We caught up with the senior from Slinger to talk about cancelled seasons, summer training, and his pursuit of a 2020 state title.
MileSplit WI: Thanks so much for talking with us today! So to start from the beginning, can you tell me a little bit about how you got started with running?
Cael Grotenhuis: Yeah, so my parents didn't run in college or anything, but they were both long time runners. They just got out the door every morning and just sort of eventually started following along with that.
MileSplit WI: Is there a moment in time where things really clicked for you? When did you know this is something you wanted to do and could be successful in?
Cael Grotenhuis: I did some local road races but I would say I mostly attribute it to the gym class mile and wanting to get as good as possible, beating as many kids in my class as possible. I would just get better and better, and so I realized I had some talent there. All throughout elementary school my dream was always to be an NFL football player but eventually I just realized I had a talent for this. The passion for running eventually came along with that, and I've fallen in love with it ever since.
MileSplit WI: You finished second at State last year - Congrats on that! What was that experience like?
Cael Grotenhuis: Thank you! So after placing in the 40's or 50's at state the year before, my goal was to get on the podium and finish top 10. As the track season progressed, I saw some really good gains in fitness and fell in love with the sport even more. My goal was just to improve from there - it was like, okay, now I think I can get top 5. I started winning races and had a lot of confidence in myself that season, so the goal became to win the state meet. Obviously, I fell a little bit short of that, but I'm still really happy with the accomplishment. A year prior to that I never would've thought that's something I could achieve, so it's crazy how when you put in the work, things can change.
MileSplit WI: You've also seen quite a bit of success on the track. What was it like to have your most recent season cancelled?
Cael Grotenhuis: I had been in a really good place with my training. I hadn't even touched the track yet and it was exciting to see the fitness gains from strength work in the off season, so moving into the season I was super excited and had big goals for that. Having the season cancelled was really hard on me, but I felt like I had to take the situation day by day - without those races on the calendar, I had the opportunity to put time in with workouts and mileage.
MileSplit WI: Was it difficult to stay motivated through that?
Cael Grotenhuis: Being able to get in that strength work was an opportunity, so I kind of took it as that and said "okay, whenever I get to race next, I know the fitness I gain during this period will really show up," and that's what really kept me going day to day.
MileSplit WI: How did that affect your mindset going into summer training? Did you hold on to any hope of a summer track race?
Cael Grotenhuis: For a while there, maybe a month after things first shut down, there was still some hope, but as soon as the official season and State meet were cancelled I realized there won't be any races for a while and shifted my focus to cross country.
MileSplit WI: What has summer training looked like for you this year?
Cael Grotenhuis: It's been kind of a gradual build volume-wise, just getting in some good mileage as well as some longer tempo work, doing some threshold stuff, sprinkling in some faster repeats and hill sprints. So it's just a lot of strength base before we head into what is hopefully a season here and start some of the bigger workouts. But it's gone super well so far and I've been happy with the strength I've been able to progress through.
MileSplit WI: Obviously we might not see a traditional XC season, with a lot of smaller duels replacing bigger meets, but what are some goals you have?
Cael Grotenhuis: A big goal of mine is to go into each race confident, knowing I can compete with anyone in the country and knowing I can win those races. NXN was a goal for me coming into the season, so when that was cancelled I shifted my focus to Foot Locker Nationals. As far as the State meet goes, I want to improve upon last year's finish and hopefully win. Team-wise, we're chasing a podium finish.
MileSplit WI: As a senior, what's the thing you'll miss most about running with your high school team?
Cael Grotenhuis: I'm just going to miss the daily camaraderie and being around the guys every single day - being able to compete with them and step on the line for something bigger than yourself. The group of guys we've had at Slinger since my freshman year has grown dramatically since they started running - those guys motivate me when they're getting out for their workouts every single day. I'll miss that part of watching them grow as competitors, as well as myself grow as a competitor.
MileSplit WI: What do your plans for after high school look like?
Cael Grotenhuis: I've been exploring running in college. At this point, I don't have a set decision on where I'm going to compete, but the plan right now is to run in college and hopefully run after college as well.
MileSplit WI: What are some interests outside of running?
Cael Grotenhuis: I love the Green Bay Packers and Milwaukee Bucks, I'm a huge Wisconsin sports fan.
MileSplit WI: Any final words?
Cael Grotenhuis: I'm just hopeful that we're having a season in whatever format we get it in!
MileSplit WI: Thanks so much again for talking with us today, and best of luck with your season!