Three Vikings heading to MIS

Published 10:01 am Friday, November 2, 2007

By By AUTUMN GRAYSON / Niles Daily Star
NILES – She knew what it took and she did it.
"I felt pressured because no other girl had made it to state four years in a row and I knew I could set a record," Niles senior Sam Brawley said about her 14th place finish at the Division 2 cross country regional meet last Saturday.
Brawley made history as the first Niles girls' cross country runner to qualify for the state meet four straight years.
When Brawley first qualified for state in 2004, she was the first Lady Viking runner to do so since 1993.
One of Brawley's goals was to "go out with a bang senior year" and that is exactly what she did, but it was not an easy feat.
"About a mile in, I was 25th and I knew that I had to make the top 15. By the end, I didn't have any energy to sprint because I ran so hard during the race," Brawley said about the regional meet. "At one point the pack was so big that you would go from eighth to 14th place and back and fourth in a matter of seconds."
Sophomore Madie Rodts agreed with Brawley. Rodts, a first-year member of the team, also qualified for the state finals finishing in eighth place and clocking a time of 19:44. Rodts set a record of her own, becoming the leading regional finisher in the last six seasons for the Vikings.
"I was in shock because I never thought I could run distance that fast because it's not my forte," Rodts said. She joined the team shortly after the season began with some persuasion from her teammates and was a breakout runner from the start.
Yet, Rodts chose to take a different approach to the race than Brawley.
"My strategy was to sing to myself. It pushes me because I don't like to run in silence," she said.
And apparently it works.
Both Brawley and Rodts were part of the 3,200-meter relay team, which qualified for the track and field state finals this past spring.
Niles coach Dan VandenHeede accredits Brawley for being a self-motivator.
"Sam has guts. When it comes down to the big meets, she knows what she has to do and she does it," said VandenHeede.
VandenHeede ensures that his team has their eyes on the prize from the first practice.
"I try to gear the whole season so they peak at regionals. You have to build a base, then do speed work, then work on the final details. I think it worked this year. I think people peaked at the right time," he added.
For the first time in several years, Niles has members of both the girls' and boys' team moving on to state.
Sophomore Mark Calhoun will be representing the Vikings in the boys' race as he finished seventh at the regional meet. Calhoun, who fell short of qualifying as a freshman, has been running between 16 and 17 minutes in the majority of his races this year.
His qualifying time was 16:38.
The Division 2 girls’ race is set to begin at 1:30 this Saturday at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. The boys' race will follow at 2:30 and the awards ceremony is scheduled for 3:45.