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Geneva

KCC Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year: Altmayer exhales with 2nd successive honor

Geneva senior McKenzie Altmayer is the Kane County Chronicle Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.
Geneva senior McKenzie Altmayer is the Kane County Chronicle Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.

Nose news is good news for Geneva senior McKenzie
Altmayer, who expertly covers three-mile distances without respiratory assistance from her nostrils.

The Kane County Chronicle Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year hardly is being self-deprecating when she calls herself a “total mouth-breather.” After Friday’s scheduled nasal sinus surgery to repair a bone spur, swelling and a deviated septum, she shouldn’t have to use those words again.

“I’ve had this problem my whole life,” Altmayer said, “but we’re finally making time to do it.”

If only such procedures and recoveries lasted, say, 16:46, the personal-record time in which Altmayer traversed the course at Peoria’s Detweiller Park at this month’s IHSA Class 3A state meet, good for a seventh-place effort.

Although her nose wasn’t clear at state, the conditions certainly were on a picturesque afternoon that helped many athletes distance themselves from memories of cool, soggy conditions during regionals and sectionals.

“Oh my gosh, it was great,” Altmayer said. “Everyone was so stoked for it. And then the day finally came, and it was just like you knew as soon as you got on the line, you’re like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to run the fastest time today.’ Because there’s fast girls, a fast course, everything was perfect.”

Altmayer earned invitational titles at Wauconda, the Nike Northside/Southside Challenge and St. Charles North during the regular season before punctuating her four-year career with a banner stretch run.

She won the Upstate Eight Conference River Division meet at Sunrise Park in Bartlett in 17:19 before winning the St. Charles North Regional at a revamped LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve course in 18:04, 14 seconds clear of runner-up Emma Stephens of Batavia. The following week, Altmayer navigated pesky winds and persistent rain to place second at the West Aurora Sectional at Stuart Sports Complex in Montgomery, finishing in 17:18.

Only eventual state champion Judy Pendergast of Naperville North ran ahead of Altmayer, who verbally committed to Syracuse cross country and track the day after sectionals. She narrowed her top collegiate suitors to Syrcause and Bradley, ultimately choosing the Orange for their friendly vibe and coaches’ penchant for allowing freshmen to ease into their careers.

Although a much-anticipated track season with many of her Vikings cross country teammates awaits in the spring, Altmayer, long a student of Geneva’s steep running history, can’t help but reflect on the beginning of the end.

“It’s been more than amazing. Honestly, Geneva cross country, it’s become my second family,” she said. “I know I can trust those girls, this team, these coaches, with everything. That level of comfort, it’s going to be hard to replicate anywhere else that I go, and that was the one thing I was looking for when I was looking for a college.

“I knew I had to have an amazing team atmosphere, because this team is just amazing and I wouldn’t be the runner or the athlete in general or the person that I am today without every single person who I’ve met along my way because of Geneva cross country.”

Only Kelly Whitley (16:43 at the 2010 state meet) produced a faster time in program history.

That doesn’t surprise veteran Vikings girls and boys coach Bob Thomson. He’d rather marvel about the way Altmayer, bad nose and all, grew stronger and faster throughout her career in an era when some girls athletes struggle with the psychology of producing slower times as their bodies are growing.

Altmayer, who also won this honor in 2014, when she took 11th at state in 17:07, gradually trimmed her Detweiller times for 2015. She ran 17:27 as a freshman and 18:27 as a sophomore.

“She’s in good company with some top-notch runners,” Thomson said. “I’m proud to say I had a hand in coaching her all those years. She’s going to have a good career ahead of her.”

Thomson has cultivated success behind crafting intensely personal workout plans for each runner. In all that maneuvering, however, he seldom instructed runners on breathing tactics.

While many follow the time-honored method of breathing in the nose and out the mouth, Altmayer physically couldn’t. She debated undergoing nasal surgery entering her senior season, but ultimately passed when an opportunity to attend the Women’s World Cup in Canada arose. Altmayer shined in soccer before devoting her pursuits to running.

Clearly, one last season of dealing with an old friend didn’t faze her. This fall, Altmayer discovered the ability to take wider breaths without breaking stride.

“I look like a fish and it doesn’t make for very many pretty running pictures,” Altmayer said, “but it gets the job done. I get more air in faster than I used to.”

Nose news is good news for Geneva senior McKenzie
Altmayer, who expertly covers three-mile distances without respiratory assistance from her nostrils.

The Kane County Chronicle Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year hardly is being self-deprecating when she calls herself a “total mouth-breather.” After Friday’s scheduled nasal sinus surgery to repair a bone spur, swelling and a deviated septum, she shouldn’t have to use those words again.

“I’ve had this problem my whole life,” Altmayer said, “but we’re finally making time to do it.”

If only such procedures and recoveries lasted, say, 16:46, the personal-record time in which Altmayer traversed the course at Peoria’s Detweiller Park at this month’s IHSA Class 3A state meet, good for a seventh-place effort.

Although her nose wasn’t clear at state, the conditions certainly were on a picturesque afternoon that helped many athletes distance themselves from memories of cool, soggy conditions during regionals and sectionals.

“Oh my gosh, it was great,” Altmayer said. “Everyone was so stoked for it. And then the day finally came, and it was just like you knew as soon as you got on the line, you’re like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to run the fastest time today.’ Because there’s fast girls, a fast course, everything was perfect.”

Altmayer earned invitational titles at Wauconda, the Nike Northside/Southside Challenge and St. Charles North during the regular season before punctuating her four-year career with a banner stretch run.

She won the Upstate Eight Conference River Division meet at Sunrise Park in Bartlett in 17:19 before winning the St. Charles North Regional at a revamped LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve course in 18:04, 14 seconds clear of runner-up Emma Stephens of Batavia. The following week, Altmayer navigated pesky winds and persistent rain to place second at the West Aurora Sectional at Stuart Sports Complex in Montgomery, finishing in 17:18.

Only eventual state champion Judy Pendergast of Naperville North ran ahead of Altmayer, who verbally committed to Syracuse cross country and track the day after sectionals. She narrowed her top collegiate suitors to Syrcause and Bradley, ultimately choosing the Orange for their friendly vibe and coaches’ penchant for allowing freshmen to ease into their careers.

Although a much-anticipated track season with many of her Vikings cross country teammates awaits in the spring, Altmayer, long a student of Geneva’s steep running history, can’t help but reflect on the beginning of the end.

“It’s been more than amazing. Honestly, Geneva cross country, it’s become my second family,” she said. “I know I can trust those girls, this team, these coaches, with everything. That level of comfort, it’s going to be hard to replicate anywhere else that I go, and that was the one thing I was looking for when I was looking for a college.

“I knew I had to have an amazing team atmosphere, because this team is just amazing and I wouldn’t be the runner or the athlete in general or the person that I am today without every single person who I’ve met along my way because of Geneva cross country.”

Only Kelly Whitley (16:43 at the 2010 state meet) produced a faster time in program history.

That doesn’t surprise veteran Vikings girls and boys coach Bob Thomson. He’d rather marvel about the way Altmayer, bad nose and all, grew stronger and faster throughout her career in an era when some girls athletes struggle with the psychology of producing slower times as their bodies are growing.

Altmayer, who also won this honor in 2014, when she took 11th at state in 17:07, gradually trimmed her Detweiller times for 2015. She ran 17:27 as a freshman and 18:27 as a sophomore.

“She’s in good company with some top-notch runners,” Thomson said. “I’m proud to say I had a hand in coaching her all those years. She’s going to have a good career ahead of her.”

Thomson has cultivated success behind crafting intensely personal workout plans for each runner. In all that maneuvering, however, he seldom instructed runners on breathing tactics.

While many follow the time-honored method of breathing in the nose and out the mouth, Altmayer physically couldn’t. She debated undergoing nasal surgery entering her senior season, but ultimately passed when an opportunity to attend the Women’s World Cup in Canada arose. Altmayer shined in soccer before devoting her pursuits to running.

Clearly, one last season of dealing with an old friend didn’t faze her. This fall, Altmayer discovered the ability to take wider breaths without breaking stride.

“I look like a fish and it doesn’t make for very many pretty running pictures,” Altmayer said, “but it gets the job done. I get more air in faster than I used to.”

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