Sierra Lax would be the No. 1 runner on most of the other girls cross-country teams in Saturday’s state finals.
As it is, the sophomore is a solid No. 2 runner for a Columbus North squad that hopes to contend for the championship. That’s because the Bull Dogs have a contender for the individual title in senior Mackenzie Caldwell.
“I think I have grown as a runner this season, and that’s been with the help of my team, and Mackenzie has helped me a lot,” Lax said. “The experience has helped me get better at racing.”
Lax has set personal records in each of the past two races. She ran 18 minutes, 18.53 seconds for 5,000 meters (3.1 miles) to finish second behind Caldwell in the Brown County Regional, then ran 18:13.8 to again take second to Caldwell in Saturday’s Brown County Semistate.
Lax, who broke Caldwell’s freshman school record last season, is closing in on Caldwell’s sophomore record of 18:10.
“I feel like I keep improving, and it’s a good time of the year for that,” Lax said.
“Sierra was a very good freshman last year, and she’s made herself a really good runner for all grades,” North coach Rick Weinheimer said.
Weinheimer pointed out that Lax is currently running similar times to what last year’s No. 2 runner, Rachael Sollman, did last season, when the Bull Dogs finished third in the state as a team.
“She’s confident and strong, and you can see it in practice every day and I’m glad to see it pay off in the meets,” Weinheimer said. “I think we’re all excited to see what she can do in the state meet.”
That includes Caldwell.
“I like her a lot, and I think she is developing a good attitude and carrying on the philosophies of our team,” Caldwell said. “Especially recently, she’s been running great, and sometimes, it’s hard for her to see how good she is when I’m always in front of her. She needs to think about how good she is and how she can play out in the state meet as an individual.”
Lax is appreciative of having Caldwell as a leader and hopes to emulate her leadership abilities next year.
“She knows a lot, and she is a great role model for me,” Lax said. “I enjoy having her as a leader. I’m trying to take in as much knowledge as I can from her as a leader and how she races and everything to know what to be like for my team the next couple years. She connects to all the girls really well, so I hope to be like that.”
“I think Mackenzie helps everybody every day in practice by her attitude and her approach and work ethic — both boys and girls,” Weinheimer said. “I think it’s a gift for Sierra to have Mackenzie up there pulling her, and I think next year when Mackenzie is gone, Sierra will be a gift to the younger girls because she’ll pull them along. She’ll be a performance leader, but she’ll also be a workout leader, which is important to us, too.”
But Lax isn’t worried about next year just yet. She’s focused on helping the second-ranked Bull Dogs add a state title to the one they won in 2009.
“We have to walk into state knowing that anything can happen and that anything’s possible,” Lax said. “If we want the results we’re looking for, we’re all going to have to get out of our comfort zone and push our hardest for the team.”