Schumachers have 'Swoosh' on their feet, running in their blood
Distance running is in the blood of the Schumacher clan. The Swoosh is on their feet.
Jerry Schumacher, 47, is a former All-American at Wisconsin who has coached Nike's Bowerman Track Club runners — among them Shalane Flanagan, Evan Jager, Emily Infeld, Chris Solinsky, Matt Tegenkamp, Lisa Koll and Kara Goucher — since 2009.
Oldest child Joshua, a senior at Jesuit High, was Class 6A 3,000-meter champion as a junior and led the Crusaders to the state cross-country title last fall. A leg injury has kept him out of competition this track season, but he will run for Stanford beginning next year.
Daughter Makenna, a Jesuit junior, is the defending 6A 3,000 champion and was individual titleist in the state cross-country championships last fall. She will attempt a 1,500/3,000 double in this weekend's state meet at Eugene's Hayward Field.
Son Ryan is a promising runner who lettered as a freshman and will challenge for a major role on the Jesuit varsity in both cross-country and track next season.
"Ryan is already under 9:10 (in the 3,000), and he hasn't broken 100 pounds yet," Jesuit coach Tom Rothenberger says. "He's excited to try to carry on what his big brother got started."
Then there is Eric, a sixth-grader, "who plays everything now," his father says. "We'll find out if running is in his future when he gets to high school."
Jerry Schumacher is pleased that his children have followed in his running footsteps, but he hasn't pushed them.
"I want them to have their own footsteps," he says. "It just so happens it's in a similar endeavor.
"What I'm most proud of is that they're really good kids. They're hard workers. Regardless of what they do in sports, they're going to carry a lot of those lessons on and lead good, productive lives. That's what you care about mostly for your kids."
Rothenberger, who has been head cross-country coach at Jesuit since 1982 and head track and field coach since 1987, says Joshua and Makenna have been instrumental from a leadership standpoint.
"Both have added to the culture of the program in terms of work ethic," says Rothenberger, 57, who has coached 26 boys and girls state championship teams in the two sports. "Our (distance) program had lost its mojo a little bit. Joshua and Makenna have helped reconnect the culture that needed to be revitalized. They both have that persona. Other kids gravitate toward that.
"Those two are most proud not of individual accomplishment but in what they've done to bring along a team and raise expectations for how hard you can work to achieve your goals. Joshua wasn't racing (at the Metro League meet), but he was out there cheering on his teammates as much as anybody. That's what makes it most special for me."
They might have done well in another sport. Jerry's wife, Kathy, played soccer at Marquette, and all of the kids took a turn at it at a young age.
"But I think we got the running genes more," Makenna says with a smile.
Joshua had a terrific track season as a junior, claiming Metro League championships at 1,500 and 3,000 — setting the Metro meet record in the latter event — then winning state in the 3,000 while finishing second at 1,500. He suffered a leg injury in the fall, gutting through it to finish fourth and help Jesuit pull out the state cross-country crown. But a succession of physical setbacks kept him off the track for his senior season.
"Joshua made a big sacrifice to be there for his teammates (in cross-country)," Rothenberger says. "He was truly there for his teammates. He wanted to complete his commitment to helping get that team to the top. This spring, it's been one thing after another. We've had to be very cautious with him. We were about to (have him) run races. Then we said, 'Here's a kid who is the fastest sophomore (at 3,000) in Oregon history. He could maybe run an 8:30 and win (state), but why run that risk?'
"It's too bad he'll miss the state meet, but when you're that talented ... you have to take a long-range view. He's an NCAA talent whom you just have to be patient with. Now he can get ready for Stanford."
Joshua is going to a Stanford program that won the Pac-12 title in cross-country and finished fourth at the NCAA meet last fall.
"Coach (Dylan Sorensen, who also coaches distance runners in track) does a great job with that program," Jerry Schumacher says. "Stanford is on the West Coast. Kathy and I will get to go and watch him run frequently. The school matches up well with his interests. He's excited, and as a parent, that makes you excited."
Makenna was down, but not out, after losing to Sunset sophomore Lucy Huelskamp in last Wednesday's Metro League 3,000 final at Liberty High. Huelskamp held off a hard-charging Schumacher — who won the Metro 3,000 title the previous season — to win in 9:48.01. Schumacher was second in 9:48.07.
"I probably should have gone (with her kick) sooner," she said afterward. "Maybe I could have got her. Oh, well — next week."
It's been a rough year health-wise for Makenna, too. She lost a month of training to shin splints in March. Last week, she was sick with flu-like symptoms for several days, and is still catching up from that. Wednesday's 3,000 final was only her fourth race of the season.
"I wasn't sure how I would do," she says, "but I just raced, and I gained a lot of confidence from it. It's helping me get back into the swing of things."
"That was a really good race for her," says her dad, who offered plenty of encouraging words to her afterward. "She ran well. Now she knows it's there. That's a big part of it. That's important."
Makenna burst onto the scene at last year's state meet by winning the 3,000 in 9:42.56, the fastest clocking by a sophomore in state history.
"That confirmed what we all knew," Rothenberger says. "She has always been a talent. Last year, she started to figure out racing. She has all the tools. There are not many more competitive than she is, and she is willing to do the work.
"She is a straight-A student, a great teammate — there's nothing more you could ask for. She is a great kid."
Makenna was the 6A cross-country champion last fall, leading the Crusaders to the team title.
"She has made some breakthroughs in cross-country, but she still struggles with some of the big invitationals," Rothenberger says. "She is much more comfortable on the track."
Their father helped give them their start in running, but Jesuit's coaches took over when they reached high school.
"Their coaches at Jesuit have been outstanding," Jerry Schumacher says. "They've kept it fun. Tom does such a great job, and his son Lucas — who just took a volunteer coaching job at Oregon State — was a big part of everything my kids have done through their high school years.
"The whole package has allowed them to cherish and love the sport even more, which is what we all want."
Even so, having a father who is one of the foremost running coaches in America has its advantages.
"It's awesome," Makenna says. "You know you can always go to him for advice. He knows what he's talking about. If you're feeling down or have a question, he's always there."
Rothenberger says Schumacher hasn't been the proverbial Little League parent.
"Not even in the slightest," Rothenberger says. "Jerry is totally supportive. He's passionate, but in a very healthy way."
Makenna has maintained a friendly running rivalry with her older brother.
"Girls and guys aren't the same, but you can tell who has had the better race," she says. "We keep family records. It goes all the way back to third grade. Our other siblings do it, too. It's competitive, but fun."
Makenna probably will make a college decision this summer. She says she is looking at Washington, California and Stanford.
"She just needs the program that fits her," Rothenberger says. "She has the potential to be a factor on the national level."
After losing in the Metro League 3,000, Makenna has a little extra motivation for the state meet. She'd love to be a double champion and help the Crusaders to a team crown.
"It will be all about racing," she says, "not worrying about times."
Jerry Schumacher says he is happy for all of his children's successes in whatever sports they choose.
"They're all athletic kids," he says. "They can play all sports. With certain body types, eventually running selects you. They're not super tall or big kids. Eventually in some of the ball sports, you get weeded out.
"Running was something they showed a genetic predisposition for. They have a good body type for it and solid concentration skills, which aids a distance runner. With all those factors put together, they found a niche in running.
"And like anything, if you find out you're pretty good at something, you want to keep doing it. They showed early aptitude, and that success lent them to work harder and harder. It has worked out really well for them."
There has been a lot to live up to for the Schumacher offspring.
"You're in a fish bowl when you have that last name," Rothenberger says. "It's a unique challenge with those kids, but it's good for them. They're up to that challenge."