Junior Heidi Baumbach was named the 2008 Empire 8 Rookie of the Year, honored with a spot on the all-state second team and was named to the all-conference team as a freshman. But entering her third season on the women’s cross country team, Baumbach had yet to win her first collegiate race.
But on Sept. 11, Baumbach finished first overall at SUNY-Oswego State Invitational. With her short, quick stride that gives her the appearance of gliding, Baumbach is calm as she runs, her bouncing blond hair tied back in a braid punctuating her every step. Baumbach won her first race by a margin of nearly 30 seconds, running a time of 20:14 on the 5-kilometer course.
Head Coach Bill Ware said Baumbach, a clinical exercise science major from Lake Placid, N.Y., is a runner who stands out in the team’s history of continued success.
“We have always had good runners and good kids, going back to 1982 when the team started,” Ware said. “And she just adds to that list.”
This summer, Baumbach’s workout routine consisted of waking up early every day, going for a 40- to 60-minute run and going to her job. If her schedule didn’t allow for her morning run, she’d go for a bike ride.
“My friends are really into biking, so we would go for long rides once or twice a week,” Baumbach said. “I swam a lot, but I was doing all my training runs at the same time.”
In between training sessions and downtime, Baumbach focused on two major races that she always wanted to compete in since she started running competitively. Along with two teammates — juniors Molly Brown and Kaitlyn Dunphy — Baumbach competed in the Lake Placid Half-Marathon.
“None of us had ever done a half before,” Brown said. “We were eager to push each other and see what we were capable of doing.”
Baumbach ran the 13.1-mile event in 1:42.45 and finished 117th overall and fourth in her age group. She said the race was different than the typical cross-country 5-kilometer run.
“The race was much longer than our cross-country races, so I learned more about pace,” she said. “You have to really pace yourself and make sure you have enough at the end.”
In another effort to prepare for her junior campaign, Baumbach competed in the Tupper Lake Tinman Triathlon, a half-Ironman competition consisting of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.4-mile run. Baumbach said the half-marathon and triathlon were similar to the grind of running cross country.
“I had to dig deep, work through the pain,” she said. “At halfway in both, the fatigue starts catching up, and you need to just be mentally strong.”
When racing, Baumbach’s mental toughness and determination are visible in her eyes and the grin of pain is etched across her face.
Senior Liz Schloss said Baumbach is seen as one of the most consistent runners on the team.
“She’s always setting personal bests,” Schloss said. “Whether it’s at nationals or a little meet at the beginning of the season, or whenever, she is always improving.”
As Baumbach continues building on her success, moving into 10th place in the college’s record books with a time of 22:26 at the SUNY-Oneonta Airfield Invitational on the 6-kilometer course Friday, Ware said the rest of the team will look to follow her pace.
“[Baumbach] is a great runner,” he said. “She leads by example. The kids look to her because she has run at nationals for two years. But you couldn’t ask for a better person or teammate.”