By Matt Pothast
Olivia Stenzel answered the question simply, without elaboration.
“Ever since I was little I just liked to run,” the Sevastopol High School sophomore said. “I started running in sixth grade.”
Four years later, Stenzel has made impressive statements with her running results, if not with her responses to questions about her high school cross country and track and field careers.
Stenzel placed 20th at the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association girls cross country meet Oct. 27, covering the 5-kilometer race at Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids in a time of 20:16, a step up from 2017 finish of 20:27.
“She’s definitely low key,” Sevastopol coach Chris Horvat said. “She’s never cocky and she never assumes she is going to win.”
Ironically, winning races is something that Stenzel has grown quite accustomed to by now.
Her state meet performance followed a Packerland Conference title with a time of 20:27 and a Manitowoc Sectional title with a time of 20:42. Stenzel won the conference title and sectional title her freshman year with times of 19:43 and 20:43, respectively.
As if those performances aren’t enough to elicit at least a little bit of excessive self-confidence, Stenzel was a member of Sevastopol’s 4×800-meter relay team that finished third in the state track meet last spring, and she placed ninth in the 1,600-meter run with an impressive time of 5:25.
“Last year I didn’t expect there to be so many people and it was almost overwhelming,” Stenzel said of the state cross country meet. “But it made this year a little easier because I knew what to expect. I would have liked to have placed better. I really slowed down my last mile.”
Horvat said the course in Wisconsin Rapids poses great challenges, even to runners of Stenzel’s caliber. The course offers short hills throughout the first two miles, but the last mile consists of long, gradual inclines.
Horvat said Stenzel’s stellar performances haven’t come by accident.
“The most important factor is the work she puts in over the summer,” he said. “Obviously she gets the miles in but she also participates in a strength program and is physically active in her free time as well. She is a wonderful teammate, a quiet leader, friendly and sets a good example with her work ethic.
“If I could change one thing it would be to impress upon her how talented she really is and the importance of developing that talent. Because, really, she has only ever known winning. For her it’s the norm. I just want her to be aware of the great opportunity she has to be a dominant runner in the state.”
Stenzel said she plans on hitting the weight room this winter and logging a lot of miles in preparation for the upcoming track season.
“First, I just want to qualify for state,” she said. “My ultimate goal is to win state in this upcoming track season, but it will take a lot of work. I’m really looking forward to our 4×800 [relay].”
When asked about her outlook for cross country in 2019, Stenzel was equally diminutive.
“I really want to place at my next cross country state,” said Stenzel, who has a 3.95 grade point average. “Also, I want to get under 20 minutes for the 5k.”