Written by Tracy Rusch, Catholic Herald Staff Thursday, 09 August 2012 08:29
At 18, Molly Seidel shares a record with three-time Olympian Suzy Favor Hamilton after winning her fourth consecutive Wisconsin State Cross Country Championship last November.
The 2012 University Lake School graduate also won 11 state championships in track.
And she not only maintained a 4.0 grade point average, or above, throughout high school, but she took several AP classes, was a mathlete, sang in choir, participated in field hockey, was on the ski team and sails for fun.
Even with her accomplishments in running, academics and music – she’s a pianist and a self-taught ukulele player – Seidel is humble.
“I don’t see myself as like a bigshot runner, I just see myself as Molly,” she told your Catholic Herald.
Seidel said Brian Borkowski, track coach at St. Joan of Arc and assistant cross country coach at ULS, is her role model.
“He’s been such a force in my life. I think that he taught me to love running and to just kind of always go after my goals. …” she said. “I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for him.”
Borkowski has coached Seidel since she was a seventh-grade student at ULS taking Christian formation classes at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Nashotah. Her school didn’t have a track team, but she was able to participate in the track program Borkowski started at her family’s parish, because of her enrollment in its religious education program.
He was there when Seidel backed out of her first meet because her nerves made her sick and when she came in first place at her second meet. She was an “instant success,” Borkowski said of the Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year and national champion at the Brooks PR Invitational, an indoor track meet.
While her parents never pressured her to do sports, Seidel said their family has always been active – her twin siblings, Isabel and Fritz, 16, are also involved in sports at ULS; Isabel participates in field hockey, cross country, skiing and track, while Fritz is in soccer, skiing and track.
Seidel just loved being outside and active, whether it was jogging with her dad or hiking with the dogs.
“I think that’s why my parents were a little bit surprised how well I took to running just because it kind of came out of the blue,” she said. “I had been playing field hockey for years and then I just kind of wanted to run track and then it kind of came out of nowhere.”
But Borkowski said Seidel’s work ethic has a lot to do with her success.
“Her work ethic is like second to none,” Borkowski told your Catholic Herald in a telephone interview. “She sets goals for herself that are just, they’re some people would say you couldn’t believe in them, but she never stops believing and there was one time she called me, and this was after practice, and she said, ‘Coach, I think I can run a 4:45 in the mile,’ and we went to the track at Arrowhead, and she ran a 4:44 – that was her best time ever in the mile and she did that just on her own calling and saying I think I’m ready to try for this.”
Borkowski, who was an athlete at West Allis Hale High School and at UW-Parkside, said he was Seidel’s training partner and coach because he not only designed the workouts, but also ran them with her.
“I’d rather lead by example, although, she did crush me that day,” he laughed, noting that Seidel beat him in the mile by at least 10 seconds.
Molly is also a good competitor who congratulates other runners as they cross the finish line, according to Borkowski.
“When you talk to other people about Molly, they say the same thing - she’s just so good and so nice and just so humble about everything and she’s just so thankful for all the gifts that she’s been given in life,” he said, explaining that he thinks Seidel’s responsible for amping up younger runners’ interest in the sport.
Mike Dolan, Seidel’s cross country coach at University Lake School in Hartland, said he’s also witnessed humility in the way Seidel treats other runners.
“There was a runner after the sectional race two years ago (who) came up and said, ‘Would you sign my number?’ and Molly, who had just won the sectional said, ‘Tell you what, I’ll sign your number if you sign my number,’” said Dolan, who has coached cross country for about 40 years, but the past five or six at ULS. “…she never wants to make herself look better than the next person, so yeah, that’s that humility…that’s class act through and through.”
Borkowski has also seen Seidel put her “rule” into practice that she must receive an autograph if she gives one, when younger runners ask for it.
“Kids just love that when that happens,” he said, adding that they look up to her so much that “you could hear a pin drop” the times she’s been a guest speaker at his cross country camps at ULS.
He’s also watched Seidel grow in her faith on the track.
“As a collegiate athlete and a high school athlete myself, I’m very into my faith but when I got to the starting line of every race, I was always a little too shy to make the Sign of the Cross….” Borkowski said. “She doesn’t hold back and I always wished that I wouldn’t have been the way I was and I would have been like more like Molly. She’s not shy at all. She’ll make the Sign of the Cross and take about 15, 20 seconds and I know when the time is to just leave her alone and that’s her time with God and it’s a great thing to see.”
Seidel said that her mom was always adament about her religious education attendance and going to church as much as they could – she even remembers heading to church in ski boots after Sunday morning ski practices.
“My grandma was super religious and I think a lot of it comes from that, just like praying before races or like praying to St. Jude and stuff if something’s not going right. I think a lot came from her just kind of instilling the fear of God in us when we were little,” she laughed.
Her faith was also one deciding factor in her college choice.
“Notre Dame was the only school that I went to that on Sunday night all of the girls were like, ‘Hey you want to go to Mass with us?’” said Seidel, who plans to study biology and maybe English as a minor. “…it was like the cool thing to go to Mass and I think that really stuck with me like it was somewhere that I was going to be the majority being a Catholic and want to be going to Mass.”
Borkowski said he hopes that Seidel enjoys herself and achieves greatness at Notre Dame. He thinks she could be a national champion at the NCAA level in the short term, and in the long term, an Olympian.
“I’ve thought about that since she was in seventh grade and her body type and her work ethic is exactly what these Olympic athletes do and she exemplifies one of them,” he said, noting she was off of the Olympic trials for the mile by about seven seconds this season and dealt with an injury at the state championships.
“I don’t think the timing would have been right, and I think right now is the time to focus on college and her education and then go after some greatness, because I think she’s right there.”
Seidel’s ultimate dream is to run in a post-collegiate running club or to run professionally after school, but she’s in no rush to get there.
“I think I want to see how I do in college and if I have the potential to run, and if I do, I will definitely take it, but I think I really just would love to have a long and healthy running career,” she said. “I want to say like I’d love to do a marathon someday, maybe an ultra marathon even…I’d love to just try and be active the rest of my life and be one of those 80-year-olds who’s still doing marathons.”
After her running career ends in what Seidel hopes is the far, far future, she said she would love to coach.
“Just be able to help other people love running just as much as I do and kind of instill some of the stuff I’ve learned just because I’ve had such good teachers and I’d love to be able to pass that on,” she said.