it’s a stress fracture.”
Ochoa said she was shocked when she heard the diagnosis.
“I thought I could still run, but now I’m out for three months,” Ochoa said.
Ochoa said she ran between 40-45 miles a week over the summer. She said she could feel herself getting faster. She set her PR of 20:20 this season.
She said she was the team’s No. 1 supporter at the regional.
“They all did pretty good,” Ochoa said. “They looked great running out there.”
Ochoa is also on the RHS girls swimming team. Practice for that sport begins Monday. Getting in the pool will help her recovery, according to Stalbaum.
“Luckily she’s a swimmer, and swimming is one thing you can do when you have a stress fracture,” Stalbaum said. “She’ll get back. She was running really well. You’ve got to remember that our invite (the Zebra Stampede on Sept. 26), Wini Barnett is Warsaw’s number one runner. Today, Zoe Seward actually beat Wini. Zoe was our number two today. Araceli has beaten her earlier in the season too. If you look at how we would have done today on full strength if Araceli was healthy, we could have had three runners ahead of Warsaw’s number one runner.
“It’s not very often that we have very many teams that could do that. … Heck, the future’s bright for us. Araceli’s really strong. She’s going to come back from this. She’ll have a good track season. We don’t graduate anybody, and I think we’ll be really good next year.”
The Rochester girls cross-country team finished fourth at the Logansport regional Saturday to earn a berth at this Saturday’s New Prairie semistate. Start time for the semistate is 11:30 a.m. Eastern. From left – Elly Fuller, Araceli Ochoa, Kendyll Bradley, Zoe Seward, Madilyn Calloway, Elena Bode, Maddie Heinzmann.
Rochester’s Maddie Heinzmann runs at the Logansport regional Saturday. She ran a 22:36 at the regional, an 18-second improvement from her sectional time.
Rochester sophomore Zoe Seward runs at the Logansport regional Saturday. She ran a lifetime best 20:10, which was good for eighth in a field of 87 runners.
Rochester sophomore Kendyll Bradley runs at the Logansport regional Saturday. Bradley’s ran a 21:27, a personal best. She finished 31st in a field of 87 runners.