Rochester's Colleen Zeibert: Large School Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year

Gavin Good
Rochester High School's Colleen Zeibert is The State Journal-Register's Large School Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year. [JUSTIN L. FOWLER/THE STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER]

ROCHESTER — Rochester High School’s Colleen Zeibert won every race she could in 2020, prevailing in a chaotic, pandemic-impacted season that she and her team thought might not even happen.  

No one could catch Zeibert, who went undefeated and capped it off by winning the Illinois High School Association Class 2A Olney Richland County Sectional with a time of 18:14.91, beating second-place Becca Heitzeg from Lincoln by about nine seconds.

Zeibert, who is entering her junior year this fall, was eager to make an impact after having her freshman track season scrapped because of COVID-19. 

“I think with missing my freshman season with COVID and everything, it really fueled me for the cross country season,” Zeibert said.  

Still, even Zeibert was surprised by her runaway results. 

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“I felt really good about it,” Zeibert said. “Especially after coming off of freshman cross country, I never thought that I would be able to do what I was able to do for my sophomore year. I think it was just a really big improvement and overall I was really happy with how everything worked out.” 

Zeibert was exceptional on the track as well, battling with Lincoln’s Becca Heitzeg once again in the 2A 800-meter finals, with Heitzig taking second with a personal record of 2:13.90. Zeibert was just nine-tenths of a second behind, recording a personal best of 2:13.99.  

Her coach, Bill Owens, commended Zeibert for holding her own at the state finals in Charleston, coming within a hair of the title. 

“She had aspirations of winning the 800 and really good potential during the race at state,” Owens said. “She was battling with the leaders through the whole thing and I think less than a second separated first through third, which is pretty neat.” 

Owens said it all comes down to a work rate that sets Zeibert apart from the crowd. 

Also:Capital Region High School Sports Awards: 24 honorees for girls track and field

“That’s the whole thing, she’s just got tons of drive,” Owens said. “She’s a very intelligent girl, I think she’s ranked No. 1 in the class or close right now. Just calculates everything. It’s no accident when you see her up in front of the race, just because of the way she goes about everything. Her training, she doesn’t miss a workout and is always aggressive in workouts and giving everything she has.” 

Heading into next season, Zeibert has her sights set on competing against the state’s best runners.  

Aiming for undefeated again? Well, not quite, but she is raising expectations. 

“Cross country, I hope to get in the medaling positions, which I think is like top 25,” Zeibert said. “I hope to get a lot higher than that, but I’ve never gotten a medal in cross country so I would like to do that and get as high up there as possible. With having an actual state (meet) this year, hopefully we’ll be able to do that.” 

Owens sees a bright future ahead and looks forward to what Zeibert can do with some more training and opportunities to compete.

“I think she’s gonna continue to improve,” Owens said. “Even with our coaching philosophy, we’re building up more mileage every year, not thrusting her into too much early. We will see great things from her as time goes on here.”

Read this:Capital Region High School Sports Awards: 12 honorees for girls cross country

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