VERMILLION, S.D. – With her college decision now behind her Maddie Lavin can simply enjoy her senior school year.
The talented runner and swimmer at Vermillion High School has decided to remain at home and attend the University of South Dakota.
The opportunity to both run cross country and track and field as well as swim for the Coyotes was a strong factor in the decision for the already five-time state cross country qualifier.
“It was kind of a huge opportunity for me to be able to come to USD to do running and swimming,” said Lavin. “I mean, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to decide early. It kind of gets to be a lot of pressure when you’re coming to trying to choose for a sport.
“I visited at some other places and I just really felt that USD was the right fit for me. I felt comfortable here, the coaches are phenomenal, both running and swimming, Fitz (cross country coach Dan Fitzsimmons) and Jason (swim coach Jason Mahowald). Committing was just amazing to have that done and now I can enjoy my senior year and have fun with that, so yeah, it was a huge weight off my shoulders.”
Lavin, who is coming off an individual victory in the Lennox Orioles Invite last week, will compete on Thursday at the Dakota XII Conference meet in Canton. The owner of 18 individual race victories in her career, including the 2013 state title, is the defending conference champ.
Lavin, running her first meet since her college commitment, covered the 5,000-meter course in Lennox in 18:41.80, posting a 30-second victory over Beresford senior Cait Savey, who had beaten Lavin a week prior in Sioux Falls.
“The meet at Lennox, it was our homecoming week last week, I was just really excited, pretty busy, just being able to say that OK today I can announce that I can be a ‘Yote and I wanted more to live up to that,” said Lavin. “Just going throw the race I was just really confident and trying to go back to the way I used to run and feeling confident in running, doing what I do best and so I just wanted to have fun with the race.
“I started out really strong and was able to stay strong and positive the whole time throughout the race. Just finished with what I had an ended up having a great race, it was a lot of fun.”
Lavin, three times a state runner-up in five state meet appearances, will look to add a sixth state meet berth to her resume when she competes at the Region 3A meet next Thursday in Beresford.
“I’m looking forward to conference, just hope I can build off this week and get a little bit faster so state can just go really well,” Lavin said.
A change in the mental approach to each race helped Lavin regain her confidence and enjoyment in running, especially after a slow start to the season.
“I really struggled mentally those first couple of race, I just felt what am I doing wrong?” said Lavin. “One thing I didn’t take into account I was training so hard, I wasn’t mentally ready to race really fast really early. Kind of going more toward state and all and really having a race boost me up before conference.
“Hopefully conference and regionals and state all go really well. I’m just super exited. Mentally I feel a lot better."
Lavin ran 18:50.90 to finish second in the Class A state meet race a year ago in Huron and this year, the state meet will be in Rapid City. Savey was fifth at state a year ago while Sioux Falls Christian junior Micah Van Kalsbeek was 10th, giving the Dakota XII Conference three in the top 10.
A different race strategy has also aided Lavin in the last couple of weeks as she has two individual wins this season to go with a couple of top-10 finishes and a 59th in the Roy Griak Invite Gold Division race that had over 450 competitors in it.
“Griak was really tough and I got to race against the best kids from the Midwest region and beyond,” said Lavin. “I went to Lennox and said ‘OK, I’m just going to have fun' and I went back to just taking it out and I really pushed that first mile. I forgot almost how good it feels when you can take it out and just be in the lead and be by yourself and your just chasing the cart.
“Mentally, I think I really pushed it more the first mile just to try and get myself in the lead and get myself positive energy and toward the end it was just not dying and not letting those negative thoughts get to me. I made it this far, we’re past halfway, I only have a mile left, let’s just push it and make it a great race.”
It’s that same mental approach she takes into her swimming with the Vermillion Area Swim Team where she specializes in the butterfly events, but also swims the individual medley and distance freestyle races.
“I think aerobically I think I’m just so fit, it helps so much,” said Lavin. “Swimming is different but it’s the same mentality wise, you have to be mentally tough to get through some of those races. I really don’t chose easy races and I don’t run easy races either. Distance running is really grueling so I think swimming has really helped me in running both physically and mentally going through.”