Jasper senior Lacey Oeding hoisted the 2008 girls track sectional championship trophy and led the way as the Wildcats took a victory lap around the track at Perry Central High School in Leopold.
BY COREY STOLZENBACH
It all started when Lacey Oeding was 2 years old and she was enrolled in gymnastics. That period began a childhood, adolescence and early adulthood of competition and athletics in competing against other people.
Competing in gymnastics at age 2 is too far back for Oeding to remember, though those days are preserved on VHS. Oeding went on to pursue other athletic endeavors as she was growing up — adopting a rigorous training regimen in high school. But from the time she was little and onward, not one thing flipped a switch for her. It was always on.
“I always had that drive and was always very competitive, very active,” Oeding said. “Even now, I don’t really know any other way than to just be active.”
She spent much of her early life in gymnastics and swimming. Oeding tried her hand at running in junior high, but it didn’t become a love of hers at the time. She soured on it. Oeding laughed out loud when asked about her running experience before she got to high school.
“I hated it,” she said. “I think I joined track in seventh grade and I ended up getting shin splints so bad that I vowed I would never run track again.”
Sometimes, though, vows don’t last.
Oeding had a friend who encouraged her to come out for cross country, which she did. Her freshman campaign of 2004 began a successful cross country career in which she qualified for state all four years, won some individual championships along the way and the crown jewel of finishing in seventh place as an individual at the state meet her senior year in 2007.
As the Fixx once sang, though, “One Thing Leads to Another,” and for Oeding, her joining cross country led to coach Kevin Schipp urging her to compete in track as well.
“I was very reluctant to do so, but it ended up working out fine,” Oeding said.
It helped that her freshman cross country season went well. She also reflected on trying different things in seventh grade. Oeding was still taking tumbling classes in gymnastics at the time, while trying hurdles at track, and her body couldn’t handle all of it. She managed to do well as a distance runner, but no longer compete in field events.
She soon realized that running was No. 1 in her athletic life.
“There was a girl, Mariah Goodness, actually, I remember this — she ran cross country with me my freshman year, and then she also ran track that year,” she said. “It was her senior year, I believe, and her progression from …she was okay in cross country, and then all of a sudden, she was really good at track. She was beating me and I was frustrated because I thought I had worked really hard and I’d swam and stayed fit, but this girl was kicking butt.
“And I asked her, I said, ‘What did you do that made you get so good? Like, how did this happen?’” Oeding continued. “And she told me, ‘I just ran four miles really religiously every day,’ and so, I was thinking, ‘All right, if I do that, I’ll get really good at this, too.’”
Oeding stayed true to that, running four miles every single day during the summer. It became an obsession. She tells the story of mother Ann following her on a bicycle with a flashlight as Lacey was getting her work in at 10 p.m. around the neighborhood. Lacey had to get her four miles in each day, and admits she had overtrained.
The work she put in only continued during the school year, as it was her livelihood before and after school.
“It was excessive,” Lacey said. “Four out of five mornings a week before school, I would either get up and swim for an hour, go to spin class at the gym or lift weights for an hour at the gym; and then after school, depending on what season it was, we would have a 21⁄2-hour swim practice, or we’d have a four-mile run or an intense track practice. If there was a day where I didn’t get up that morning and workout, I would still go and train after practice. I would go from track practice, and I would go swim sometimes.”
She didn’t get a lot of sleep, as she would wake up as early as 4:45 a.m. to be at spin class at 5:15 a.m. She’d pack her breakfast and eat in her car before school. It was a way of life for her. Lacey wasn’t the type to sit around and watch television at home because she wanted to be productive and push things. She knows about the importance of relaxation now, but that was a foreign concept to her back then.
“I don’t recommend what I did,” she said. “I think it was a little too excessive when I was younger, but that was just, like I said, a way of life for me. I didn’t know anything different.”
Matt Kryger / Terre Haute Star
Jasper’s Lacey Oeding, left, ran with Westfield’s Maragaret Bingham (297) at the head of the pack during the 2007 cross country state finals at the Lavern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute. Oeding finished seventh, the best finish for any Jasper girl in program history.
Her biggest goals were to place at state in cross country and track. Lacey was able to accomplish her goal of placing 51st at state as a junior in 2006, but that wasn’t quite good enough for her. She wanted a college scholarship and sought to place in the Top 10 at state.
It appeared her goal of placing at state in track was also going to come to fruition because she had broken multiple records as a junior in 2007. Then she got sick the week of state, and she didn’t do well. Lacey wanted to finish her high school career strong out on the track, but a stress fracture before state in 2008 devastated her.
“It was devastating when you work that hard,” Lacey said. “I didn’t understand at the time that there’s a such thing as pushing too hard, and it took me a while to grasp that.”
She also was on the Jasper girls swim team that won back-to-back sectionals in 2007 and 2008. Lacey admits, however, that she didn’t think she contributed a lot to the team as much as other swimmers, as swimming was an avenue to help her further her running aspirations, and she noticed it did just that.
Lacey won individual semistate championships in 2006 and 2007. She won all the individual sectional, regional and semistate championships the latter year, and claimed swimming played a big role in that.
“Even on my college team, a lot of people did, I wouldn’t say wrong, but they just ran,” she said. “They didn’t do any type of cross training or any type of lifting weights or any type of aerobic training, and running is so hard on your body. Runners get injured — especially long-distance runners — all of the time, and so, something that I always did, since I didn’t run as much as the others, I would take days where I would swim instead, and so I had that aerobic fitness that I kept up, but I was giving my legs a break.”
She called going from 51st as a junior to seventh as a senior “the culmination” of those years of training and how she got stronger throughout. Of all of her accomplishments, the seventh-place finish at state in cross country her senior year is what she is proudest of.
Lacey chose to continue her running career at the University of New Mexico. It became a big adjustment for her because the team didn’t do any cross training. It was nothing but running — in the mountains, in the midst of the altitude. She went from running 25 miles a week at Jasper to running 50 to 60 miles her first week in college.
Still, running at the collegiate level had its upside, too.
“I had so much more time in college,” Lacey laughingly said. “I had so much more time because you don’t spend as much time in class in college. You do have a similar workload, but living on campus is really convenient because it doesn’t take that much time to commute to classes, and in cross country, your practices aren’t that long because you just go on a run, or you do a workout.”
She ran in cross country right away, but was redshirted during track season. Lacey was a young freshman, and she competed in a national cross country championship she could compete in because she was still 18 despite being a freshman in college.
However, running in that race would’ve rendered her ineligible to compete in track season anyway, and coach Joe Franklin thought she should do it. A high finish in the race would’ve afforded her the opportunity to compete internationally, and he knew she’d be at New Mexico for five years because she was double majoring in dietetics and exercise science.
The success she had at the prep level carried over to the college level. She was a conference champion in the Mountain West Conference with the Lobos, and she won an individual MWC title in the fall of 2012. And with the success transferring over, so did the obsessiveness. But this time, Lacey’s methods were different.
“I got really into nutrition and I started eating better,” she said. “Sleep — something that I wasn’t doing in high school — I was diligent about getting eight or nine hours of sleep every night. So, I was able to recover faster, and when you’re eating well and you’re sleeping enough, you can recover and, therefore, get more out of your training.”
Lacey Oeding, 2012
However, injuries took a toll on Lacey as well. She felt them during her sophomore, junior and senior seasons. Those injuries were a reason Lacey forfeited her last track season in 2013 to study abroad in Australia and finish her degrees.
“I’d been injured so much at that point,” Lacey said. “I broke my foot in half my sophomore year and it took basically six months for me to fully recover and be able to run again. And then I’d broken my tibia the year after that, and then I’d broken my foot again that senior year. I, basically, finished the cross country season on a pretty severe injury, and so at the time, they told me that ‘you’re most likely going to have to have surgery to fix this, and that isn’t guaranteed to work.’
“I kind of knew that I wasn’t going to be able run that season anyway, like, the chances of me being able to run on that injury were pretty low,” she continued.
Lacey doesn’t run much these days. She looks to other avenues to help her exercise, such as swimming and yoga. Lacey spent many years as a personal trainer before going back to school to become a registered nurse. She was inspired to get into the medical field after a client of hers had a brain aneurysm, and not having a lot of job security as a personal trainer also swayed her decision to switch careers.
She tells of working 13-hour shifts, and how the COVID-19 outbreak forced her to work overtime and put in even more hours. Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque, the hospital where Lacey works, once had four floors where someone was infected. She works on a telemetry floor, but had to assume duties in the intensive care unit because the hospital was short-staffed, and she says it was a scary experience for her.
Lacey noted there’s been improvement at the hospital in terms of severity of cases, but she’s gotten training, and has learned how fast things can go downhill for a patient.
“I don’t know what the future holds, honestly,” Lacey said. “It’s a little nerve wracking. It’s definitely a little nerve wracking.”