By GREG MENGELT
FLOYDS KNOBS —
Until her eighth-grade year, Floyd Central’s Lydia Kotowski had never run cross country.
Kotowski’s mother — Vicki Montgomery — had to convince her that running could be fun.
Many area runners probably wish she never had.
As a freshman this season, Kotowski was the only area runner to make the state meet at Terre Haute, earning her the News and Tribune Runner of the Year honor.
“Ever since I was little, my mom has been urging me to go run,” Kotowski said of her mother. “I decided to humor her and go run and I turned out to be a little good at it. She’s constantly saying ‘I told you so.’”
When Kotowski showed up at Highlander practice in June, Floyd Central coach Carl Hook didn’t know who she was.
After a ninth-place finish in a time of 18:58 and a spot in the IHSAA State Finals, Kotowski already goes down as one of the fastest Highlanders in history.
“You could tell that first day that she was a special runner,” Hook said.
Kotowski went on to finish 71st at state. She was the 10th-highest finishing freshman in the entire state.
“It was incredible and very humbling,” Kotowski said of the state meet. “I had a chance to run with some of the best people in the state, people who are going to have a future in running, and it really was very humbling.”
Now Kotowski moves on to swimming, a sport she has done all of her life. Being a swimmer is one of the reasons Hook believes Kotowski was so strong cardiovascularly.
For most of the season, she ran and swam every day. Once Hook told her to stop swimming daily, Kotowski took off. Her best time jumped by a full minute in finishing fourth at the Brown County Regional.
“Once she [stopped swimming], she took off,” Hook said. “She really started running fast.”
Kotowski said the improvement was more mental than physical.
“It really helped me focus on cross country,” she said. “It maybe helped a little physically, but especially mentally.”
Hook said he believes it takes a runner more than a full year in competitive running to reach his or her potential. That’s why he believes the sky’s the limit for Kotowski.
“In all my years, I tell everybody that it takes a year of hard training before you see your best results,” he said. “We’re really excited about what she can do. We should see some fantastic results next season.”
When she was informed that she was the Runner of the Year, all Kotowski wanted to talk about was her team and her teammates, who all showed up to watch her run in the state finals.
“The whole team is really close,” she said. “I think anyone on the team could have gotten the honor and everyone would have been happy for her. It was amazing to be part of such a team. That’s what matters at the end of the day, what the team accomplishes together.”
Lydia Kotowski, Floyd Central — Runner of the Year
Sadie Spears, Henryville
Alyssa Moore, Floyd Central
Phoebe Bauer, New Albany
Maggie Shields, Silver Creek
Brittany Sharp, Silver Creek
Madison Barney, Floyd Central
Jamie Bierman, Floyd Central
Zoey Doebbler, Floyd Central
Jessica Backherms, Silver Creek
Mackenzie Crouch, Silver Creek
Kori Siebert, Providence
Erin Denis, Providence
Bailey Knable, New Albany
Coach of the Year
Darrell Kingery, Silver Creek