Cedar Springs High School Girls’ Cross Country’s Kenzie Weiler Named Athlete of the Week
"I'm feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement," Weiler said Wednesday. "To be honest, I'm a little nervous. ... It's a personal goal to repeat."
The mindset for her is straightforward, but not so simple: win. Winning is something she has done in every meet she's competed in this season.
She has claimed individual titles in the Kenowa Hills Invitational, Stanton Hornet Run at Central Montcalm, Spartan Invitational at Michigan State University, Red Hawk Invitational at Cedar Springs and Portage Invitational; Ottawa-Kent (OK) Conference Bronze Division jamborees at Cedar Springs, Wyoming and Forest Hills Northern; the OK Bronze Championships at Forest Hills Eastern; and the Division 2 Traverse City Central Regional last week at Grand Traverse Resort in Acme.
At the regional, she finished the 5,000-meter course in 18 minutes, 15.36 seconds. That was 53 seconds ahead of runner-up Alexis Smith, of Gaylord; and almost 1½ minutes ahead of Cedar Springs teammates Shayne Mann and Ellie Ovokaitys, both top 10 finishers. The Red Hawks won the team title with 74 points to runner-up Whitehall's 82. (In the boys' race, Cedar Springs' Austin Sargent won in 15:46.2, 9.41 seconds ahead of Petoskey's Thomas VanSlembrouck as the Red Hawks took fifth with Fremont and Sparta taking the top two team spots.)
For Weiler, it's a matter of drive, tenacity, diligence, training, dedication and routine. That paid off with runner-up state finals finishes in 2011 and 2012 before the 2013 state title in 17:55.1 -- just 0.8 second ahead of runner-up Jackie Bredenberg, of Detroit Country Day.
"I stick to the same thing every time," said Weiler, pointing to getting sufficient sleep and rest, eating a sensible diet and using self-motivational tools such as notes and quotes. "I figured out when I got into high school I needed (a routine)."
Those methods have paid dividends for Weiler and her teammates, Cedar Springs Coach Marie Covey said.
Besides Weiler, Mann and Ovokaitys, also representing Cedar Springs in the state finals are Hannah Heintzelman, Tara Tepin, Allyson Marvel, Myla Umphrey and Aaliyah Sargent. Weiler and Mann are the sole seniors on the squad.
"She's a leader ... because of her experience and her success," Covey said. "Kenzie's having success doing things gets the others to see 'it's things way for her and we know it works.'"
Weiler is almost akin to having another coach, with her taking over little things like getting prepped properly on race days, having things ready, warming up and lining up at appropriate times, Covey said.
"I've been around cross country and track my whole life," Kenzie says rather matter-of-fact.
She is the daughter of Pat and Julie Weiler, Cedar Springs Middle School teachers who are longtime coaches of its cross country teams. She is the sister of Katie Weiler, a Central Michigan University sophomore who competes for the Chippewas' women's cross country and track and field squads.
Besides also competing for Cedar Springs' girls' track and field team (she took fifth in the 3,200-meter run at last spring's Division 2 Lower Peninsula state meet), Kenzie runs in the offeason in a training group. Those workouts are led by Greg Meyer, an Aquinas College vice president for institutional advancement and Fifth Third River Bank Run's elite runner coordinator who is a former U.S. Olympian and the last American to win the Boston Marathon. She considers Meyer a mentor, and has been taking part in the workouts since eighth grade.
But running is not Weiler's sole endeavor, as shown by her membership on the Athletics Leadership Council and National Honor Society at Cedar Springs High School and active faith at Our Lady of Consolation Catholic Church in Rockford.
Weiler carries a 4.1 weighted grade-point average on a 4.0 scale at Cedar Springs High, evidence of her seeking to push herself academically as well as athletically.
After the state meet, she is planning official visits to MSU in East Lansing and U-M in Ann Arbor in November.
But she is much more focused on what looms this weekend. That means a nice pasta dinner and most likely leaving Cedar Springs' home football playoff game against Forest Hills Northern by halftime Friday. After all, she's got sleep to catch and has to rise early Saturday.
"There's a lot of goals," she said. "We want to improve" with a hopeful top 10 finish after taking 15th of 27 teams in last year's state finals, where Grand Rapids Christian won with Spring Lake runner-up. There's also her very strong desire to repeat individually.