Boys' Track Athlete of Year: Schroeder's a real goal-getter

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."

Roll call
A look at the winners of N-G boys’ track and field Athlete of the Year:
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
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