Makaley Velazquez is a young woman of few words. But her running ability speaks volumes.
The Rock Falls High School sophomore is one of just two Sauk Valley area girls who qualified for the state cross country meet Saturday in Peoria. The other is Amboy freshman Megan Grady.
“You talk to her, and she seems mild, but she’s a competitive person,” Rock Falls coach Mark Truesdell said. “I would classify her as a gamer. When the pressure gets on, people will kind of back off, but she won’t.”
As a freshman last season, Velazquez helped Rock Falls to a fourth-place finish in Class 1A at state. She finished 69th in a time of 19 minutes, 9 seconds.
While disappointed the Rockets were unable to make their fourth straight team trip to state, Velazquez is excited to be heading back to Peoria.
“It’s sad, because I’m used to running with these girls,” she said. “It’s going to be awkward by myself, but it will still be fun and a good experience.”
Velazquez hopes her “special” socks take her to a medal-winning performance on the state course at Detweiller Park.
“I have special Nike socks that I wear,” she said. “I feel like they’re good luck. At state, I usually have bright socks. Last year, I wore neon yellow. This year, I’m going to wear neon pink.”
Velazquez was not pleased with her state performance a year ago, saying she went out too fast and died at the end.
She’s aiming higher.
“My goal is to be in the top 25,” Velazquez said. “I’m not sure if that will happen, so hopefully top 50.”
She had a time of 20:08 at the Oregon Sectional, but Velazquez is confident she’ll perform better at state.
“The state course is not really a hilly course,” she said. “Oregon’s really hilly, so I feel it will be a faster course. I like the state course. It goes by quick, and my times are good there.”
Though quiet, Velazquez is becoming more of a leader, according to Truesdell.
“It was tough trying to pull that out of her,” he said. “I tried to explain to her that there’s different ways to lead. You don’t have to use your voice. You can use your actions.”
Her actions have taken her to state 4 straight years, dating back to her seventh- and eighth-grade track seasons.
“I saw her in eighth grade,” Truesdell said. “I had her run an 800 with a boy. I had him pace her to see what she would run, and she was the real deal. I knew she was going ot be quality runner.”
Slightest of margins
• Velazquez advanced to state by a narrow 2.4 seconds. She finished 13th at the Oregon Sectional and claimed the seventh and final individual state qualifier on a non-qualifying team spot.