2009-06-17 / Sports

Midlothian girl runs like the wind

By Joey Matthews

Lisa Billings/Chesterfield Observer Kathleen Lautzenheiser helped propel the Midlothian High girls track team to a top-10 finish in the state this year.
You might call Midlothian High School junior runners Kathleen and Leia Lautzenheiser the Miracle Kids.

"We were born 11 and a half weeks prematurely," said Kathleen Lautzenheiser, of herself and her twin sister. "I was born with a hole in my lung, and I have asthma. It's probably a miracle I even lived."

Seventeen years later, the two Lautzenheisers are among the chief architects of a winning distance team that once again propelled the Trojans near the top of the Central Region heap and to a top-10 finish in the state.

Kathleen was dominant at the 28-team regional meet last month at Sports Backers Stadium in Richmond. She won the 3,200- meter race in a record time of 11:01.59. Midlothian's Amanda Patterson set the previous mark of 11:05.99 in 2004. The race started about 9 a.m. Kathleen came back about four hours later and captured the 1,600 in 5:07.53.

A day earlier, she ran the second leg on the 4x800 relay team that finished first in 9:27. Trojan sophomore Claire Benjamin led off the relay, followed by Kathleen, junior Amy Witt and senior Paige Johnston.

Kathleen said making the successful transition from the relay run to two individual runs was probably her biggest hurdle at the regional meet. "Coming from Friday night, your legs don't get as much time to recover," she said. Running two distance races on Saturday was "not too bad since that's what we train for."

Leia finished sixth in the 3,200 in 11:26.01. Top-six finishes in the individual events helped the sisters earn berths in the state meet that was held a week later at Todd Stadium in Newport News. A top-three finish in the relay helped Midlothian qualify for the state meet.

Witt had an exceptional regional distance run as well, finishing second in the 1,600 (5:08.06) and fourth in the 3,200 (11:15.30). She said proper preparation was the key to her effort. "You have to try hard and do all the little things right like getting proper sleep and eating the right things," Witt said.

Of Kathleen, she said, "She's very determined and is a very hard worker. She has a lot of drive."

Johnston added to the winning formula with a third-place finish in the 800 (2:19.43) and a fifth-place run in the 1,600 (5:15).

Led by the distance team's strong performances, the Midlothian girls team finished fourth overall at the regional meet.

Kathleen continued her impressive show with a strong effort at the state meet, finishing second in the 3,200 (10:54.31) and third in the 1,600 (5:02.23). Johnston finished fourth in the 800 in 2:13.42. Midlothian's girls team finished 10th in the state.

The fact that Kathleen competed this spring is impressive considering she missed most of indoor track season with a bruised knee. "It was a shoe-related injury," she reported. "The design of the new shoes I was wearing altered the way I ran. It wasn't a major injury, but it hurt when I ran."

She halted her indoor season near the end of December and started physical therapy in mid-January. She switched to Nike Zoom Elite shoes entering the outdoor season and zoomed ahead of the competition in the region and state once again.

Kathleen said of the forced layoff from running, "I think it helped me to take a break, even though I didn't want to stop running. I actually enjoyed the time off."

She has been a stalwart among distance runners for the past two years, winning the state cross-country meet in the fall and 3,200 state indoor title as a sophomore. She finished second in the state in cross country this year.

Team members attribute their success to a strong work ethic under head coach Stan Morgan who helps build a sturdy foundation of camaraderie.

"I have a lot of people to train with," said Lautzenheiser. "We help motivate each other. Usually, we have four or five girls in each event. We warm up and cool down together."

She added, "I have to credit my coach and my teammates and my parents for supporting me. We're a nice team with a strong bond."

There's another motivating factor for the Trojan girls. "We want to uphold the tradition of strong runners they have here," Witt said. "That's another reason we work so hard to excel."

Return to top