Boys' Track Athlete of Year: Schroeder's a real goal-getter
MONTICELLO — Steve Schroeder's destination never will be defined by the boundaries of a cross-country course or a track oval.
He is heading to locations beyond where his legs will carry him.
Schroeder's start came while attending Monticello High School. He never wanted to be typecast into a particular category, such as "athlete."
His credentials in the athletic arena warranted such inclusion. A state champion last fall in cross-country, Schroeder followed up this spring by winning the 3,200 meters at the state track and field meet as well as anchoring the Sages' 3,200 relay to victory.
He was the runaway choice to headline The News-Gazette boys' track and field team as Athlete of the Year.
Eight days after the track finals, Schroeder had another performance. This time, it was his Senior Recital, which culminated 3 1/2 years of voice lessons with Betty Ploeger.
"I never really feel as nervous for a performance in music," Schroeder said. "Maybe it's because I prepared well and feel more confident. Nothing can go wrong. It's in my power.
"With music, I know I won't be physically drained. Running helps put that in perspective. Before I ran, I'd get so nervous and it would eat away at me for a long time."
Schroeder sang 11 songs — one of which was in Spanish — in front of an appreciative audience at the Monticello First Presbyterian Church. For five, he had the words memorized. For the others, he held the music.
Most of the pieces were from the era of Old England.
"I only go after pieces that emotionally mean something to me," Schroeder said.
Ploeger accompanied him on the piano though another of her students, Amanda Gingerich, was at the keyboard for some of the pieces.
For a person with a lengthy resume in running, the Senior Recital was an equally significant moment in his teenaged life.
"It makes me proud to know I have more to give than just my running," Schroeder said. "It lets me know I am more than a runner. I can sing the rest of my life. It helps complete me."
Though his competitive — or training — seasons for running extended throughout the entire year, Schroeder made time for the weekly one-hour voice lessons.
"She didn't pay as much attention to time as what we were working on," Schroeder said, "so it could be an hour and a half, or an hour, 45 minutes."
There is a parallel between running and music.
"There's an intrinsic feeling of satisfaction," Schroeder said. "Knowing I did it and did it well makes me feel better than any tangible reward. I like to know I did a job the right way; the way it needs to be done."
When the Schroeder family moved to Monticello, Steve was in middle school. As he coped with being accepted by a peer group that had already-established childhood chums, Schroeder was impressed by one of the older boys at Monticello, 2009 graduate Matt Foran.
"He was one of the few friends who was nice to me," Schroeder said. "He never said anything mean. I respected him a lot."
The kindness was appreciated in the moment but was more important as Schroeder contemplated his career path.
"Matt went to the Naval Academy, and I thought if those are the kind of people there, I'd like it a lot," Schroeder said.
To be sure, he spoke with Foran and learned his first impressions were accurate.
"He put a positive note on it and said it's worth it," Schroeder said. "He helped give me the real story."
For three years, Schroeder set a goal of earning one of the 1,200 yearly appointments (from about 23,000 applicants) to the Annapolis, Md., academy. In late March, Schroeder learned he had been accepted.
In addition to another recent Monticello graduate (Audrey Head), there will be a familiar face when he arrives for a summer plebe program in less than two weeks. Foran will be an upcoming senior.
"Maybe he will be an oasis among all the others," Schroeder said.
He is not stepping into his commitment with blinders. He experienced the intense atmosphere during a summer seminar he attended a year ago at Annapolis.
"It's very disciplined, very busy with a lot to get done," Schroeder said. "It worked well for my personality."
The rules are strict and unrelenting. No cars for freshmen. No cellphones during the six-week summer session. Up early. To bed late. No exceptions.
"I look forward to whatever challenges they throw my way," Schroeder said. "It (the plebe summer program) is an indoctrination period where everything is redone about you. Students learn time management, which is one thing I can work on."
The Navy pays full tuition, room and board, laundry and medical expenses. In exchange, Schroeder will have a minimum five-year commitment after graduating in 2016 as a commissioned officer.
"I plan on spending more than five years in the military," Schroeder said. "Maybe 30 or 40 years."
Freshmen at the Naval Academy do not declare a major. They are encouraged to investigate different areas of study to learn what fits them best.
Schroeder's interests are in the languages, and he'll consider a major in Russian. At Monticello, he studied French and Spanish.
"I love learning about cultures around the world," Schroeder said.
Russian is not a language he speaks, though he said, "off and on, I've been studying the alphabet."
One part of his upcoming experience will not be foreign. Schroeder will run cross-country and track at the Naval Academy.
"I still have goals," he said. "I want to compete in the NCAAs. By the end of my freshman year, I'd like to be running 4:05 in the mile. By the end of my career, I'd like to be sub-14 minutes in the 5,000 (meters) and sub-29 minutes in the 10,000."
Elite athletes are sometimes labeled as prima donnas or as self-centered individuals with only their best interests at heart. In the final week of his prep career, Schroeder showed that stereotypes do not need to be accurate.
Though he helped Monticello's 3,200-meter relay team qualify for state, it wasn't a given he'd join the foursome in the Class 1A finals at Charleston. He was regarded as one of the individual favorites in the 1,600 and 3,200 runs.
"We had a chance to do well in that relay," Schroeder said, "and if we did well, we could bring home a state (team) trophy."
The decision was a no-brainer.
"It's not worth it right now to forgo anyone else for me," Schroeder said.
The 3,200 relay of Tim Easton, Andrew Hanselman, Jesse Galaway and anchor runner Schroeder won the state title by more than three seconds.
"It's a great feeling and it's nice to share that feeling with three other people, friends I know so well," Schroeder said. "That is more priceless than any time or place I could get individually."
Schroeder followed up with an individual title in the 3,200, before finishing as the runner-up in the 1,600. Thanks to the points from the relay, Monticello's team finished third at state to capture the school's first trophy in the sport.
"That's a much better legacy to leave," Schroeder said. "To say what we did as a team."
A look at the winners of N-G boys’ track and field Athlete of the Year:
YEAR NAME SCHOOL
2012 Steve Schroeder Monticello
2011 Brandon Carrel Urbana
2010 Brandon Noe St. Thomas More
2009 Ian Wells Champaign Central
2008 Tyler Carter Tuscola
2007 Aaron Mathis Urbana
2006 Scott Phelps Monticello
2005 Scott Phelps Monticello
Getting to know ... Steve Schroeder
The numbers: Class 1A state champion as a senior for Monticello in the 3,200 meters, Class 1A runner-up in the 1,600 meters, anchor runner on the state championship 3,200 relay, which ran its season’s best time in the 1A finals (8 minutes, 1.08 seconds). Schroeder’s best time in the 1,600 this spring (4:15.48) is fourth on the all-time News-Gazette Area Honor Roll, and his top mark in the 3,200 (9:22.64) is seventh on the all-time Area Honor Roll.
I’m always texting: my teammate Tim Easton.
Favorite teams: Team USA and Oregon Track Club
Favorite college: United States Naval Academy
Favorite sport (to participate): Cross-country
Favorite sport (to watch): Soccer
Favorite movie: “The Dark Knight”
Favorite TV show: “Dexter”
Favorite restaurant: Imo’s Pizza in St. Louis
Favorite car: Anything Volkswagen
Three things on my bucket list: learn to sail, take a cross country trip across Europe on a motorcycle, cuddle a panda
Season highlight: Eating whatever we wanted at Amishland Buffet after the state finals
All-Area Honorable Mention
NAME SCHOOL YR.
Austin Armetta Mahomet-Seymour Sr.
Alex Arteaga St. Joseph-Ogden Sr.
Matt Avenatti G-RF/Chrisman Sr.
Wyatt Avenatti G-RF/Chrisman So.
Cashmere Blissit Champaign Central Jr.
David Briscoe Centennial Sr.
Ian Briscoe Prairie Central Jr.
Jeff Broch Tuscola Sr.
Derek Bunch Mahomet-Seymour Sr.
Dakota Cabbage Prairie Central Jr.
Brandon Carrel Urbana Sr.
Cirron Clark Danville Sr.
Armondo Cortez Arcola Sr.
Chas Cox St. Joseph-Ogden Sr.
Justin Coy Fisher Sr.
Matthew Chupp Mahomet-Seymour Jr.
Adam Crutchley Villa Grove Sr.
Martez Davis Danville Jr.
Alec Dutton Salt Fork Jr.
Tim Easton Monticello Sr.
Kendal Eckert Unity Sr.
Zeke Elkins St. Joseph-Ogden Sr.
Jesse Galaway Monticello So.
Jansin Garth Centennial Sr.
J.J. Gardner Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley Sr.
Sam Gilly St. Joseph-Ogden Sr.
Marshall Graham Mahomet-Seymour Sr.
George Gunter Urbana Uni High So.
Jesse Hahne Schlarman Jr.
Andrew Hanselman Monticello Jr.
Cameron Harvey Sullivan Sr.
Jacob Helfrich St. Thomas More Jr.
Chad Hensley Rantoul Sr.
Nick Hess St. Thomas More So.
Caleb Hummer Danville Fr.
Robbie Irvin Hoopeston Area Sr.
Cole Johnson St. Joseph-Ogden Jr.
Elijah Johnson Mahomet-Seymour Sr.
Micah Johnson Unity Jr.
Nealay Kalita Urbana Uni High Jr.
Alex Kemp Tuscola Sr.
Taylor Kirby Salt Fork So.
Drew Knipfer St. Joseph-Ogden Jr.
Jarred Koerner St. Thomas More Sr.
Austin Kramer Unity Sr.
Michael Lafenhagen Unity Sr.
Johnny Leverenz Danville So.
Cory Long Paxton-Buckley-Loda Sr.
Cale McCormick Mahomet-Seymour Sr.
Brandon Mills Tuscola Jr.
Prince Nimy Champaign Central Sr.
Caleb Parsons Watseka Sr.
Ryan Pearce Villa Grove Jr.
Eric Ponder Tuscola Fr.
Sam Powers St. Thomas More So.
Bryce Powell Ridgeview Sr.
Lucas Prather Mahomet-Seymour Sr.
Garret Risley Mahomet-Seymour Sr.
Joshua Robinson Danville Sr.
Andrew Roney Mahomet-Seymour Jr.
Luke Roush Mahomet-Seymour Sr.
Jonathan Schaap Mahomet-Seymour Jr.
Matthew Schaap Mahomet-Seymour Sr.
Tyler Scott Monticello Jr.
Trent Sherfield Danville So.
Broc Smith Tuscola So.
Forrest Smoes Mahomet-Seymour So.
Stirling Sommer Prairie Central Sr.
Vinny Strack Monticello Jr.
Andy Thompson Paxton-Buckley-Loda Sr.
Pierre Tuell St. Thomas More Sr.
Luke Vaughn Centennial Jr.
Landon Vowels St. Joseph-Ogden Sr.
Jeff Walker Centennial Sr.
Doran Walsten Unity Sr.
Kaleb Weaver Salt Fork Sr.
Daniel Welling Monticello So.
Austin Wenskunas Argenta-Oreana So.
Chris West Tuscola Jr.
Malik Williams Judah Christian Sr.
Scott Woodard Unity Sr.
Nick Woods Westville Jr.
Bradley Wright Champaign Central Sr.
Zaniel Zilewicz Mahomet-Seymour Jr.
Luke Zimmerman Monticello Jr.
N-G Top 10
TEAM (previous) COMMENT
1. Monticello (1) Area Honor Roll Leader in one event
2. St. Joseph-Ogden (2) Area Honor Roll leader in one event
3. Villa Grove (3) Entries in top five of Area Honor Roll in three events
4. Mahomet-Seymour (4) Area Honor Roll leaders in four events
5. Tuscola (5) Area Honor Roll leaders in four events
6. Danville (6) Area Honor Roll leaders in three events
7. Unity (7) Entries in top five of Area Honor Roll in five events
8. Centennial (8) Area Honor Roll leader in one event
9. Paxton-Buckley-Loda (9) Entries in top five of Area Honor Roll in one event
10. Salt Fork (10) Entries in top five of Area Honor Roll in two events