District Cross Country Preview

‘LIKE A MIRACLE’

Tompkins’ Stevenson enjoys quick rise as one of best in cross country

By Dennis Silva II | Sports Editor
Posted 10/28/20

Addison Stevenson’s story reads like the plot of a Disney movie: young girl moves from Alaska to Katy and picks up distance running the summer before her junior year of high school, June of 2019. In less than a year’s time, Stevenson not only becomes one of the top runners in the state, but also earns her ticket to college thanks in large part to her newfound sport.

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District Cross Country Preview

‘LIKE A MIRACLE’

Tompkins’ Stevenson enjoys quick rise as one of best in cross country

Posted

Addison Stevenson’s story reads like the plot of a Disney movie: young girl moves from Alaska to Katy and picks up distance running the summer before her junior year of high school, June of 2019. In less than a year’s time, Stevenson not only becomes one of the top runners in the state, but also earns her ticket to college thanks in large part to her newfound sport.

But this is no Hollywood movie script. This is Stevenson, a Tompkins senior runner and former longtime gymnast who only recently traded her leotards for sneakers, a decision that would come to define her legacy as a Falcon and set up her future at Ole Miss, where she verbally committed Oct. 9 to run cross country and track and field.

Stevenson chose Ole Miss over Baylor and LSU.

“She’s found what she’s meant to be doing,” Tompkins girls cross country and track and field coach Amy Pitzel said.

Heading into Friday morning’s District 19-6A cross country meet at Bear Creek Park, Stevenson’s time of 18-minutes, 21.40-seconds ranks third this season among all 19-6A girls runners in the 5,000-meter race. She placed second at the Nike South Invitational and third at the Atascocita Invitational earlier this season.

Last season, Stevenson had a spectacular debut in cross country. She finished second at the district meet with a time of 18:10.32 and second at the Region III meet with a 18:55.50. She capped it all off by establishing her personal record of 18:06.58 and finishing 12th overall at the Class 6A state meet.

“It’s the challenge,” Stevenson said. “You’re constantly testing your limits. You exhaust yourself mentally and physically, but there’s so much reward from it. You don’t get that reward from every race or every practice; sometimes it’s just hurt and pain. But it just makes things so much better when you do have that really good race or really good run.”

Pitzel vividly recalls her first impression of Stevenson, who asked if she could train with the cross country team last summer to build strength as a jumper in track and field. It wasn’t long before Pitzel knew she had something special.

“It was only day two of practice and she was already running in my lead group, which is such a strong group of girls,” said Pitzel, whose cross country teams usually rank among the top 10 in the state. “I was like, ‘Whoa. How are you so good at this already?’ And she told me, ‘I don’t know. I just really like it.’ I started asking if she’d want to do meets, and she did.

“Our first meet we went to, our girls told her she had to start out strong, so she didn’t get caught in the pack. She went out ahead of everybody. She came in second.”

‘THAT WAS FUN!’

Stevenson was born in New Orleans, but moved to Alaska when she was young. In the summer of 2018, before her sophomore year, she moved to Katy because of her father’s job.

She had competed in track and field since the seventh grade and gymnastics since she was 2. The latter required demanding training in strength work and conditioning. Stevenson trained for five hours a day, six days a week.

She chose to leave gymnastics her sophomore year. She didn’t click with coaches here in Katy, she said, and the intensity of the sport was different.

Plus, she saw something promising taking place at Tompkins.

“I realized I wasn’t going to get to the level I needed to be at with gymnastics, which is a hard thing to realize,” Stevenson said. “But for track, there was something special with this team and coaches that I felt like I could go places with it. If I focused my time strictly on that, it’d be better for me.”

Still, Stevenson and Pitzel credit gymnastics for teaching her to push through adversity. Stevenson, as a result of her first true love, is fearless.

“You have to focus for a long time in gymnastics, and I think that helps her in this sport,” Pitzel said. “She has the ability to push through the pain.”

Stevenson is a gifted athlete, surely, but she’s also a natural competitor. Her parents don’t know where she gets it from.

She is a jumper and distance runner during the track season. During her first ever two-mile run in track last spring, Stevenson ran a 10:44.03 at the Sam Mosely Relays.

That time ranked third in the state before the season was abruptly canceled due to the novel coronavirus.

“She had no idea what she was doing,” Pitzel said. “Runs, finishes first. She tells me, ‘That was fun!’”

ONE OF A KIND

Pitzel has coached a plethora of elite runners and athletes while at Tompkins. She’s had none like Stevenson, who often bikes 25 miles on her Sunday rest days to “relieve her legs.”

Stevenson does core routines for 45 minutes before workouts. She runs 42 miles a week, even during season. Because of that dedication, Pitzel said there’s no telling Stevenson’s ceiling.

“I’ve never seen anything like her,” Pitzel said. “She wants to be great at everything she does. We just had a race where she finished fifth and she was really upset with herself. Very mad. That’s just who she is. Her work ethic is something I’ve never seen.”

Goofy, light-hearted, joyful and funny as a person, Stevenson is tenacious on the course or track. She takes training seriously, and that rubs off on her teammates.

When asked what hobbies she has outside of running, Stevenson struggles to come up with something, anything.

“Everything I do,” she concludes, “is to benefit running.”

Stevenson said her journey, from New Orleans to Alaska to Katy and, next year, a premier program like Ole Miss, is “kind of like a miracle.” Her only desire has been to push herself to the limit in whatever she chooses to do.

“I mostly find my races hard, and I run hard, but I could’ve gone harder,” she said.

Things could not have worked out better.

“Running in college was never in my plans until late last year,” Stevenson said. “At first, I thought I was going to do gymnastics in college. Then, I figured I wasn’t going to get there with that. Then I was like, OK, I’ll jump my way to college. Then, I don’t know. But running? Yeah, that made sense.”

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