By Kevin Grogan –
Making it to State Championships in high school athletics is always a big deal. Getting there even once is a huge accomplishment. Now imagine being in middle school and qualifying to compete with other athletes that are sometimes five or six years older and at the top of their respective sports. Two young ladies at Montverde Academy did just that in distance running this past year.
Seventh grader Lily Henne and 8th grader Kendyl Cardwell are making a name for the Montverde Academy’s Lady Eagles. The duo recently qualified individually and competed in the Florida State High School Track Meet as middle school students. Under FHSAA rules, a middle school student at a private high school can compete on the varsity level including the state championships.
Cardwell medaled in the two-mile run. Henne was one spot off the podium in the one-mile run. Being so close in age and ability, the two have really complemented each other as training partners. They often would chat and laugh on their long runs together and have become close friends.
Henne explained, “Running with Kendyl has been one of the main reasons that I improved so much this year. We have a friendly rivalry that is easy to identify in both races and even in practices; we are both fierce competitors. She is a strong anchor leg for our relay and I am excited for what the future has in store for our Montverde Academy team.”
Cardwell went on, “I love running with Lily and I am so thankful that I have the chance to run with her. There’s not many girls at our level that get the opportunity to have a training partner who has the same work ethic and love for running. Lilly pushes me every day, and we really enjoy working out together. It’s definitely a lot easier running with someone as opposed to running alone.”
Cardwell & Henne ran under the guidance of Coach Lori Treweek. “This is my first year really experiencing coaching middle school athletes. They are collectively focused, and collectively competitive. At first I was a little anxious – it’s tough to have 12 and 13 year olds compete against 17 and 18 year olds – however, after seeing their confidence and their success in the first several meets, I became much less worried about their ability and Grit when competing in big events. I think the youthfulness in their attitude can often give them an advantage. Most of the time, they recover from losses quickly. They cheer for each other. They love spending time with each other. The silliness they all find on long runs or sitting under the team tent often takes away from the pressure they might experience in big meets.”
Cardwell moves on to high school this fall to start the ninth grade. She has a busy summer planned already prepping for the fall cross country season. “It is really important to get in a good summer base and miles under our legs before cross country starts. We have group runs a few times a week, plus runs on our own. Personally, I am going out to Crested Butte, Colorado for a 10-day running camp out there.”
As for Henne, she is training with the Pure Athletics Track Club and will travel to various AAU Junior Olympics meets over the summer as she gets ready for the eighth grade. “Last year, our young Montverde Academy team came in fourth place at the Cross-Country State Meet and we are hoping to crack into the top three in the upcoming season. Overall, Montverde has had one of the best track/cross country seasons in school history and we hope to build and improve in years to come.”
Bigger things to come for sure. “One of the most exciting things to me about next year’s cross-country season is watching our team do well. We have improved so much over the past year. We went from not making it past districts to finishing 4th in the state. I can’t wait to see what next year brings!” Cardwell concluded.