Posts Tagged ‘Michigan’

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University of Michigan-bound Sydney Badger is a 10-time state champion and is one of the most decorated runners to ever graduate from Southern Nevada.

W.G. Ramirez

Whenever I do a big feature, I tend to look for a quote from my subject or something to cling to for the story. Something that epitomizes who I’m writing about.

After a near-two hour visit with Centennial High School-graduate Sydney Badger, an incoming freshman at the University of Michigan, it wasn’t hard to find my catchphrase.

The picturesque runner who dominated the Silver State her senior year – both during the cross country and track seasons – was talking about the climate change she is about to adapt to in the Midwest.

Now I’ve never been to The Wolverine State, but I have lived in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, so I do understand cold weather. And I find it pretty hard to run daily errands, let alone run on a treadmill or long distance like Badger does so well. So to say I know nothing about running in cold weather would be an understatement.

Neither here nor there, she says “running in that weather and going into (NCAA) races at other places – it’ll be a breath of fresh air.”

What does all that have to do with this quaint narration about one of the most decorated athletes I’ve ever come across? Well, nothing, quite frankly.

Except I found the 5-foot-6 spark plug who easily could be mistaken for a fashion or fitness model is, well, a breath of fresh air.


 

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Centennial-graduate Sydney Badger

Lenny and Susie Badger have raised three daughters; Sydney is the baby. All three did well post-high school, one attending Arizona State, another up north in Reno. Now, their star runner is headed to Ann Arbor, despite bearing a last name that matches the nickname of Big Ten-rival Wisconsin. How coincidental – and marketable – would she have been for the sports information department had she chosen to attend Wisconsin? That would have been too easy, though. And understand, this is not the ordinary tale of a lifelong runner.

Prior to Badger’s high school career, she participated in organized soccer from the time she was eight years old alongside Tiana Bonds, her best friend that is headed to the University of Arizona on a track scholarship. When she got to high school, her parents insisted their children participate in another activity beside their preferred sport. At the time, soccer was held during the winter, thus, Badger elected to run cross country as a freshman. She then played freshman soccer in the winter and followed that by running for Centennial’s track team in the spring.

Needless to say, her skills as a runner emerged.

I could go through her list of accomplishments, but then this story would extend longer than it already is, and I want to keep your interest on how remarkable an individual she really is, not on the fact she was a three-time regional cross country champ, that she finished unbeaten in every Nevada-entered cross country race she competed in as a senior, or that she lost just two races over her sophomore and junior seasons.

That’s just cross country. The rest of her résumé is just as impressive.


 

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In a familiar scene, Sydney Badger leads the pack during a cross country race.

I remember the very first time I heard the name Sydney Badger.

I was at Veterans’ Memorial Park in Boulder City for the Division I Sunset Region cross country meet. Not in a professional capacity, but on a personal note. I was there for moral support of a couple of runners who were friends of my son at Arbor View, one of them being a top challenger in the region, and to Badger. Well, so it would seem.

That day, I quickly learned about Sydney Badger.

And anyone who reads the local media, during the fall and spring seasons, knows who she is too.

Now I’ve covered some incredible athletes, on every level, from high school up to the professional level.

We’re talking about people like Kobe Bryant, Riddick Bowe, Evander Holyfield and Martina Navratilova back in the day (to give you a broad spectrum), to the U.S. Men’s National Basketball team just two weeks ago. Splattered throughout 27 years, I’ve seen some of the top high-school athletes do their thing in local gymnasiums and/or playing fields right here in Las Vegas.

Sydney Badger easily is one of the top 10 scholar-athletes I’ve ever witnessed in the Clark County School District.

Forget the fact she’s a 10-time state champion in cross country and track combined, I’m talking about her tenacity and attitude. I’m speaking about her gladiatorial approach toward competition. You have to see her face while she’s running. Heck, you need to see her approach the starting blocks on the track. It’s the same look Mike Tyson gave in the late 1980s, when he’d get in the ring with black boxing trunks and shoes with no socks. It was intimidating. Anyone running in the same race as Badger, she knew she’d be battling for second – point-blank.

Put it this way, if MMA were her sport, Ronda Rousey would have her hands full.

On Monday, amidst the sad news of comedian Robin Williams’ death, I was reminded about one of his quips: “I love running cross country. On a track, I feel like a hamster.”

Lucky for all of us, Badger was incredible in both.


 

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Centennial-graduate Sydney Badger is set to join the Michigan Wolverines.

Transformation Tuesday takes on a new meaning after Aug. 19, one day after Sydney departs, as the Badger family will shed its powder-blue Centennial gear to Michigan’s maize and blue outfits. With the football season fast approaching, I’m pretty sure the family will be shrieking the Wolverines’ battle cry “M Go Blue!” no matter which Michigan team is participating. Heck, proud papa Lenny showed up for our sit-down last weekend wearing a Michigan t-shirt.

“It’s everything we wanted,” he said. “From an intellectual standpoint she’s going to do well. She’s a driven person, both academically and athletically. I think it’s going to be great. Are we concerned? I think, yeah. Even we don’t know what kind of workload she’s gonna have. Obviously she’s gonna be training a lot. If she wants to go on to med school, she’s gonna have to get top grades.”

Oh, did I forget to mention that, as well? Centennial’s 2013 Homecoming Queen isn’t just a skilled runner, she’s got the brain to go with her athleticism and model-esque looks and is hoping to apply her smarts in the classroom as a pre-med major. She graduated from Centennial with a weighted grade point average of 4.75, while her un-weighted GPA was 3.98.

Badger spent some time doing community service as well. She’s volunteered for, and participated, in several charitable running events for organizations such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Kassidy’s Army. In addition, she has also participated in community clean-up events and spent some time tutoring fellow students in subjects such as Calculus and Epidemiology.

“It’s amazing, it makes us really proud, it’s exciting,” Susie Badger said. “I don’t think anybody could have done anything different with her or for her. She made her own path really, she knew what she wanted.”

And while Sydney is adjusting to college life and running in a different climate, the biggest adjustment for the Badgers will be having to wait for their daughter to compete on the West coast, and hoping the Big Ten Network occasionally broadcasts events so they can see her compete.

All that’s left for them to do, prior to her departure next Monday, is adding to her winter wardrobe.

“I think I am pretty prepared (but) I have no winter gear,” Badger said laughingly. “That’ll be a fun transition; I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready for that, but I think it’ll make me a stronger runner.”


 

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As Sydney Badger leaves Southern Nevada behind, and heads to Ann Arbor to run for the Michigan Wolverines, the memories she’s left for her fans are vivid of her on top, as No. 1.

It really comes as no surprise Badger is headed to Ann Arbor to run for the U of M.

What was a surprise is the reason she gave me for choosing the Wolverines over her secondary choices Georgetown and Oklahoma State, as well as Southern Cal, Cal Berkeley, Ohio State, San Diego State, UNR and UNLV.

“I didn’t want to go to a school coming in as their No. 1 girl,” said Badger, Nevada’s 2013 Gatorade Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year. “I wanted to be in a school where I was pushed really hard. Just going to big races (during high school), it was so easy to run fast times, so I can’t imagine how much better I’ll get training with girls who are pushing me all the time.”

Badger said while it hasn’t set in that she’s about to join one of the most prestigious athletic programs in America, and even be around that sort of environment, she is ready for the big time. She’s also ready to train alongside Division-I athletes on a daily basis.

“It’s pretty hard to just go into workouts by myself all the time and (need to) be pushed,” she said. “Sometimes we’ll do workouts with the guys, but it’s not the same. It’s better when you have a teammate or someone pushing you, right next to you. I’m relieved to finally not have to do that (alone) anymore.”

Badger says there’s a good chance she’ll redshirt her freshman cross country season, and doesn’t mind that either, as she’s on the lookout for long-term success, not short-term greatness. That is one thing she did admit she’ll have to adjust to, however, as it’s going to take time for her to find success at the next level.

“It’s easy for me to stay focused because I know that high school isn’t it for me, there’s a lot after it, a lot to look forward to,” Badger said. “I know it won’t be (easy), going up there and winning races right away. It’ll be a nice change actually, to get my butt kicked a few times and maybe teach me a few things.”

On Aug. 9, during the Super Moon’s arrival, Badger tweeted the following:

I don’t know why I found it to be typical, yet somewhat humbling, that someone who has been a bright spot for Southern Nevada’s high school athletic scene, took the time to appreciate something that shone down benevolently upon the universe while she was doing what she does best.

Then again, coming from a Super Athlete like Badger, it really wasn’t a surprise after spending some time with her. Come to think of it, getting to know Badger and her parents, and finding out a bit more about one of the most decorated and determined athletes we may see for a while, well…

It was a breath of fresh of air.

 

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