STRASBURG — Rachel Tischler took the momentum she had in cross country and ran with it — literally.
The Strasburg track athlete and cross country runner had by far her best cross country season of her career, finishing 11th in the Group 2A state cross country meet. The senior could have took it easy in the winter, but instead she trained harder than ever in the winter and it showed in track season.
“It made me realize that I could do more and be a more competitive runner than I had been in the past,” Tischler said of her cross country success. “I got that competitive bug and I was ready to get in there and do something. I kept training. I got out there in the cold weather. It wasn’t always fun, sometimes it was really terrible, but I kept up my training and it really helped out in track season.”
Tischler, the Northern Virginia Daily’s 2015 Girls Track Athlete of the Year, followed up her all-state cross country season by making all state in two events in track — the 1,600 and the 3,200.
She placed second in the 3,200 and third in the 1,600.
Tischler started off her season strong, finishing second in the Handley Invitational.
Two weeks later in the Apple Blossom Invitational on April 25 at James Wood, she placed second in the 3,200 (11:33.25) again against athletes from larger schools. She lost the race by only a second.
“I was racing against 4A and 5A competitors and it was kind of fun,” Tischler said. “They knew I was 2A and I felt really proud of myself that I was able to keep up with them and actually beat a 5A competitor.”
Once the postseason came, Tischler’s success continued.
In the Region 2A East meet, Tischler won the 3,200 in a time of 11:44.52, and placed third in the 1,600. Last year Tischler barely qualified for regionals and didn’t advance to states, and she said she’s very happy with how far she’s come in a year.
“Sometimes I have to pinch myself. ‘Wow, am I really here? Am I really doing this?'” Tischler said. “I never would have thought that I would be where I am now and it’s just more motivation to keep doing what I’m doing in whatever endeavor that I pick up after this.”
In the Group 2A state track meet, Tischler finished third in the 1,600 in a time of 5:33.33. Tischler said the one-mile race isn’t her strong point, and she was very pleased to finish in the top three.
Tischler prefers the longer races, and she knew going into the 3,200 the competition would be tough. Maggie Walker’s Khloe Pointer was the cross country Group 2A state champion and the top seed in the 3,200. Tischler stuck with her throughout the race, finishing just six seconds behind Pointer for second in a time of 11:33.73.
“It was a hard race, but I feel very happy with it,” Tischler said. “I wasn’t able to get the times that I exactly wanted to, but you have to take it day by day and I can’t complain with the results. It was all great.”
Tischler said she ran a 12:30 in her first 3,200 of the season, and she knocked more than a minute off her time with her PR.
She said coming into the season her main goals were just to qualify for states, and she’s very happy that she was able to achieve that and experience the state meet. She said that the biggest difference from past years to this year was belief and having that competitiveness.
“I think it was just the competitive edge,” Tischler said. “In years previous it was just my own personal self going out there and getting the times that I was trying for and now it’s really competing against other people that are top-notch in their own community.”
Strasburg cross country coach and track distance coach Jeff Rudy said Tischler is a great example for all runners and athletes.
“Rachel shows other athletes that hard work pays off. It took Rachel years to get to her outstanding running performances her senior year,” Rudy said. “Patience. Consistency. Hard work. Those are the attributes of a true athlete. … Ultimately, the message that Rachel Tischler — with all her medals, trophies, and accolades — says to people that if she can do it, you can too. If you are patient with your training, if you work hard day after day, and if you want it bad enough — and Rachel did.”
Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org