Like most athletes around the globe, Bishop Dwenger senior Erin Strzelecki can't compete right now. But she did get a victory Friday when the Indiana Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches announced that she is 2019's Indiana Miss Cross Country.
The award is typically announced at the Hoosier State Relays, which were scheduled for last Saturday, but the meet was canceled due to the spread of the coronavirus.
Gabriel Sanchez of Lowell was named Mr. Cross Country.
“I'm just really thankful for how my team has helped me get to this spot, where I'm at right now,” Strzelecki said. “It is a little bit of a bummer that we don't, unfortunately, have track anymore this season because we can't go back to school because of COVID-19. But I've just been so thankful for how they have always supported me throughout this entire process.”
Strzelecki's coach, Thomas Crum, said he already knew that she had won the award, and not just because she claimed the state title by 21.6 seconds in November. Crum is the association's treasurer and was tipped off when he saw her name on the bill for the plaques awarded to the winners.
“I saw her name and I was like, 'What's this for? Oh, that's what this is for,' ” Crum said. “I think we all kind of knew who it was going to be. It was pretty obvious, it wasn't a shock. Usually the state champ wins that award.”
Strzelecki was previously named the Gatorade Runner of the Year in the wake of winning the 2019 state title. She told her coach that she felt like she was in the best shape of her life heading into the 2020 track season, and though the spring season has been canceled in Indiana. there is still an outside chance that the outdoor national championships will be held over the summer.
And with that in mind, Strzelecki is still training as if she will be racing again before too long.
“Right now, I'm still training according to my high school coaches,” Strzelecki said. “I've been in contact with Coach (Matt) Sparks, the head coach of Notre Dame track and cross country, and one of my questions is, 'What now? What do you want me to do now?' Because I'm not in high school season, honestly, because we don't have any more track meets.
“Basically, I could be training how their training schedule is right now, to have the upper-hand and be a little bit more prepared heading into cross country season. ... Of course, I love my coaches still at the high school level, and I respect how they train me. I want to have a nice balance.”
Strzelecki started the spring aiming to break the Indiana girls 3,200-meter record of 10:11.20, set by Mishawaka's Anna Rohrer at the 2015 state championship (Strzelecki took third in 10:35.63 last year). She won't get the chance now, but Strzelecki said it would still be nice to see if she could.
“I can always train to get to that level. ... I've been consistently practicing in my neighborhood, going to tracks around town,” Strzelecki said. “Even though it won't be official, I think I could break that record.
“I'd love to just hop on a track one day and say, 'Today is race day. I'm going to go for it and see how I feel.' And if I don't break it, I can try again in a few weeks.”