There are two ways to react to adversity: give up or keep going.
Alleman cross country runner Mattie Kindelsperger kept going.
When schools were shut down and spring sports were canceled five months ago, the senior Pioneer runner found herself without much to do and turned to running for an outlet.
“I really don’t know how it happened; I just fell in love with running,” Kindelsperger said. “It gave me something to do that I was passionate about. I immersed myself with community and changed my lifestyle around running. That hard work presented itself in races this week and gave me the motivation I need to succeed.”
Kindelsperger won a shortened dual meet race with Geneseo on Tuesday and took first place in a triangular with Orion and Sherrard on Saturday with an impressive time of 19 minutes, 21 seconds, nearly two minutes faster than the rest of the competition. Those victories make her this week’s Illinois Pacesetter.
Not only has Kindelsperger put in additional miles, Alleman coach Scott Stoll says she has improved her mentality before races.
“So far what I’ve seen this season is maturity on race day,” Stoll said. “She is able to take in the day a lot better than in the past. Most people don’t see it, but she is always strong in practice but struggled with the psychological challenge.
"Last year, she had a breakthrough and went out and ran what she was capable of running, but the big jump was made in the last three or four months. She put in a ton of miles and confidence grows out of that.”
Somehow, in the midst of the pandemic and subsequent shelter-in-place orders, Kindelsperger managed to improve her race day mentality as well as putting in the miles.
“Over the summer and with the lock down, I put in so many miles, way more than usual,” Kindelsperger said. “I used to psych myself out before races and compare my talents to other girls. That presented itself in my races when I wouldn’t be up to the challenge. This year is my last chance and I’m going to give it my all in every race and focus on what I can do.”
Senior seasons always bring emotions for the athletes and coaches alike, and Stoll has a few lessons he wants Kindelsperger to take from her cross country career that could apply later in life.
“What I want her to ultimately achieve when she graduates is that if she sets out a project involving a lot of dedication, that she’s able to get a payoff,” Stoll said. “I know that she can achieve anything with enough confidence and belief. There’s a lot of crossover between what we do with sports and life, college and any future career or professional goals. It’s all about the hours put in. She’s always been a hard worker and now she’s not afraid of a challenge anymore.”
Kindelsperger has already found ways for her life outside of running to help her improve as an athlete, drawing from information she learned in a health sciences class.
"We learned a lot of muscles for about a month and that helped me with a hip injury I had," Kindelsperger said. "Learning all muscles that go to work helped me work it out and recover."
With the uncertainty of possibly not having a state meet or any large meets to look forward to, Kindelsperger has had to look within for other goals to strive for this season, and turned her attention to having fun with her team.
“Since coach told us there probably wouldn’t be any of the usual meets or a state meet, I haven’t had that to work toward,” Kindelsperger said. “I’ve just been finding meets to come out on top with my team and to lead the other girls and guys to have a good race.
"It’s about having fun in every race with no pressure and to have an amazing season. You never know which one will be your last.”
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