Maggie Bushman stared in open disbelief, her brain refusing to comprehend what her ears were hearing. After a few seconds, it sunk in: the leg of the 3,200 relay she had just run, which she thought had been slow, was actually the fastest she had ever run an 800 split.
Since covering those two laps in 2 minutes, 27 seconds, the Dixon sophomore has cut 2 more seconds off her 800 time. Then on Monday, she popped her personal best triple jump of 33 feet, 7 1/4 inches to win the event at a triangular in Sterling.
That means, since the start of her high-school track and field career last spring, Bushman has knocked 25 seconds off her 800 time and added more than 6½ feet in the triple jump.
"I think I'm just as surprised as everybody else," Bushman marveled during practice Wednesday. "When I first ran 2:27, I thought my time was awful; I was shocked when the coaches told me my split. We were behind by quite a bit, and I was chasing down another girl. I just didn't realize how fast I was going to do that.
"And I don't know where that 33-7 came from, but it felt great. Up until Monday, I hadn't been doing as well as usual, and it seems like that came out of nowhere."
That's a recurring theme for Bushman. She ran in the Duchesses' 3,200 relay at the state meet last year as a freshman, and she's picked up right where she left off this spring – and that's despite the poor weather and a lingering "knee issue" for which she receives physical therapy twice a week.
"The PRs just keep coming," first-year Dixon track coach Brandon Woodward said. "She's such a competitor, and it's so much fun to see what she's been able to do … and she's only a sophomore."
As always seems to happen in the Dixon cross country and track programs, Bushman is part of a younger group that is replenishing the talent pool behind older girls like Brittany Schwarz and Lexy Duncan.
But to go along with that natural talent – she basically taught herself how to triple jump – Bushman has a drive and determination like few others. Her work ethic and dedication is so strong, Woodward hopes the girls who come into the Duchesses' track program the next couple of years see Bushman and emulate her.
"She addresses all the goals she sets for herself," Woodward said. "She sees it, she works her tail off, and she gets it. She's the perfect example of what you put in, that's what you get out."
A three-sport athlete, Bushman also serves as the secretary treasurer for the DHS student council in addition to playing volleyball and basketball and running track. After moving up to varsity for the volleyball regional this past fall, she spent the winter playing for Dixon's varsity basketball team, watching her playing time build throughout the season.
Track is a relatively recent addition to her repertoire. Bushman picked up the sport in seventh grade, and by eighth grade was showing her natural leadership ability by trying to help her younger Reagan Middle School teammates learn how to triple jump – less than a year after learning herself.
"In seventh grade, we had some high-school girls trying to teach us to triple jump," Bushman explained. "After that, I just kept trying to copy what I'd seen them do, the form they had. For me personally, the triple jump is something I do for fun. To me, it's not as stressful as running; it's actually a way for me to release some of that stress."
She originally got into track for the "social" aspect, a place to hang out and have fun with her friends in a less-structured atmosphere than the volleyball or basketball court. She enjoys the competition, but also loves the support track athletes and runners in general have for one another.
"I think it's because you know just how much it takes to have success, how much work goes into preparing for that one race that usually only lasts a few minutes," Bushman said. "You appreciate what your competitors accomplish, and you want to congratulate them when they run well."
Bushman usually competes in the triple jump and the 3,200 relay, but sometimes will run the open 400 and the 1,600 relay. She prefers the camaraderie of the relay races, saying the stress is "spread out" among four girls instead of being heaped on any one individual.
But pressure has never really gotten to Bushman, as evidenced in the way she approaches the aching knee that's been nagging her throughout the spring. Her attitude toward that is the reason why Woodward and his assistants see such brightness in her future.
"I like sports in general so much that minor things are never going to stop me from being out there," Bushman said. "Injuries happen, but you kind of block it out when you're focused on competing. Personally, I have to give all of myself to whatever I'm doing; that's just the way I am.
"Hopefully that helps me out in the long run – which I'm a little worried about," Bushman added, cracking another smile. "I'm improving so much now, I just hope I can at least maintain that for the next couple of years … and hopefully keep getting better."
High school: Dixon
Family: Parents Liz and Patrick Bushman, sister Gretchen (12)
Sports: Basketball, track, volleyball; also secretary treasurer of DHS student council
Track events: 3,200 relay, triple jump, 800, 1,600 relay
Top marks: 800 split of 2:25; triple jump of 33-7 1/4
FYI: Ran in 2012 state meet as part of Dixon's qualifying 3,200 relay team which ran 9:58.73 in prelims. … Has cut 25 seconds off her 800 time since start of 2012 season, and added 6½ feet in triple jump. … Played varsity basketball this past winter, and moved up to varsity volleyball team for postseason.