Macy Schulte just finished her first year at Texas Tech where she spent a huge portion of her time running track for the Lady Raiders. I recently asked the young trackster to sit down and tell me all about it so that I could share her story with those young people and their parents who are considering doing the same thing.
Macy graduated from Comanche High School in 2013, and she was, of course, a standout when it came to high school track. As a junior, she was the 2-A state champ in the mile and the 5th place winner of the 2-mile. Her senior year, Macy was 3rd in the state in cross country, 3rd in the mile, and 4th in the 2-mile. Obviously, the girl knows how to run, right? However, as it turned out, her story is much more convoluted than even I realized.
My plan was to use Macy to back up all of the things that I have been telling high school students for years about collegiate athletics, and we will get to that part of the story, but first, Macy walked me back through her days at CHS where she had problems that I would never have guessed.
While tears pooled in a pair of very serious eyes, Macy explained that her high school success came with a very large price tag attached to it.
“I was bullied unbelievably in high school because not everyone was a supporter of what I was doing, girl or boy. The girls were the worst, but the boys made a lot of comments after I won state. The big circle of friends that I once had finally became just two or three. I was so unhappy that many days I thought about changing schools. It was that bad.”
Macy gives a lot of credit to teacher Sarah Phillips for helping her get through what she feels were some pretty horrible days. The depression that went along with the loss of friends followed Macy to college where someone was smart enough to read between the lines.
“We had to fill out all of these papers, telling all kinds of things about ourselves. I had no idea that depression was something that they were looking for or that it could be seen in my answers. I was called into a counselor’s office where I just broke down in tears when she began to question me. I told her that I didn’t really have any friends and that I didn’t know if I could stay in college if that was the way it was going to be.
“That counselor really helped me so much. I met with her a few times, and everything began to turn around for me.”
Today, one year later, Macy is once again that beautiful young girl with the big smile on her face, and she’s learned what most of us also had to learn…very few high school friendships are lasting friendships anyway. And with all of that out of the way, we were free to talk about running track in college.
“Was it worth it? Would you do it again if you could start over?”
The very, very long pause that followed my questions was exactly what I was expecting. To get her started, I finally asked, “Does it feel like a business?”
“That’s it exactly It is just like a business, and it is to be taken very seriously. It’s fun to travel and see things, but if you’re not producing the results the coaches expect, you’ll be cut in a heartbeat…low grades or bad practices and you are released…period.
“The only days we get off are Sundays, and are we ever thankful for Sundays!”
Of course, you want to know how much she has to run every week, right? Since Macy is a distance runner, her season is very, very long. She starts with cross country in August and that season doesn’t end until Thanksgiving.
“If we are not traveling to a meet on Saturdays, we will run 14-16 miles on that day. The norm is for us to run anywhere from 60 to 80 miles each week during cross country season.
“Cross country season is terribly demanding, and it is just so hard that there were a few times that after class I would go back to my room and cry. I really thought about transferring to a smaller school because I just didn’t think that I could do it. My parents were very supportive, but they wanted me to make it through the first year before I made a decision like that.
“There were quite a few times I wanted to quit, but I just didn’t want to be a quitter… so I stayed.”
Then, after cross country season, comes Thanksgiving break, but the track girls only get 3 days off instead of the week that everyone else gets because track season begins right after Thanksgiving. Macy is considered a mid-distance runner during the regular track season, which she runs both during the indoor season and the outdoor season.
The indoor season begins right after Thanksgiving, and the outdoor season begins about March 1 and finishes at the end of May. During both of these seasons, Macy’s customary races are the 800 and the mile. And if you’ve stayed with me, you understand now that a college track season lasts the entire college year, right?
And then, I asked my question again. “So….would you do it over again….???”
She took a deep breath and thought before answering.
“I would, but maybe not at a Big 12 school. There is just so much pressure involved….lots of pressure. I, of course, have no life at all outside track and school. I get up at 5:40 (I’m out right here!) 6 days a week, get to the track and begin workout at 6:00. I finish workout at 8:00 and get cleaned up to be in class by 9:00. I’m in classes all day until 3:00, and then it’s time for afternoon workout. After that, I study until I go to bed at 9:00.”
And not included in this schedule are the multitude of team meetings and the flying time that it takes to get to meets. It also does not include trying to makeup for missed classes and work while competing in a meet.
“We have academic advisors for each sport, but when we miss class, we are on our own to get the notes, etc. from what we missed. It’s just your loss if you can’t get the notes so that is really hard. It’s also really hard to stay awake in class on my crazy schedule.”
And diet? You do know that all athletes are put on some type of nutritional guidance, right? Willow thin Macy is no different.
“Our diet is determined by a nutritionist. We eat NO junk food, NO sodas, and very little protein. Never do we eat steak, but we can have fish sometimes, but basically we eat fruits and vegetables and carbs like those in pasta. This is because they do not want us to develop muscles since we are distance runners.
“We do have cheat times like after a meet in the airport and on Sundays, but basically, we live on this diet.”
And since they compete all over the country, I had to ask about the weather.
“That can be tough, especially during outdoor track season. For instance, our regional meet was in Utah, and the coach knew it would be about 20 degrees when we ran. He called us in and told us that (since it was in the 20s in Lubbock) we were to report to practice in our sports bras and spandex and the boys in shorts and a thin, short sleeve shirt so that we could get used to running like that.
“I was pretty much crying, I was so cold, but I made it!”
Believe it or not, when I asked her if she felt that this was extreme or “too hard,” she answered in the negative.
“There are only two of us from small schools who are running at Tech. The others are from large 4-A and 5-A schools, and we have had to work unbelievably hard to catch up. My high school track program just wasn’t hard enough to prepare me for college. The kids from the large schools tell us that this was the way their high school practice was, and they don’t understand why the college workouts are so much more difficult for us.
“We’ve also both fought injuries, and think that was part of it. If a school wants to produce college athletes, it has to work harder, push harder, and do more actual coaching. What we did in high school just wasn’t enough. Luckily, I knew some of this, and I did a lot of working out on my own…above what was asked of me in my regular high school workouts.”
And yet…all the shoulda, coulda, woulda aside, Macy Schulte made it through her first year as a Texas Tech Red Raider, and she is now back in Comanche, Texas as a full-fledged college sophomore!
“I have never been so happy to be in Comanche in my life! It’s so nice to be in a small town with no traffic, and it is so relaxing here…” she trailed off as she saw me smile.
“Okay, my senior year I was so ready to leave and get out of here, but I really did miss it,” she admitted with a grin.
“What about summer workouts,” I asked.
“Well, we get about a month off, and then the coach will start sending our workouts to us. Basically, we will start by running for an hour, and then he will build us back to two hours. That will be about 14 miles each day. This is to get us back into cross country shape because it will be starting in August.”
I was about to end with one more question, when we both remembered to discuss social media, something that so many high school kids just don’t get. At least they don’t get that social media can ruin their lives and end certain choices before they even get them.
“Our social media accounts are monitored 24/7. If we post a photo of someone kissing, someone partying, someone with beer or drugs, we are in trouble. We will be told to get it down immediately and we might have to sit out a performance. If we don’t get it down, we can be suspended for the entire season, and we can lose our scholarships. If we were to be guilty a second time, it would be all over for us for sure.
“Of course, should we fail a drug test, we would also lose our scholarships. Drug tests are pretty humiliating because someone stands and watches you give the sample. I actually cried because I was so embarrassed.”
And then I asked the same question for a final time, “Would you do it all again?”
Macy took an even longer time to answer me.
“I would, but if I could rewind time and take it back, I would go to a smaller school because I think the stress and the demand would be less, but I do love the other runners that I run with…” she trailed off for a moment.
“I went in being used to being number one, and I got to Tech had to compete for my spot…Instead of being number one, I’m working very, very hard to stay number three or four. BUT…I love my teammates…
“There is also the pressure to keep my scholarship because I can’t fail and keep it…but the travelling for cross country was really fun, meeting and seeing different people, and I’ve learned that there is nothing like that Texas generosity, manners, etc. I appreciate Texas so much more now that I’ve traveled to so many other states.
“Being in the Big 12 is fun because we get so much attention, so much new gear, and running cross country and track in college is really appreciated and fans LOVE it. Everywhere we travel we meet people who want to help us, meet us, and they actually care about what we are doing…so different from high school.
“But we also really have to keep a balance between track and school, and that is all there is to my life right now. Anyone thinking about college sports has to decide exactly what he wants out of college. If he has plans to use college as a time to party, then he won’t be an athlete. There just isn’t that kind of time.”
And I don’t know about you, but to me it sounds as if the young girl who headed off to college last year has come back a grown up, and isn’t that balancing act that she speaks of here the same one that you and I deal with every single day?
I love my spouse, BUT….it is stressful trying to….
I adore my children, BUT…there’s just no time to….
I want to climb the ladder with my career, BUT…..
Would you do it all again?
And such is life. :)
And, Macy being Macy, went home and spent a day thinking about my question as to whether she would do it all again or not. After thinking about it very hard, she came up with her final, final answer.
“I’ve actually thought about it and this is my answer: I WOULD do it over. No matter how hard it can be sometimes, I would. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. God opened those doors for me to be able to run at Tech, and I chose it. I would do it over!”