Huntington North track girls pass baton down the line; all see advantage to multiple sports

Lauren Johnson (left), Hannah Stoffel (middle) and Addy Wiley stand together on the King Stadium track at Huntington University. All three are successful distance runners at different points in their careers. Johnson and Stoffel are Huntington North High School graduates while Wiley is currently a student at the school.
Lauren Johnson (left), Hannah Stoffel (middle) and Addy Wiley stand together on the King Stadium track at Huntington University. All three are successful distance runners at different points in their careers. Johnson and Stoffel are Huntington North High School graduates while Wiley is currently a student at the school. Photo by Steve Clark.

Running is a solitary sport.

But Lauren Johnson, Hannah Stoffel and Addy Wiley have company.

Local track athletes, the three are specialists in either the 1,500 or 1,600-meter run.

Huntington North High School is a point of confluence for the trio, with Johnson and Stoffel having graduated from the school in 2005 and 2016, respectively, and Wiley set to do the same in 2022.

All three are successful. Johnson runs professionally, doing so for the Boston Athletic Association High Performance Team; Stoffel runs collegiately, first for Indiana University and now for Huntington University; and Wiley recently ran at the Indiana High School Athletic Association State Finals, winning the 1,600-meter run.

Given the commonalities between the three, it’s inevitable that they would wind up on each other’s radars.

For Stoffel, she says Johnson is someone she’s looked up to since she was in high school.

“Lauren was a big inspiration to me and really got me into thinking about running as my main sport,” she shares.

Today, Stoffel is that kind of figure for Wiley.

“I’ve gotten to know Hannah pretty well since she started coming towards the end of my season to give me a little bit of advice,” says Wiley. “I kind of talked to her a couple times about just her experiences and so I’ve gotten to know her quite a bit.”

And when Stoffel begins her running career at Huntington University this fall, one of her coaches will be Johnson.

“It’s just cool how the generations are interacting now,” says Stoffel. “And hopefully we all have the desire to continue that, impacting younger generations.”

While track is the sport that the three are known for, basketball holds a special place in their hearts. Johnson played basketball at both Huntington North and Huntington University. Doing so, she says, was physically rewarding as a runner.

“Just being a multi-sport athlete, especially when you’re younger, it makes you a very well-rounded athlete,” she says. “Runners sometimes aren’t necessarily very good athletes, if that makes sense, because we go in one direction. There’s no side to side.”

Stoffel, who played basketball at Huntington North, says the sport was mentally beneficial.

“It was great to have a mental break from running,” she says. “Change it up a little bit. Have a more intimate team dynamic with basketball. Because sometimes running can get very individualized.

“So, it’s nice to compete in a different setting. Maybe see people that you don’t typically see in cross country, like a new set of teammates.”

Wiley echoes Stoffel’s sentiments. After playing basketball as a freshman at Huntington North, she intends to do so again as a sophomore.

“It was really nice,” she says of the experience. “It helped, mentally, a bunch. Because especially when you start succeeding, people put a lot more pressure on you and so when you’re in a team sport, it helps take that pressure off and relieves you.

“It was just a really nice change of pace.”

While Wiley may intend to continue being a multi-sport athlete – in addition to track and basketball, she plays soccer at Huntington North and hopes to run cross country, too – Johnson says it has become increasingly difficult for athletes in Wiley’s generation to fulfill that goal.

“I feel like, for Addy, basketball, they want it to be a year-round sport; they want soccer to be a year-round sport; they want running to be a year-round sport,” she observes. “For me it was, I did cross country and then I did basketball and then I did track. It was one at a time – it wasn’t all three, all the time.

“So, it can definitely be difficult now managing more than one sport.”

Wiley says Johnson’s read on the state of affairs is accurate.

“We have soccer and running in the morning and, this week, we have 15 basketball games,” she shares. “It’s really hard to balance all that and to not overwork your body.

“That’s just where it helps having great coaches and mentors to tell you, ‘You need to listen to your body’ and ‘You come first.’”

One of the biggest differences between the running Johnson and Stoffel do at their levels of competition versus Wiley’s is that they compete in the 1,500-meter run, not the 1,600, which is unique to high school athletics.

“I actually think the 1,600 is the worst event in track and field, because it’s not a mile,” opines Johnson. “The metric distance, internationally, is 1,500.

“We talk about miles in the U.S., but yet we run 1,600 meters.”

After running the 1,600 in high school – and posting a pair of fourth-place finishes in the race at the state finals – Stoffel says she vastly prefers the 1,500 now.

“1,500 is so much better,” she states. “It’s nice to start going straight, instead of having to start on a curve, where you have to cut in; it’s nice to start where you have 100 meters to get your position; it’s nice to not have to run two laps to be halfway. You just have to, like, get to the … start line and then run a lap and then you’re halfway.

“It’s easier to mentally break it up in a 1,500, in my opinion.”

Whether it’s the 1,500 or the 1,600, the three agree that pre-race strategizing is an important part of running, capable of producing an edge on opponents.

Johnson says her race preparations involve familiarizing herself with her fellow runners.

“For me, just knowing your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, knowing especially what other people are uncomfortable or unwilling to do, and then making yourself comfortable with doing that,” she shares.

For Stoffel, she considers the different ways a race could play out, then devises what her responses to those scenarios would be.

“There’s a lot of preparing yourself for what could happen,” she says. “And then once the race goes off, deciding what you need to do and sticking with that decision.”

Heading into her inaugural high school track season, Wiley says pre-race strategizing wasn’t a big part of her preparations. However, as the season wore on, that changed. It’s a change she credits to Huntington North distance-running coach Matt Ditzler.

“He sent me race film to watch and kids made fun of me in class because they’re like, ‘You can’t learn anything from watching race film; it’s just running fast,’” she says. “So, it was definitely really weird to adjust to, even Ditzler having me go in and practice at the same time that I would run for the state meet, even though we weren’t at IU.

“Just practicing at that time and practicing my eating habits throughout the day to prepare me for that was really cool – but it was just different.”

Wiley and Stoffel may be done running competitively until their cross country seasons begin in the fall, but Johnson is getting ready for one of her biggest events of the year. In late July, she’ll be at Drake University in Des Moines, IA, where she’ll be competing in the 1,500 at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships.

In the end, of all the commonalities the three share, the most important one of all may just simply be their will to win.

“I think we’re all pretty competitive people,” observes Johnson. “That’s definitely something you have to have with running.”