Heiligenthal breaks all-time 5K school record


Senior Victoria Heiligenthal running at the 2018 River Rat Willow Metro Park. (Photos courtesy of Victoria Heiligenthal)

Robert Knight, Asst. Staff Editor

Victoria Heiligenthal never dreamed of becoming a runner at first, but it came to her naturally. Heiligenthal played sports since she was 5, starting with softball and soccer. With running, she started in middle school during 6th grade. “I didn’t really start competitively running and really caring more about it until the start of 7th grade,” said senior Victoria Heiligenthal, who broke the Milford High School girls 5K record a few weeks ago. “The reason why I started running was basically because my brothers had done cross country in middle school,” Heiligenthal continues, “so I just kinda like did it just to do it; I did soccer and I could tell I was a bit faster I guess than other players, so I thought it was really cool just to kinda go out there and do it.”

Heiligenthal’s record in the 5K girls cross country was 17:43, the previous record being 17:47, a record set by Mallory Barrett in 2015, a 2017 graduate who inspired Heiligenthal the most.  “She was a huge leader on our team; she pulled me under her wing, and just really taught me how to do things in this program and to help me become a better runner,” Heiligenthal says.

“I was really happy and excited, I honestly did not think it was going to happen just because going to that meet, I wasn’t even expecting to PR, I haven’t PR’d since freshman year, so it was definitely a big deal,” Heiligenthal expresses how she felt about setting a new personal record.  “After I finished it was really rewarding, not only for myself, because I knew I felt really good.”

Heiligenthal broke the record that once started in 1980.

“Sal showed me this list of previous breakers of the record, and it’s just really cool to see all the different legends that have passed through Milford, that I’ve kinda not surpassed, but just created a new standard for more people in the past that try to break that too,” she says. Heiligenthal got 6th during the state meet.

In freshmen year Heiligenthal ran 18:04, very close to breaking the 18-minute barrier, since then she’d been working towards breaking that barrier. “It was always something in the back of my head that I wanted to do especially going into senior year, it was something that would’ve been really cool and special, so I was really happy that I could do it.”

Some people don’t know exactly what runners feel when they run.

“Sometimes it’s really painful, at least most of the time it’s extremely painful,” Heiligenthal laughs when discussing how she feels when she runs. “Both mentally and physically, it’s really hard, but when you finish a hard workout, a hard run, a hard race with your teammates by your side, it’s really rewarding and it’s really amazing just to know you all got something done, and know that you’ve gotten better from that experience.”

Victoria would continue to tell others to work hard and keep pushing oneself. “Running doesn’t come easy; nothing comes easy, so you really have to keep working at it, and keep pushing, to not lose sight of the process, it is a process and although sometimes it seems like things may not be going your way, it’ll definitely turn, just because of all the hard work that you’ve done.” She has been looking at places to run in college, in the Midwest specifically, not too far from home, with hopes to get a scholarship. Many of  her teammates at the meet were very happy for her.

“This is such a good memory, I remember crossing the finish line and obviously way behind her, but I would finish and the first thing she said when she came up to me was, ‘you did so good!’ because I got a personal record, and then I go ‘how’d you do?’ and she’s like ‘I think I broke the school record!’” says senior Abby Knapp, one of Victoria’s friends on the team. “It really showed how selfless she is, she had literally just had her best time ever and broken the school record and the first thing she did was ask me how I did.”

“She’s definitely one of the biggest leaders on our team, and kind of always has been because, you know she’s always in the spotlight, but she always makes sure that she recognizes everyone else too; she always sees herself as part of the team and not on her own separate little island of success,” Knapp says.

Knapp knows Victoria is going to do awesome things with regionals, states, and in her college career.

Victoria Heiligenthal hugging senior Paige Saiz after finishing
their race.
Heiligenthal completing the homestretch.
Senior Victoria Heiligenthal running at the 2018 River Rat Willow Metro Park. (Photos courtesy of Victoria Heiligenthal)
List of the 5k school records. (Photo courtesy of Mr. Salyers)
List of the 5k school records. (Photo courtesy of Mr. Salyers)

“She’s got a lot of the innate, personal characteristics, high achieving person, that really is not afraid to work hard, very goal oriented, very driven, those are the kind of things that get you out the door every day, not any singular day, that’s how she is as a student, that’s part of her personality; she found running and it was a perfect fit for her,” says coach Salyers.

“She expects the same from her teammates. Running is important to her, it’s provided a lot of great experiences and she wants that to continue. She has an immense experience, she was on the forefront of our program when she stepped on campus, you know her first race to her last race she’s one of our top runners, and so she’s been to every level against every competition and seen so much, that’s not a type of experience that every athlete has.” Salyers explains.

“She did things the right way, and the opportunity presented itself, fast course, good competition, perfect weather, all those types of things. All the things you can’t control were there, and then the thing you can control is run hard, race hard, and do what you can do, and she did that on that particular day, so we’re real proud of her from that respect,” Salyers expresses. The significance of a record here at Milford High School is a big deal, knowing the people that held the record and what they accomplished in their era.

“You go back to that era, that’s what’s really cool to say, I’m part of the club; the idea that I did something that these great people did too, and that we all got to share this, is really cool,” Salyers says. Coach Salyers always sends out the list of previous records to those who broke the record decades ago when someone new breaks it. “Those people are just as proud of her doing it, because they remember what it was like for them, so you have that connection,” Salyers says about the list. Heiligenthal has done so much during her time period at Milford High School. “The sport of cross country is thriving in Michigan.  This is one of those moments in time where she’s kinda put up on that pedestal, and she’s really deserving of that kind of honor. We’re very proud of her; that gives us a chance to look at all the great things when she wraps up her cross country career here in a couple weeks, and say holy cow, she’s a Mount Rushmore kinda kid for us,” Salyers added.