Alexandra Schadler entered her first season of high school cross country hopeful, yet somewhat guarded about how she would perform.
It took a liltle more than a month of regular-season competition for the Rio Rico freshman to up the ante on a goal set while training back in the summer.
"At the beginning of the year my goal was to be in the top five at state," Schadler said. "When I ran well at (Doug) Conley and Desert Twilight, I decided my goal had changed. Now I think I can win (state)."
An inkling of what was to come came at Rio Rico's first meet of the season -- the Chandler Invitational. The Chandler Invite format isn't like most invitationals. It's broken down to freshman, sophomore, junior and senior races. Schadler posted a winning time that day in the freshman race of 19 minutes, 50 seconds. Only four runners turned in better times that day -- two seniors and two juniors who will race in the D-I or D-II state meets.
Schadler, who is coached currenlty by her father, Steve, and previous seasons in middle school by her other, Toni Anne, is very unassuming. She gave the preseason nod to upper classmen from competing schools -- a show of respect. She still has that respect, but after competing head to head with many of the state's very best regardless of division, she has evidence to back up her new-found goal.
"I thought I could be one of the best freshmen," Alexandra Schadler said. "I knew I would be going against really good seniors and juniors. After running in some tough meets I've found I can do well on different courses. I found I was good running hills (Conley) and the toughest was Twilight which was such a fast race."
Steve Schadler, who has coached championship teams at Rio Rico, saw the light come on for his daughter on a late September morning at the Doug Conley Invitational.
"Conley was an eye-opener," Steve Schadler said. "I knew she was strong and she was able to finish fast there. I saw she was in third place with about 600 meters left, but I didn't see the end of the race. I didn't know where she finished at the end. One of the other coaches told me a Rio Rico runner won."
Alexandra Schadler made her move to the top at Conley in the final 300 meter, outracing Highland's Lauren Ellsworth to the finish. Three of her top competitors at the D-III state meet in three weeks ran at Conley -- Tuba City senior Brianna Loughran, Ganado sophomore Nikesha Eagleman and Page sophomore Lara Yazzie. At Conley, Schadler's time was 33 seconds faster than Loughran and more than a minute faster than Eagleman and Yazzie. It was just one race, but gives an indication how good Schadler is and is fast becoming.
"My goal is to to see her be competitive and do well," Steve Schadler said. "I'm excited to see the level she's ascended to so quickly. What's been most pleasing is she's run very poised and complete races."
Choosing running wasn't a sure thing for Alexandra. Even though her parents were accomplished runners and competed collegiately, both encouraged her to try different sports as a pre-teen. She dabbled in soccer, basketball, swimming and track/cross country. Swimming proved to be a finalist at the end, but running won out.
"I found I was better at running than anything else," Alexandra Schadler said. "I think maybe all along I had a feeling I'd pick running."
A wise choice for Alexandra. Perhaps not for her competition.