PEORIA – Mailin Struck arrived at Riverside Brookfield as a foreign exchange student from Germany this fall and gave the Bulldogs’ girls cross country team an elite runner. In return, the Bulldogs gave her the team atmosphere she desired.
Struck won the Class 2A state race on Saturday at Peoria’s Detweiller Park with a time of 16:35 that matched the fastest time across all three classes. She won the state’s biggest race by 29 seconds. The Bulldogs took 19th.
Her influence on the team helped the other Bulldog runners as well. Senior Sarah Melone placed 40th, which would have been the best finish for an RB runner in recent years.
“I think my team would not nearly have been as fast or as successful had it not been for her,” RB girls cross country coach Kristi Sterling said of Struck. “Having her around opened their eyes to what needs to be done to be an elite runner.”
Seeing people line the course in Peoria was something new to Struck, as well. She was used to running on tracks in Germany. Distance races would take place at the end of meets and she joked that most people would leave by the time she ran.
“I’ve never seen so many people coming for a race,” Struck said. “It was a good experience to have so many people around you while you run.”
Having crowds of people at races wasn’t the only thing new to Struck since coming from abroad. Training in miles instead of kilometers and other metric conversions still confuse her.
Struck has kept in touch with her trainer in Germany and her training habits and work ethic spread around the team and helped runners like Melone reach new heights. Melone broke her own personal record at state and credited Struck with helping her run faster.
“She’s such an elite runner that definitely running with her has made my season even better,” Melone said.
Even with state behind them, Struck is training with Melone and Clare Bollnow in preparation for the Midwest regional of the Foot Looker Cross Country Championships Nov. 30 at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha, Wis.
Training for the Midwest regional gives seniors Melone and Bollnow one more race to run while giving Struck training partners. Struck quickly latched onto the team concept once she joined RB’s squad.
“In Germany I have a training partner but I feel like cross country is more about the teams instead of the individual,” Struck said. “I really like that. It’s kind of a new experience.”
RB runners at state: Mailin Struck 1st Sarah Melone 40th Clare Bollnow 106th Meaghan Dorsey 163rd Deanna Keen 190th Amy Wagner 192nd April Flores 210th