Running Up from Behind
Katie Seigle watched her sister Mollie run for Lackawanna Trail, and the last thing she thought about doing was emulating her sibling.
Nothing against her sister, but she didn't see herself running stride for stride with anyone, let alone with Mollie, a top runner for the Lady Lions.
"I never could do it," Katie Seigle said. "I have a minor case of asthma, so it was hard to breathe. I also didn't enjoy sweating."
The extent of her athletic ability to that point was being in the color guard of the marching band at Lackawanna Trail.
But one day in her sophomore year in 2011, a gentle push from a couple of biased people ended up putting Seigle on track to lead the Lady Lions cross country team this season as a senior.
"My sister Mollie was a runner and coach (Keith) Youtz was my study hall teacher," Seigle said. "We didn't have enough runners to fill out a team. I never ran before, but I figured that having a bad team was a lot better than not having a team at all."
Now in his 18th year as head cross country coach at Lackawanna Trail, Youtz has his come-on-out-for-the-team speech at the ready, simply from the sheer volume of times he had uttered it.
"I'm always trying to get kids out," Youtz said. "It's pretty tough with football and field hockey being the two biggest programs. It's a numbers game, and I have to work on getting the kids out."
Youtz, a math teacher, understands all the numbers, and the largeness of those two fall programs left few kids available to run. He knows that not all of the kids he can persuade to try the sport will stick with it, but he has also seen some kids embrace the sport and try to make the most in their new-found athletic endeavor.
"It all comes down to the effort and the time they are willing to put into the sport," Youtz said. "I've had kids in the past who have been the slowest on the team in their first year make great strides."
He never knows who will pan out and just hopes he can find people to commit to the team and the sport.
"If they have the ability, it's easier to be good," Youtz said, adding that some kids scratch the surface and discover they have talent. "We didn't know what to expect [from Katie]."
He has seen enough that now, just a short two years later, Seigle is one of the top runners for the Lady Lions, with a realistic goal of qualifying for the state championship meet to close out her high school cross country career.
All of that started because of she decided to help out her sister and a teacher in a jam. While those reasons were crucial in getting Seigle to come out for the team, different ones kept her coming back for more.
"I found I really liked the people, and had some really supportive teammates," Seigle said. "I also realized that I wasn't so bad."
With a shot of confidence raising her spirits, Seigle began to attack the sport with vigor, intent on improving herself through old-fashioned hard work, wanting to make a greater impact in the sport. It meant some different competition for Seigle.
"Over the summer, I tried to run every day," Seigle said. "Once the cross country workouts began, I wanted to do a little more, do what the boys did, or at least more than the girls' workout."
Such dedication paid off her junior year with some remarkable numbers for a second-year performer, showing how quickly she adapted to the sport.
"I dropped eight minutes off my time," Seigle said.
Instead of running in the 30-minute range, Seigle was breaking 25 minutes with ease, and found her confidence booming. Mollie was getting a run for her money.
"My sister was running the same pace," Seigle said. "We finished five or six spots short of making the state meet. It was a big change from my sophomore year."
Her sister played a big role in Seigle's development as a runner. Aside from providing sisterly advice, Mollie made sure to answer any questions about the sport, but most importantly, she became a running partner.
"We always ran together," Seigle said. "We were there to push each other to get better."
With Mollie off to college, Seigle was a little worried about finding a new running partner, someone to get her to give a little more effort, but a freshman with impressive bloodlines herself has filled that role.
"Ashley Clarke runs with me now," Seigle said of her freshman teammate, who is the sister of Devon Clarke, the Lions' top boys runner. "It kind of feels like I have my sister [training] with me, but not quite."
"They will both help each other," Youtz said. "If one of them gets tired, the other one is going to make them work."
As long as Clarke spurs on Seigle to produce better times as the year goes on, then the freshman will have played a key role for the Lady Lions.
It is a far cry from Seigle's sophomore season.
"It's really hard to believe," Seigle said. "Sometimes I still can't believe that I used to be last. It's weird to hear people say that."
From where she was in the fall of 2011, it may be just as unusual for some to hear how running could play a role in her future.
"Maybe I'll run in a club, just for fun," Seigle said.
To go from hating to sweat to staying with the sport for the sheer enjoyment is a major change in attitude for Katie Seigle.