When Wauwatosa East sophomore Natalie Schudrowitz decided to give up soccer and join the track and field team, Red Raiders coach Nancy Braidigan had no idea the impact it would have on the team.
When Schudrowitz talked to Braidigan about coming out, they discussed the possibility of playing both sports, which had been done before by Jordy Schmidt last season. But as the season got closer, Schudrowitz decided to make the switch to track. After all, those track genes run in the family.
Schudrowitz' sister, Emily, was a star runner for the Red Raiders five years ago and is about to earn her fourth track and field letter at St. Norbert College. Her brother, Brian, also played soccer, before badly injuring his knee.
"I've been playing soccer for over 10 years and my sister had a lot of success in track," Schudrowitz said. "I had been running over the summer and I really liked it. So I just wanted to try it out.
"I was exposed to track because of her and she liked doing it and I could see what it's about. It showed me I might like it too. Plus she is graduating in May and she could help me out in training."
After cracking her collarbone playing club soccer last fall, Schudrowitz started her own training program over the winter.
"She trained," Braidigan said. "I saw her every day this winter, running outside."
When asked if she had any clue how good Schudrowitz could be, Braidigan laughed.
"No," she quickly answered. "Given her height (6-feet, 1 inch), sometimes taller girls lope a little bit. But when I saw how hard she was training, how much she was pushing herself, I thought she might be pretty good. Never did I think she would be this outstanding so early. She works hard, she trains hard and she just keeps going. But it does run in the family."
Schudrowitz has been outstanding so far this season.
She is on the state honor roll as an individual with the seventh-best time in the 3,200 meters with a time of 11 minutes, 14.47 seconds set at the Wisconsin Lutheran Invitational. It was a meet record. She is also on the honor roll as part of the 3,200-relay team with the fourth-best time in state (9:45.76) set at the Spartan Invitational.
She won the 3,200 at the Whitefish Bay Lois Wolf Invitational in 11:29.55 and she ended the indoor season in style, winning the Red Raiders' only two events at the Greater Metro Conference Indoor Championship.
Schudrowitz set conference marks in the 1,600 (5:21.05) and the 3,200 (11:19.17) and that latter mark also broke a 25-year-old school record.
"At first we were shocked. It was like 'holy cow where did she come from?,' " Braidigan said. "And as a sophomore, she's doing really well."
Tosa East distance coach Glen Gardiner, who will be coaching Schudrowitz in cross country in the fall, gives the credit to Schudrowitz.
"Any kid that's that talented to be able to do what she's done this year, that's 99 percent on her. She did a lot of work on her own; that in conjunction with her natural talent. I try not to mess it up.
"Once she got some meets under her belt, you could see she would be very successful. She has that innate talent."
Schudrowitz has a fairly simple strategy when she runs.
"I was just running to see what times I would get and I was really surprised with the times I achieved," she said. "I am really happy with it and I hope I can keep improving and not have my times just level out."
Braidigan is having Schudrowitz focus on the 1,600 and 3,200, which are her favorite races and she hopes to have her be part of at least one relay as the Red Raiders head toward the postseason.
"We have to figure out what to do with her so she can be successful," she said of Schudrowitz, who has also run the 400 and the 800 as well as the 4x800 relay. "And if we can get her on a relay it will help bring the kids up."
The full package
Both Braidigan and Gardiner are doing all they can to get her ready down the stretch.
"Once I saw that she was on a certain level, then her workouts became harder," Gardiner said. "I'm more focused on her needs and abilities. We do have girls within her range and that's a plus because they can help push her. And that's nice too."
Her success hasn't hurt her attitude. In fact, Braidigan said it might have helped Schudrowitz.
"She is humble and quiet, but she is coming out of her shell," her coach said. "When she broke that 25-year-old record, it started to scratch the surface. She is one of those athletes that everyone would want to work with. She busts her butt every day."
Gardiner is thrilled with his star pupil.
"She has such natural instincts," he said. "She's a nice girl who is dedicated hardworking and with talent to boot. That wraps up into one nice little package."
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