Although Mackenzie Caldwell’s finishing place at the state finals didn’t change from 2011 to 2012, her stature as a runner improved greatly.
The junior broke the Columbus North school record, running 17 minutes, 45 seconds in the Brown County Regional. She ran 17:55.8 at state to finish fourth for the second-consecutive year and is this year’s The Republic Athlete of the Year for Girls Cross-Country.
“Last year, she became a state-class runner, and I really believe this year she’s becoming a national class runner,” North coach Rick Weinheimer said. “She’s improved her training effort and improved her racing experiences every time out.”
Coming into the season with a personal-best of 18:10, Caldwell set out to break the school record of 17:52. She tied the record twice before going 17:51 in winning the Conference Indiana meet at Brown County.
Caldwell went 17:52 again to win the Brown County Sectional before recording a 17:45 in winning the regional. She won the Brown County Semi-State in 18:06.
“I’m really happy with the season I had this year,” Caldwell said. “After some of the times I ran last year, I didn’t know how much faster I could get, and I’m really proud of what I did. I really wanted to break 18, but I didn’t think I could go as low as I did.
“The first time I did it, it was really exciting, and I was happy all day,” she said. “I raced against a girl (Avon’s Mary Abramson) who ended up beating me, but it was really fun to break it.”
This summer, Caldwell attended the PAAVO running camp in Colorado and Wyoming.
“They ran a lot of long runs at high altitude, and I think that made a difference for her, too,” Weinheimer said. “Her training is continual and always at high levels.”
Caldwell plans to compete at the collegiate level and plans to start taking visits this winter or spring.
“I’ve always wanted to run cross-country in college,” Caldwell said. “I’ve gotten a lot of letters, but I haven’t really talked to a lot of coaches directly or anything.”
For now, she’s intending to improve on her sixth-place finish in the 3,200 meters in track. Then, she’ll try to break her own cross-country record next fall.
“I just want to keep taking that time as low as I can and make myself as hard to beat as I can and give everyone else as good a competition as I can,” Caldwell said.
The rest of The Republic’s All-Area Girls Cross-Country team:
Rachael Sollman, Columbus North: The senior finished fourth in sectional, second in regional and semi-state and 13th at state.
Zoey Johnson, Seymour: The junior finished second in the sectional, third in the regional, fifth in the semi-state and 27th at state.
Sierra Lax, Columbus North: The freshman finished third in the sectional, fourth in the regional, sixth in the semi-state and 41st at state.
Nina Bouthier, Columbus North: The freshman finished fifth in the sectional and regional, 15th in the semi-state and 83rd at state.
Caryn Wolfe, Columbus North: The senior finished 94th at state after missing most of the season with an injury.
Morgan Neal, Columbus North: The sophomore finished seventh in the regional, 27th in the semi-state and 113th at state.
Allison Coffey, Columbus North: The freshman finished eighth in the sectional and regional, 33rd in the semi-state and 126th at state.
Rose Guingrigh, Brown County: The sophomore finished ninth in the sectional, 12th in the regional and 40th in the semi-state.
Madison Hays, Seymour: The sophomore finished sixth in the sectional, 13th in the regional and 46th in the semi-state.
Allie Newell, Columbus East: The senior finished 10th in the sectional, 20th in the regional and 110th in the semi-state.
Honorable mention: Brown County: Madison Morris. Columbus East: Laura Barkes, Rachel Foley, Morgan Ketron, Kira Singer. Columbus North: Aly Bowman, Bente Bouthier, Rosemary Yonushonis. Hauser: Hannah Shoaf. Jennings County: Olivia Heaton. Seymour: Alexis Beed, Mariah Lewis, Alicia Pollert, Megan Winter.