Grace Siehler turned in some good performances during the 2017 cross country season. The then-South Carroll freshman ran well in some big races, and was ready for more success as a sophomore.
But while training in the summer of 2018, she began to feel pain in her left foot. Siehler had dealt with tendinitis before and assumed this was the problem and kept on running. When the pain did not subside, she went to a doctor in September and received the bad news — stress fracture and a cast on the foot, and the sophomore was shut down for the season.
Siehler recovered fast enough to run indoor and outdoor track while battling an iron deficiency and hadn’t recovered all the way. She then put in a large amount of work this past summer which led to a season filled with success this fall, and it’s why she’s the Times Runner of the Year.
“It was extremely hard to [miss last season],” Siehler said. “My freshman year in track is when I developed a really strong passion for running ... and last summer I knew that I wanted to take things to the next level.”
Siehler said she spent time at a Colorado running camp that proved beneficial in a variety of ways.
“I took away a lot of training tips and just a better philosophy on training,” she said. “I’d say the advice and lectures we had [helped also].”
She came back home and trained for another month and used her new knowledge to try and stay healthy. The foot felt good, but Siehler made an interesting decision. She said she did not wear spikes while racing, instead sticking with basic running shoes to lessen the pressure on her feet.
The move worked well as Siehler started winning races. She won the Brunswick and Hood College invitationals early in the season, and that was just the start of things.
Siehler then took second at the tough Bull Run Invitational and took first at a meet with Manchester Valley, Liberty, and Century. After that came victories at the Crossfire Invite, the Westminster Invite, and the Frank Keyser Invitational. She then won the Carroll County title meet — by 35.1 seconds — and captured the Class 2A West Region meet by 34.5 seconds.
Then came the Class 2A state championship meet at the always-tough Hereford course. Siehler led for much of the race before Middletown’s Erin McQuitty took off on a late sprint to pass her and win in 19:06.75. Kathryn Hopkins of Winters Mill was second (19:12.20) with Siehler right behind at 19:12.37.
“I had trained [for] hills so hard this season, and I was feeling pretty confident about it,” Siehler said. “[McQuitty] had a phenomenal race. It is what it is.”
Joseph Murray took over as the cross country coach at South Carroll this season and was delighted by what Siehler did after missing an entire season and also battling a stress fracture in her foot and the iron problem.
When asked what words he’d use to describe what Siehler pulled off this season, Murray simply laughed.
“For her to do what she did was incredible and unbelievable,” Murray said. “She’s the kind of kid who basically polices herself. She keeps herself in line.”
As for now, the foot feels fine, and what Siehler did in cross country should help get her rolling into indoor track this winter. She hasn’t decided what to be running in yet although it’s likely going to involve middle and longer distances.
But Siehler won’t let the state title loss pull her down. She made a triumphant return after missing an entire season and going through some tough physical issues. Yes, the 2019 cross country season was one she definitely enjoyed.
“I’m happy with it,” she said. “I definitely was. I think it’s going to be like a great [transition] into track.”