Born To Run

Story by John Torsiello

   Talk about tough acts to follow.

   Holy Cross High School running star Amie Schumacher came into her junior year with enormous expectations. And why not? As a sophomore, Schumacher, a Wolcott resident, won class, State Open and New England cross-country titles.

   Well, the 16-year-old hit all the right notes again last fall as she repeated her victories and clearly established herself as the premier female high school runner in New England.

    “I definitely knew I would have more competition this year,” said Schumacher. “I had to be mentally tougher in addition to having to work even harder for this season.”

   Schumacher breezed through the Naugatuck Valley League competition and then easily won the Class MM and State Open championships. But she was severely tested at the New England event, run at East Hartfords Wickham Park.

   She locked up in a heated battle with Maines Elise Moody-Roberts, with the Cape Elizabeth High School student holding the lead for much of the 3.1-mile race. The Holy Cross star dug down deep as the two runners reached the final portion of the race, a brutal uphill climb to the finish line.    Schumacher caught Moody-Roberts with about 150 yards left and out-sprinted her to the finish line, winning by a scant two seconds.

    “One of the girls fell at the start of the race and it really threw my timing off,” recalled Schumacher. “I just had a really tough time settling in and I had to go outside of about 10 girls. I got boxed in and wound up going out too fast. I had to work hard to catch the girl from Maine and didnt pull even with her until the final hill. I didnt look around or hear anything until I got to the finish line and found out she was right behind me.”

   Unfortunately, Schumachers outstanding season came to a crashing end at the U.S. high school regionals Nov. 28 in New York Citys Van Cortland Park. At about the half-mile mark of the race, Schumacher was stepped on by a runner behind her, causing a slight injury to her lower leg. She did persevere and completed the race, but was way down on the order of finish.

   “It wasn’t a real serious injury and I’ll be back training soon,” she said.

   Schumacher, an honors student whose favorite athlete is bicyclist Lance Armstrong, began running at the tender age of five.

    “My older brother, Jeremy, was a runner in high school and I just wanted to do everything he did. He has worked with me as has my dad (Robert). Jeremy ran cross-country and track at Wolcott High School and then ran with the cross-country team at Southern (Connecticut State University).    He sets up my training plan.”

   She continued, “sports has been a big part of my life. I played basketball for a while and really loved it. But I stopped when I decided to concentrate on running. My dad runs a boxing program and I enjoy doing that and helping out at the gym.”

   Offered Holy Cross head coach Brian Walker, “she wants to be the best and she trains every day. It was certainly hard to repeat what she had done, but she put in the effort and has been lucky in that she has been injury free.”

   He added, “Amie has her own training program, but she stretches with the other girls and is a very good teammate.”

   Walker believes the sky is the limit for his top runner.

   As long as she sets a goal, she will continue to work toward it. The biggest key for her is to stick with her training and stay healthy.

   Wisely, Schumachers handlers have been patient and guarded with her, choosing not to push her training too hard as she matures and grows into her body. Many top young female runners tend to over train and over race as freshmen and sophomores and wind up burned out and even broken down by the time they are upperclassmen.

   Said Schumacher, “My dad and brother wanted to bring me along slowly. They know this is a long term thing for me and they don’t want to run me into the ground.”

   During her peak training periods, Schumacher, who enjoys reading and playing the piano when she can find the time, runs five to six miles three or four times a week and throws in a 10 to 12 mile run on the weekends. Shell usually do two speed workouts a week. As the season winds down and the miles and meets start adding up, she will cut her training down to remain fresh for the late-season races.

    “Distance doesn’t really bother me,” she said. “All I did when I was younger was run road races and I’ve come to like longer distances better. I dont think I would have caught the girl from Maine at the New Englands if it hadn’t been a five kilometer distance.”

   A turning point for the young runner came at the start of the 2003 season.

    “I came into the year feeling good, but I finished fifth at the Windham Invitational and that kind of shook me up. I knew I had to work harder and the next meet (the Wickham Invitational) I won. I really look at that as a key time for me.”

   Schumacher, who attended Cheshire High School for a semester prior to transferring to Holy Cross as a freshman, has competed at the Millrose Games in Madison Square Garden and run at national high school races where she has had a chance to test herself against the best runners in the country. Her ultimate goals are quite lofty.

    “I want to make it to the Olympics. My brother tells me that if I want to do that, I have to start beating his times,” Schumacher said with a chuckle.

   Offered Walker, “she wants to run in the Olympics and that is a big goal. I know she will work as hard as she can to get there and she wont be happy until she does.”

   Schumacher looks to major in English in college and also take classes in guidance. She would love to become a teacher and wants to coach somewhere down the road. An excitable, intense youngster, Schumacher said she needs to work on the mental side of running in addition to getting stronger and faster.

    “I have to keep telling myself to calm down before races because I get so intense. My brother had to calm me down before the state meets and even had to back me off of my training because I was getting tired. It worked out for the New Englands because I had done only one long run and one speed workout that week and was real fresh.”