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November 19, 2013

H.S. CROSS COUNTRY: Sophomore Kotowski earns Runner of the Year honor again

Award reflection on Kotowski, team efforts

FLOYDS KNOBS — In her second straight “Runner of the Year” season, Floyd Central sophomore Lydia Kotowski’s times and places look similar to her freshman year.

Her experience was not.

Kotowski finished third in the sectional in each of the past two seasons. Her time was only six seconds different. She finished fourth in the regional as a freshman and was runner-up as a sophomore. Her time as a freshman was actually faster.

Kotowski crossed the line in ninth at the Brown County Semistate as a freshman. She was eighth this past season. She was 71st at the state meet last year and 69th this year.

Ask Kotowski which season was more enjoyable and it’s not even close. This year — as opposed to last year — Kotowski’s teammates joined her at the IHSAA State Finals in Terre Haute.

“It made all the difference in the world,” she said. “Last year was a pretty lonely trip. This year was so much fun.”

“It meant everything to her this year,” Highlander coach Carl Hook said. “It was fun for her going last year — and it was good for her. But once she got up there, she realized it was a little tough without her teammates. The state meet is extremely intimidating for a first timer.”

The week between the semistate and the state meet also provided an opportunity for Kotowski to become a team leader. After the Indiana Runner website labeled the Highlanders “happy to be there,” Kotowski spoke to the team and refocused it on optimum performance at Terre Haute. Floyd finished 19th.

“I think that provided an edge. It was great that we made it [to state], but that wasn’t all there was to it,” Kotowski said. “We decided that we were all going to leave it on the course. Everyone gave it their all. There was a difference between having the team mentality and not just an individual one.”

“They were focused on going really hard up there. They weren’t just happy to be there,” Hook added. “She wanted everyone to run a good race, and she took that on. Her having been there last year helped everybody.”

It wasn’t the easiest season for Kotowski. Repeating as “Runner of the Year” was no sure thing.

During her freshman track and field season, she began having breathing problems. During the summer, she was diagnosed with a vocal chord ailment that flairs up during certain weather conditions and around certain allergens.

At the sectional, Kotowski hung with eventual champion Ashton Bosler of North Harrison for more than half of the Crawford County course. However, late in the race, she fell far behind Bosler and was even passed by teammate Kassidy Manning.

The “vocal chord dysfunction” — and an additional hip injury — put Kotowski’s honor in question.

“I’ve worked on getting it out of my mind while I’m running,” she said. “I can do different breathing exercises to control it. Other than sectional, it really didn’t affect me.”

Kotowski was able to put it behind her and improve her time from sectional to regional by 34 seconds on the same course. Then at the Brown County Semistate, she went another 43 seconds faster than at regional.

“I definitely felt I had something to prove,” she said. “I felt I owed my team to run better than the sectional.”

With their top five runners returning and a talented freshman class coming in, Kotowski expects to be joined by her teammates at the state meet again next year and the year after that.

“We definitely think we can,” she said “At our postseason talk, we all agreed that we need to take another step next year. We really have big hopes and expectations for next year.”

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