It all started in June, a year after her father's profession in the oil industry moved the family from Alaska to Katy, Texas that Addison Stevenson hung up her leotard and picked up distance running.
Once a dedicated gymnast, she used to spend up to five hours a day for six days a week in a gym tumbling on mats, jumping on balance beams, and swinging on the high bars.
Gymnastics is a sport where there can often times be a serious mood. It provides a strong competitive atmosphere consisting of hours and hours of training for six to seven days a week. That atmosphere creates a strong work ethic.
"Moving was tough because I had to leave my friends and my gym where I did gymnastics and we spent so many hours there everyday that I was close to all my teammates," Stevenson said.
Gymnastics wasn't completely out of the question when she arrived to Texas. She was still practicing gymnastics during track season, but logistics to a gym played a part in hanging things up in the sport, but surprisingly so did track and field. "I still wanted to continue gymnastics when we moved and there was really only one option that was near the area we moved to, luckily a good thing that came out of the move was Tompkins track team."
In Alaska, Stevenson competed in track and field as a freshman where she was sprinter and a jumper. "All of the Tompkins coaches were so amazing and supportive and I always had so much fun at practice. So I decided to transition away from gymnastics and focus on track."
"I immediately felt welcomed onto the track team. I was scared at first because the track period was so large I didn't think I would get attention from any of the coaches, but it was the opposite, they took the time to give us all corrections. All of the girls are so nice, hardworking and have such positive energy and as soon as I met coach P (Coach Amy Pitzel), the head coach, the most positive encouraging coach out there, I felt truly blessed to be on Tompkins track team."
"So, one day after track season had ended I just casually asked coach about training with the cross country team over the summer just to give me something else to do. I also wanted to get stronger over the summer."
Addison Stevenson, Katy Tompkins junior
The track season went well as she qualified for the Region 3-6A Meet and jumped a 39-0.5 PR throughout the season. Pitzel said, "She came from Alaska, so I honestly did not know what to expect. Our jumps coach told me she was ready to jump on Varsity and she just got better and better every meet. Our track team loves her and she works hard every day and wants to be great. She was named a Track Captain for this school year."
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To nurture Stevenson's competitive nature, cross country became the unlikely place holder for a former gymnast and converted sprinter and jumper.
"I used to be a competitive gymnast. Gymnastics takes up so much time and energy that when I stopped I wanted something else to do along with jumping because I realized it's hard for me to sit still for more than 5 minutes. So, one day after track season had ended I just casually asked coach about training with the cross country team over the summer just to give me something else to do. I also wanted to get stronger over the summer."
Pitzel recalls the start for Stevenson, "The second day of distance camp, Addy (Stevenson) ran by me with the lead pack, and I asked her, How are you so good at this already? She replied, I don't know, but I really like it." Going into the season, Tompkins had lost Lauren Titus, one of their top runners who moved to Wisconsin. "I could not believe this gift in Addy had fallen right in our laps," Pizel said.
While training in the summer, Stevenson began to realize that she could possibly contribute to the team. "I always ran with and was able to keep up with the fastest girls on the team. I didn't know if I would really be a major contributor to the scoring until our first race, at the Heatwave relays when I was Tompkins top runner, which really surprised me."
"It wasn't until region preview that I realized that I might actually be good at cross country. I placed 4th and that's when I started trying new strategies and learning new methods that worked for me like not wearing a watch while racing because I would mess with it the whole time and eating French toast the night before the meet."
On Friday morning, Stevenson finished second at the UIL 6A - District 19 cross country championships and she did it by running 18:10.32 PR. The athlete who used to rely on her speed and explosiveness as a gymnast, sprinter, and jumper now is the 26th fastest in the state of Texas at the 5,000m distance.
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Straight out of the gate, she had been running strong the entire season. She ran a 19:32.94 in her first 5K and has improved with every race ever since. As her fitness started hitting it's stride, Stevenson dipped under the 19 minute mark in each of her last three races and is on pace to soon break 18 minutes.
At the Nike South Invitational, she ran with the lead pack with the two best distance runners in Houston and two of the best in the state in Heidi Nielson and Sophie Atkinson for over 2.5 miles. "I was so proud of her for going for it. We talked about if she keeps going with them and keeps hanging on a little bit longer every time, then who knows what she can do."
Although she is helping lead the Tompkins team, she is making great strides individually to enable her to do so. It hasn't been easy getting used to a new city, a new team, and a new sport.
"Addy and Hayden Gold train together every day and they are stride for stride in every workout they do. They are both capable of leading this team," Pitzel said. Addy blew me away when she finished 16th at McNeil and I knew then that we had someone really special. She is fearless in how she competes. She just started training for this in June, so she is only going to get faster and stronger. I truly believe we have only begun to see what she is going to accomplish in this sport."
But, the transition has been made a little easier due to similarities and personal preferences. "I love cross country training because the long runs help to clear my head in the morning and I even enjoy the tough track workouts because it works my mental muscles and reminds me of gymnastics which was a very mentally challenging sport for me."
"Jumping practice is also really fun, I like going through the repetitive motions again and again until I get it down. What I love about triple jump is that it is so technical that there is always something you can do to keep tweaking it to go further and further. Changing parts and pieces of your jump will always feel really weird at first but once it finally comes together it always makes me jump further which is why I've been triple jumping since 7th grade and have been able to improve 2-3 feet every year."
"She is fearless in how she competes. She just started training for this in June, so she is only going to get faster and stronger. I truly believe we have only begun to see what she is going to accomplish in this sport."
Amy Pitzel, Katy Tompkins head coach
"As far as meets go I absolutely love cross country meets. I mean they're definitely hard and painful but my favorite part is that all you have to do is run. I don't have to worry about anything and I can think about whatever I want the whole race. I also love jumping meets but they stress me out more because I worry about things I can't control like wind or rain and sometimes I end up holding back to avoid scratching and there are just so many things I have to think about when I'm jumping. But there is not better feeling in the world then when I can feel I hit the board perfectly and I'm flying through the air.
Another transition had to be the weather conditions. Coming from Alaska to Houston, one would think it would have to be one of the biggest adjustments. "Another great part of the move is the Texas heat. "I hate the cold so much I honestly don't know how I survived as long as I did." Pitzel said, "One of the funniest things about her, is that she is from Alaska, but she hates being cold! She did not do as well as she could have those first few track meets because she had trouble warming up before her jumps."
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"I think I was always meant to live in Texas because I am such a competitive person and the level of competition for sports in Alaska is nothing like how it is here in Texas."
But, the competition level is just getting ready to hit new levels and championship season survive and advance or end of season levels that Stevenson has yet to experience in cross country. She will be able to ride the momentum and improvement of her last several races.
"Going into districts I knew I wanted to try and stay with Sophie (Atkinson). She is such an incredible runner. In previous races she always finished ahead of me by a lot. I felt like with each race I was able to get a little closer and a little closer to her, but still she was usually far enough away I couldn't see her by the time I finished. At districts, I just kept telling myself to close the gap and stay with her, so I was really proud when I finished just 6 seconds behind her and got a big PR!
"At our District Meet, she was just 6 seconds behind Sophie, who is one of the best in the city and state, so I was blown away that she was able to hang with her so close throughout the race. Addy has so much ability, but she is also just not afraid to go for it. I think the gymnastics background gives her focus and has taught her to push through the pain."
Stevenson says she thinks she was meant to live in Texas. Maybe she was meant to run cross country. She has the mentality of an elite distance runner. "My mindset for going into regionals and hopefully state is to just to go out there, attack the course and to have fun while doing it."
Pitzel notices the work ethic in cross and acknowledges how it fits in with the Tompkins girls cross country team. "Addy loves to work hard! She loves to lift weights, do core, and now she loves to run! Even though she is a junior and this sport is new to her, she brings the enthusiasm of a freshmen. Our whole team loves to work hard and Addy fits right in."
"This has been a tough year for me as a coach with losing girls to injury, moving away, and other reasons, so Addy has been such a bright spot in the season. She is a joy to coach!"
Even though she is young in the sport, she will have to grow up fast in the championship season. Pitzel says, "I still cannot believe that she just started this sport in June! Her upside is huge and I want her to be a top girl in the Region and then we will see what she can do at State. I know for sure that she will give it everything she has."