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North star to run with the Buffaloes

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MACKENZIE Caldwell tried a variety of sports while growing up but didn’t take much of a liking to any of them.

But there was one thing she did enjoy about those sports: running.

The Columbus North senior has not only turned to running as its own sport the past six years, she’s become pretty good at it. She recently was rewarded with a scholarship to University of Colorado and signed with the Buffaloes last month.

“I tried pretty much everything, but I’m not good at any of them,” Caldwell said. “Most of them, I tried for one season and really didn’t like it. But I liked the running part in all the sports, so that was probably it. Especially soccer, I didn’t like playing goalie or defender. I liked running around.”

Caldwell estimates she’s run more than 1,300 consecutive days since early in her freshman cross-country season. Back then, she wasn’t even the No. 1 runner on her team. Now, she’s one of the best in the state.

“She came into us as a really neat young lady who wanted to get a lot better at running, but I don’t know that anybody can predict the incredible progress she’s made over four years,” North cross-country coach and assistant track coach Rick Weinheimer said.

“The numbers are amazing, but what’s really amazing to me is the way she’s applied herself every single day to get better,” he said. “She’s extremely accomplished but also so valuable to a program because she’s team oriented and will do everything she can to help the younger girls.”

Last fall, Caldwell was the state runner-up in cross-country, her third consecutive top-five finish. She was third in both the 1,600 and 3,200 meters in track last spring. She is the school record holder in cross-country, which is 5,000 meters (3.1 miles), and in both track distance races.

Perhaps as important, she has never had a serious injury.

“Mackenzie is talented, versatile and not overtrained,” Colorado cross-country and track coach Mark Wetmore said. “Lots of room to grow into college running. She seems a perfect match for our culture. We can’t wait for her to get here.”

Caldwell said her decision came down to Colorado and Michigan State. She also visited Illinois, Iowa State and Vanderbilt.

“I liked the coaches and the team when I went out there, and I really liked the location,” Caldwell said. “I like Colorado a lot. It’s gorgeous. The campus is beautiful. It’s a great place to go. It has a good running program with a good history, so I know it’s somewhere I’ll get better. It’s awesome that I’ll be able to train with Olympians.”

Wetmore, who has coached 10 Olympians, has led the Buffaloes to three men’s and two women’s cross-country national championships.

“Colorado is one of the elite 10 programs in the United States,” Weinheimer said. “I’m thrilled for her.”

Caldwell said she likes both cross-country and track for different reasons.

“Cross-country for a lot of runners is more interesting because you’re running different courses, and a lot of different things can happen,” Caldwell said. “In track, I like that you can know what your pace is. When cross-country is over, I’m ready for track, and when track is over, I’m ready for cross-country.”

Caldwell, who plans to major in business, is happy to have her college decision out of the way before her senior track season.

“It will help me relax a lot more,” Caldwell said. “Once we decided, it took a big weight off my shoulders. I enjoyed the experience a lot, but it was definitely stressful, and it was good to finish it.”

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