As track and field runners get ready to race, spectators see a girl with long blond hair and bright-pink running spikes waiting in her blocks. The gun goes off, and she takes the lead, holding it until the finish line.
Her name is Maddie McKenzie, and as a sophomore at Carmel High, she has already had a standout career in both cross country and track and field.
As far as records go, McKenzie’s achievements are impressive. She is ranked first in the Mission Trail Athletic League for the 3-mile cross country race with a time of 19:08.
This same time placed her 22nd in the entire Central Coast Section, a division stretching from King City to San Francisco that includes more than 100 high schools, and qualified her for the California CIF Cross Country State Championships, where she placed 43rd in Division 4 with a time of 19:55.
“I like cross country races especially,” McKenzie says. “You get to a point where you feel free like a bird.” The sophomore laughs. “But really, it’s so strategic and challenging. Not many people can do what cross country runners do, and that’s a cool feeling. It’s unique.”
McKenzie grew up in a house of runners. With a tri-athlete for a father, a mother who walks marathons and two older siblings who ran cross country, running seemed inevitable, although McKenzie did not become serious about the sport until her first year of high school.
Nonetheless, running competitively is definitely in her future, and McKenzie hopes to get a scholarship for running and to run in college.
“It’s a lot of pressure to do well and be the fastest, and that’s where a lot of my motivation comes from. But mostly it’s for my team. I want us all to do well.”
By the end of the 2013 season, McKenzie hopes for her 400-meter race time to be 60 seconds or less and for her 800-meter time to be under 2:20; both times would place her among the most elite runners in CCS. Her personal records, 2:24.64 in the 800 and 62.65s in the 400, are not far off.
But speed isn’t the only the thing McKenzie has to offer.
“Maddie is the kind of person you want to have on your team,” says junior Yui Lee, a three-year track and field athlete. “She’s dedicated, and she makes you want to be a better runner, but she also just has a really positive attitude and goofy personality.”
Before a track and field race begins at Carmel High, it is tradition to announce the name of the CHS record holder for that event, his or her time, and the year of the race, and by the time McKenzie graduates, she hopes that it will be her name they announce before each 400 or 800 event.