When describing her standout freshman runner Maddie Schueler, Rebecca Wilmes, MU cross country assistant coach, routinely mentions that Schueler never stops smiling.
With two second-place finishes in her first two collegiate races, Schueler has plenty to smile about.
Fresh off a high school career in which she was a five-time state champion in Kentucky, Schueler became one of Missouri’s top runners.
After losing by a split second in her first race, Schueler finished second again in a much tougher field at the Woody Greeno Nebraska Invitational.
“When she committed to Mizzou,” Wilmes said, “I just knew, listening to her approach and what she was doing training-wise, that she was going to do big things.”
Schueler’s running career was not initially her idea. She was accidentally placed on the running team by her fourth-grade physical education teacher, and her father, Matthew, was the one who would sign her up for annual Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot races in junior high.
Eventually, Schueler gave up on her other sport, swimming, to concentrate on running.
“It’s the great groups of people I’ve met that have kept me involved,” Schueler said. “I’ve met a lot of my best friends through running. Plus, it is one of those sports that what I commit to it is what I’m going to get out of it.”
Her commitment to the sport often leaves Wilmes trying to slow her down.
“She wants to work a lot,” Wilmes said, “and sometimes you have to pull in the reins on her so she’s not doing too much.”
Schueler describes herself as self-motivated, trying to do her best in anything she does, including running and schoolwork.
“The importance of being a great athlete is being self-motivated,” Jared Wilmes, cross country head coach, said. “She knows exactly what she’s got to do, and she goes and does it.”
Schueler’s motivation for running can be found all over the Johnston Hall dorm room she shares with fellow freshman teammates Becca Miller and Carloyn Rauen.
Several posters that feature running hang from the wall.
On her bulletin board is an article given to her by her high school coach before last year’s state meet. The article is from the early 1990s and describes a runner running a race in her head.
However, there are no medals or trophies to be found, nothing depicting her state championships or the five state track records she holds.
Schueler said her success is exciting to her, but she would rather remember the people she met and the fun she had.
“My coaches used to tell me, ‘Your records will be broken, but the memories you made and the fun you had is the most important,’” Schueler said. “Years from now, I’m not going to remember what place I got in what race, but I will definitely remember my friends and the fun times.”
Schueler said the best part of her day is practice because she gets to see everyone. Her teammates say it is impossible to catch Schueler without a smile on her face.
“On the bus,” senior Serena Ramsey said, “we’ll try and get her to stop smiling for 30 seconds, and she can’t do it.”
Rebecca Wilmes said Schueler’s happy nature benefits the program.
“She makes people feel better when they’re around her,” Wilmes said. “She is excited to be here, and that makes our program better.”
As Schueler’s teammate and roommate, Rauen is exposed to a greater level of Schueler’s good-natured side.
“I have never heard her say anything mean about anything,” Rauen said. “I don’t even think she could kill a fly.”
Schueler said she appreciates the compliments and takes them to heart.
“Those comments are really more important to me than if it was said about my running or my schoolwork,” Schueler said. “I think those are the things I will remember more than anything.”
Both Ramsey and Rauen said Schueler is the most positive person they know. Rauen said Schueler has the ability not to get down on herself.
“If something doesn’t go right,” Rauen said, “Maddie makes the best of it.”