Just like so many young girls in the Park Cities, Maddy Stephens admired the runners on the Highland Park cross country and track teams, hoping to one day join their ranks.
(ABOVE: Maddy Stephens will pursue another medal at the state meet this spring. Photos by Chris McGathey)
As it turns out, Stephens not only fulfilled that goal but has surpassed the achievements of almost all of those athletes she grew up idolizing.
Stephens, who already has signed a college scholarship to run at Texas, is hoping to cap a decorated high school career with another trip to the Class 5A state meet this spring. She won a silver medal in the 800 meters last year.
“She’s very motivated. When she puts her mind to something, she’s usually successful,” said HP head coach Susan Bailey. “That brings out the best in her.”
Her father ran marathons, which first introduced Stephens to the sport. She started jogging with him, then transitioned to racing in fifth-grade, when she joined a club team at Norbuck Park.
“When she puts her mind to something, she’s usually successful.” -Susan Bailey
She enjoyed cross country more at first, but now prefers the track, where she was a 1,600-meter specialist until her freshman year. That’s when an injury interrupted her training and forced her to change course.
“If you have a little bit of speed to go with your endurance, you can be an 800 runner,” Bailey said. “We’ve been very fortunate to have some great 800 kids come through here.”
In addition to joining that tradition of half-milers, Stephens also will add to a recent pipeline of HP middle-distance runners to join the Longhorns — following in the footsteps of Jenna Read, Mary Beth Hamilton, and Gabby Crank.
While her most noteworthy results have come in the spring, Stephens also was part of an HP squad that reached the state meet in cross country last fall.
“Running cross country enables me to do the 800, because then in track I can focus on my speed,” she said. “I think they help each other so much.”
Stephens hopes to lower her time in her best event this spring to under 2 minutes, 10 seconds, which would be a new personal best. It also would best the time of the only runner to beat Stephens at last year’s state meet.
Meanwhile, versatility and work ethic allow Bailey to enter Stephens in a variety of events, including relays. It fits with the team-first philosophy that Stephens has embraced.
“In fifth-grade, I was so excited just to be a part of this team hopefully in the future,” she said. “Now I can see how important it is to be a leader and a role model. I’m proud to be a part of that legacy.”