LODI — The secret to Mackenzie Heyroth’s success this track and field season is tied to her dedication to those hidden minutes — and hours — spent lifting weights and working out during the dead of winter.
The senior regularly braved the frigid weather for extended runs through the streets of Lodi this past winter, trying to increase her strength and endurance. She worked on her sprinting when temperatures occasionally warmed into the 40s.
“Wisconsin weather is the way it is and the season is so short,” Heyroth said. “It’s really important to prepare yourself before the season and get in really good shape. So, all winter, I was training outside, running outside. I think that was a huge step.”
Preparation plus talent have paid dividends for the versatile Heyroth, who’s committed to the University of Wisconsin for track, where she’s expected to be a hurdler.
“She is a quick learner and very meticulous in everything she does,” said Randy Skellenger, in his 17th year as Lodi’s track and field coach. “She’s very smart and executes and follows through on instructions. She’s very good with the fine details, not only with her training, but with nutrition and injury prevention.”
Heyroth entered the week ranked first in Division 2 in the 100-meter high hurdles (14.74 seconds, which was a hand-held time last month in Marshall); first in the 300 hurdles (:44.95 Saturday at Hartland Arrowhead’s Myrhum Invitational; first as part of the Blue Devils’ 1,600 relay (4:03.66); and third in the long jump (17 feet, 9 inches), according to the state girls track and field honor roll compiled by Dave Figi.
The 300 hurdles time was a personal-best by a full second, Heyroth said.
“That was good for me to see,” she said, adding with a laugh, “Suffering through the winter paid off.”
Time goals are her focus, with the Capitol Conference meet approaching Tuesday.
“I don’t like saying, ‘I want to be state champion,’ because I can’t control that, really,” she said. “I like just focusing on my own race, my own training and I like focusing on some specific times I personally want to get. And, hopefully, if I reach the goals I want to get, then things will fall into place.”
Heyroth, who started in track during her middle-school years, comes from an athletic family of four siblings.
That includes older brother Jacob Heyroth, a redshirt freshman in 2018 on the UW football team who was The Associated Press player of the year while leading Lodi to the 2017 WIAA Division 4 state football title.
Her younger brother, Lodi freshman Lucas Heyroth, won the long jump in 22-1¾ and 110 hurdles in :14.94 on Saturday and has become top-ranked in Division 2 in those events, said Skellenger, adding other longtime coaches told him the 110-hurdle time might be the fastest by a freshman in state history (state records only can be set at the state meet).
“It definitely is in the genes,” Skellenger said. “At the same time, there is the dedication. You have parents (Tom and Tracy) who are willing to support you and give you the resources that you need to be successful. That is half the battle. … It’s a combination of the talent and the gift.”
Mackenzie Heyroth has reached lofty spots on Lodi’s all-time record list, including No. 1 program rankings in the two hurdles events and 1,600 relay — then-juniors Heyroth, Hannah Busser, Isabelle Clary and Rhianna Walzer ran a 4:02.33 last season.
That relay — comprised of girls who’ve known each other since kindergarten and first ran as a relay in eighth grade, Heyroth said — wound up fifth at the WIAA Division 2 state meet in La Crosse last June.
“It’s really nice being able to stick with the same team all these years and to have the team aspect,” Heyroth said. “We have the same goals and we all want the same goal.”
Individually, Heyroth placed second in the 100 hurdles, fourth in the 300 hurdles and 11th in the long jump at last year’s Division 2 state meet.
That after a strong sophomore season, in which she qualified in four events at regionals, was undermined by an illness just prior to sectionals. That hampered her long-jump effort and prevented her from competing in the hurdles and the 1,600 relay at the sectional meet. The next week she was added to the relay, which finished sixth at state (with a different lineup than last year’s relay).
“She rebounded very well her junior year. I think she took her training to another level as a junior,” Skellenger said.
“It really made me come back for my junior year and take everything a little bit more seriously, train harder and get myself more prepared for everything,” Heyroth said.
She raised that training to another level this spring. She has continued to refine her hurdles technique working with Lodi hurdles coach Kelly Hatch. Heyroth also said she texts about hurdling with Hatch’s son Robby, a UW track athlete who won the 110 and 300 hurdles last year in leading the Lodi boys to a second-place finish in Division 2 at state.
“(The 300 hurdles) does seem difficult, but I’ve gotten to the point where I know it will be my best event,” Heyroth said. “I don’t want to call it a love-hate thing, but it kind of is because I do enjoy doing it. I really want to improve in it, and I want to be really good in that event.”