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Catch her if you can: Dillingham's Sadie Tuckwood

Hannah Colton/KDLG

Already one of the region's fastest runners as an eighth grader, Tuckwood opted to forego this year's state meet, saving her four years of high school eligibility for high school. 

The same weekend Kenai’s Allie Ostrander won an international title at the Mountain Running Championship, Dillingham eighth grader Sadie Tuckwood beat the whole field - middle and high school - at the local cross country invitational.

KDLG’s Hannah Colton caught up (or tried) with Bristol Bay’s 13-year-old runner-to-watch as she laced up after school Thursday. 

Audio transcript:

*sounds of wind, gravel crunching*

Thursday afternoon I give Sadie a challenge well below her skill level -- a little more than a mile down Lil' Larry Road and back.

[ST] "It’s the hot dog run for the elementary schoolers – cause they get hot dogs before and after."

Sadie wears her lightweight neon Asics, shorts and a t-shirt in the 45-degree weather.

[HC] "Okay... On your mark, GO!"

Sadie's off so fast I almost forget to start the timer. She floats down the road, bright blonde ponytail swinging. She flies past a man walking down the street.

 [Man] You timing how fast she can run a mile? Yeah, she’s a pretty fast girl. 

[HC] "Yeah. You probably barely saw her as she went past, huh?"

'All I saw was a flash of light,' he says.

I wait for another few minutes -- the time it would take me to walk from the school to the post office. Then, Sadie's back. She rounds the bend, pink shirt down at the end of the road, arms pumping. 

*footsteps, breathing hard*

[HC] "7:00 minutes exactly. Is that what you were expecting?"

[ST] "Yeah, somewhere around there, cause it’s like one point three, so…"

Sadie normally runs between a 6 and a 6-and-a-half-minute mile. The hotdog run is 1.3 miles, so her time of 7 minutes works out to about a 5-and-a-half-minute mile. 

She didn’t even break a sweat.

Credit Dave Bendinger/KDLG
Tuckwood with a comfortable lead at the Dillingham Cross Country Invitational.

  Sadie says she doesn’t have any pre-race rituals – no lucky shoelaces. Just regular stretches and smart training.

[ST] "Like you're not supposed to land on your heel, land on the ball of your foot. Keep your arms straight, not swing them. When you're breathing, breathe in through nose, out through mouth, that can help reduce sideaches. Keep your stomach tight.... My mom read this book called Chi Running and I guess it told her all that stuff, so she told me to run like that. But after you practice like that for so long, it kinda just becomes natural habit."

The Tuckwoods grew up hiking and skiing. Sadie says her mom set an example of dedication to running long before she became her daughter's cross country coach.

[ST] "Well she runs in the morning before I even think of waking up!"

While her mom doesn’t impose those early morning workouts, Sadie says she does make sure her family eats healthy.

[ST] "Just like beets and stuff, cause that’s supposed to help endurance. Salad every night, lots of fish and moose. The day before a race we have spaghetti, or noodles and fish."

Credit Dave Bendinger/KDLG
Tuckwood after posting the fastest time of the day at the Dillingham Cross Country Invitational, September 19, 2015.

  At the Dillingham Invitational, Sadie’s last meet of the season, she finished a full four minutes ahead of the next girl in her age bracket, and ten seconds ahead of the fastest boy.

[HC] "So when you’re in a race, do you get that competitive feeling, like -- I wanna leave that person in the dust -- ?"

[ST] "Um… I do think that sometimes, but if I just run my regular, or if I push myself, it ends up like that usually."

Sadie says no one in her age group has really given her a run for her money since the Husky Hustle -- Delta Junction’s version of the hotdog run – back in elementary school.  

[ST] "I had a super-bad sideache …I got fourth in that."

Then she remembers another rough race – a fun run at regionals last year.

[ST] "There was this one kid, I could see him the whole race, I was not far behind him… five seconds or something. But it was super windy, everybody was super cold. He was just pretty fast. He kinda kicked his legs to the side after he took a step and he swung his arms really bad… Everybody else said that too: Wow, that kid has really weird form! I was like, yeah, but he’s fast."

Sadie came in first for the girls that run, but not overall.

This weekend two of her older teammates – Katie Moore and Cole Dull – are heading to the state meet. Sadie, who’s posted times that would outstrip some state competition, says she wishes she was going, too. But for now she’s hanging onto her four years of high school eligibility.

 [ST] "‘Cause if I’m gonna get faster, then it would make more sense to go my faster years. And, well, that’s what I hope. Some people say, they ask if I'm going in or not, and they'll ask why. And I’ll just tell them, because then I would have to take away a year of my high school… And I could be faster in those years, or I could get slower. It just depends."

With her whole high school career ahead of her, this swift athlete has high hopes.

Credit Dave Bendinger/KDLG
Dillingham Cross Country Invitational, September 19, 2015.

Note: this story originally aired on KDLG's Bristol Bay and Beyond.