LAKEVILLE — Distance running has taken Elaine Schmeltz places.
Three cross country regionals, three track regionals, three mission trips all over the Western Hemisphere.
Next fall, cross country will take Schmeltz to Taylor University in Upland, where the LaVille senior has signed on to run with the Lady Trojans cross country and track teams.
“I wanted to go to a christian college and I was between Grace and Taylor,” said Schmeltz, who helps teach Sunday school at her church. “When I met the Taylor coaches, I just really had a lot of respect for them. I liked what they said about the program, and I heard a lot of great things through teammates. I really liked the school and campus as well when I went up to visit. I’m really excited about it.”
Its no big surprise that Schmeltz would choose an evangelical college at which to continue her running career. Faith figures prominently in her life, and she’s used running as a means to and a conduit through which she can share that faith, going on mission trips with the LaVille High School cross country team each of the past three summers.
In 2008, the team visited Peru. The Lancers went to Costa Rica in 2009, and last year they visited Haiti in the wake of the country’s devastating earthquake in January. This summer, Schmeltz plans to make one last trip with her team to Guatemala.
“I believe that God has given me this talent,” said Schmeltz. “There are many ways for people to show God’s love, and I feel like one of my ways is through running. I feel like He gave me a lot of talent, and I just feel I’m just living for Him and I always want to encourage people, whether they’re ahead or behind me to feel God’s love through running. Yeah, we’re competing, but in the end we’re just trying to have fun.
“I just thank God for the talent He’s given me and the opportunity to go to a college and to continue running.”
Along with a college scholarship, Schmeltz has earned herself plenty of other decorations through running.
She is the LaVille girls cross country record-holder with a time of 19:10 and already owns her school’s 3200-meter girls track record with an 11:39 mark in the event, a record she hopes to break as this year’s state track and field tournament opens next week.
“My times are pretty good,” she said. “They’re a lot better than what they were at this time last year, so I’m hoping to PR at the bigger meets to come with the better competition and compete and do well. That would make me happy.”
Over the years, Schmeltz — who started out her high school career as a soccer player in the fall of 2008 — has qualified for three cross country regionals as the only girl on the squad and three track regionals in both the 1600 and 3200 representing the smallest school in a field that contains the South Bend- and Mishawaka-area teams.
“The sectional that we’re in with a lot of big schools, some little freshman from LaVille made it out,” recalled Schmeltz of qualifying for regional her first year of track. “That gave me a lot of confidence that, hey, I’m pretty good at this so that definitely was a big booster.”
In her sport as in life, the race is not always to the swift but to those who endure, and Schmeltz said distance running has taught her some important lessons.
“It’s taught me to never give up,” she said. “Long distance running takes a lot out of you. It’s definitely mental, and I’ve struggled with that but I’ve learned to overcome it.”