On Monday, Olivia Morlok will report to swimming practice a few days later than her teammates, but she’s had a good excuse.
The Columbus North freshman is in the process of wrapping up her freshman cross-country season. She’s been one of the top three runners all season for the sixth-ranked Bull Dogs, who will compete in Saturday’s state finals at Terre Haute’s LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Morlok said. “I’ve really liked racing with my teammates, and I’m really excited for the state meet.”
Ironically, Morlok had a little bit of a late start to her cross-country season because she was swimming this summer. But she caught up to her teammates quickly.
In North’s first big competition of the season, Morlok led the Bull Dogs with a third-place finish in the Conference Indiana meet.
“A lot of my teammates had been training all summer, and I hadn’t really gotten that many workouts in over the summer because I was at swimming,” Morlok said. “I just knew that I had to keep training and keep pushing myself in races. I just knew that I had to keep doing my best.”
Since that race, Morlok has shared the team’s No. 1 spot with senior Rachel Brougher and junior Arig Tong. The three runners give North one of the state’s most formidable trios.
Morlok considers herself fortunate to have runners the caliber of Brougher and Tong to help ease the pressure on her.
“It’s really nice because you always know that you have teammates who are running close to you and pushing you,” Morlok said. “You know if you don’t have as good of a race, there’s going to be your teammates up there doing good.”
North coach Rick Weinheimer credits Brougher and Tong with the development of Morlok, who won most of her races at Northside Middle School.
“Olivia just quietly blends in,” Weinheimer said. “Rachel and Arig have been a really good help for her. It’s a big jump from 3K to 5K. She was very good in middle school, but it’s still a big jump. She certainly was much heralded coming in and has lived up to any expectations.”
Morlok ran a 5K personal-best 18 minutes, 36.14 seconds to finish third behind Brougher and Tong in the Brown County Sectional. In the Brown County Regional, Morlok finished fourth in 19:00.96.
Last week, Morlok developed a sore shin and ran only Monday and Thursday, working out in the pool the other days. Weinheimer didn’t know if she would be able to run in Saturday’s Brown County Semistate, but she did and finished seventh in 18:44.6.
“She’s such a competitor that in spite of that (injury), she ran I think her best race of the year,” Weinheimer said.
Morlok also is a heralded distance swimmer, having won her age group in the mile in the Central Zone Championships. She figures to make an immediate impact on this year’s Bull Frogs team.
But first, she has business to take care of on the cross-country course Saturday afternoon. The top 25 individuals earn All-State honors, and the top five teams make the awards podium.
“I just want to get my (personal record) down because I haven’t done that since sectional,” Morlok said. “I want to see how good I can place in my first year at the state meet. That would be really cool if I could make All-State this year and move up on the (school’s) top-10 all-time board.”
What: Boys and Girls Cross-Country State Finals
When: 1 p.m. Saturday (girls), 1:45 p.m. Saturday (boys)
Where: LaVern Gibson Championship Cross-Country Course, 599 S. Tabortown Rd., Terre Haute
Who: 24 boys and 24 girls teams, including the Columbus North boys and girls and Jennings County boys
Name: Olivia Morlok
School: Columbus North
Sports: Cross-country, swimming, track
Favorite sport: “I like swimming and running both, so I’m not sure I could pick a favorite.”
Favorite athlete: Katie Ledecky