Rising Sun native Laura Schweitzer Haefeli will join Ardel “Oscar” Boes, John “Skiball” Esquibel, Dave Mackey and Jenny Simpson as the 2018 Inductees to the Colorado Running Hall of Fame.
For most people when their high school careers end a new life begins.
The one thing about running is you can do it as long as you want and as long as you are healthy.
Well, at age 50, the twin daughter of Tom and Carol Schweitzer, has done just that.
In high school she was a state finalist in cross country and track with an eighth place in cross country as a junior and third as a senior.
From there she became an all-American runner at the University of Dayton and was inducted into the Dayton Hall of Fame.
Then she found out there’s more than one type of running. After college she took up the summer biathlon where she would run and shoot.
She became a world qualifier eight times and was seven times U.S. Summer Biathlon National Champion in 1990, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003.
“We were trying to get it as an Olympic sport by the end of the 90s but it never happened,” she remembers.
After that came mountain running and that’s what’s taken her to new heights (literally).
She was convinced to try trail running a week before her first race. Her first “fun” race was in Vail, CO which was the Trail national championship.
“Well I won,” she said surprisingly
She became USATF Mountain Runner of the Year in 2004 and became a Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team Member while finishing 15th overall (second American) at World Mountain Running Championships.
She went on to be on the first US Women’s team to medal (bronze) at a World Mountain Running Championship and led the US women’s team to a Gold Medal in 2007.
Mountain running became her favorite. “It’s so enjoyable just to be out there and enjoy nature, the trail, and all the gifts from above.”
In her career Laura has been a 13 time World Championship Team Qualifier with five in Mountain Trail running and eight in Summer Biathlon.
She also has 17 National Championships plus three Team Championship titles. Laura was USATF Master’s Runner of the Year 2015 and has been a six time Mountain Runner of the Year.
One memorable win was the Mount Washington, NH race where broke the record of legendary runner and author Jean Benoit Sanderson.
When asked to compare that course to something around Rising Sun, she said it’s like running the back hillside at Denver Siekman Park for seven miles all up hill with a grade from 12 to 22 percent. She trained on Miller Brick Hill S.R. 56 which has a 10 percent grade. Much of her training now is at ski areas and at altitude.
Training for miles and miles on dirt has been great for training and it’s that soft area that’s been the key to having few injuries.
Now a resident of Del Norte, Colorado, she and her husband Tom have three children where they have a successful Haefeli Honey Farms business.
She has tried to share her experiences to her high school cross country team and has been High School Cross Country Coach of the Year in San Luis Valley in 2004, 2010, and 2015 while being the USATF 2009 and 2012 masters cross country champ.
“I’m so excited. I did not see this coming at all! There are so many people to thank. Coach Shelia Wilson, Coach John Roeder, and my college coach Pat Miller. And of course my mom and dad, brother and sister, and now my immediate family. The town of Rising Sun were always supportive! I am still so indebted to all those who did the 24 hour relay for me, what, 27-28 years ago!” she added thankfully, adding her sponsors are Honey Stinger and La Sportiva.
“I just cannot thank everyone who has touched my life, and helped in some way with my running career, and my life. There are so many people along the way who have touched my life in such a positive way!
“I am honored and humbled to receive news that I will be inducted into the Colorado Running Hall of Fame in April 2018! I cannot thank everyone enough, for those who have touched my life, given me courage, and the strength to continue my running career since I began at 12 years old.”
The toughest part was picking out who would do the introduction at the Denver Athletic Club on April 10th. “I wish all three coaches could. Mrs. Wilson introduce me but all three will be there.”
In track, she remembers friend Mary Beth Baldwin telling her to come out.
“I thought I’d do the 200 and long jump but Coach Wilson said I put you down for distance 800 and 1600.”
She remembers her most embarrassing moment when she was the favorite in the conference meet on her home course. There were a lot of people that shaped the course and she went the wrong way. She came back and won the race but was disqualified.
“Running is not easy. It’s hard work. But when you have a gift from God you should make the most of it.”
It’s been a big year for the Haefeli family. Senior daughter Emilee became a three time state cross country finalist. She qualified for state championships after tying for first place in 2A cross country regionals after an issue with chip timing. She won the state the following week with a personal best of 21:46.
Emilee has since won many awards in cross country and track events, including qualifying for the USA Track & Field Junior Olympics in 2012.
She played on the district basketball championship team that lost in regional final.
“Running has been such a large part of my life. I run to stay fit and enjoy an outdoor activity. I want to keep active with the kids. I want to do something for fun.”
She took a step back in training last week when she felt a little pull in her hamstring. She has dealt with some plantar fasciitis and a couple stress fractures and bone spurs but has her sights on an uphill race in June but hopes to do something before then.
Twin and younger sister Ann Sorenson is expected to join in.
The twins both ran in Ann’s hometown of Bozeman, Montana at Thanksgiving. In traditional Schweitzer fashion, Laura set an age group record in the 10K race and Ann was record setter in her 5K category.
For now, its time to show appreciation in a five minute acceptance speech.
Rising Sun and all of southeastern Indiana say congratulations for a great career.