STORM LAKE - It's no wonder that Storm Lake St. Mary's freshman Christine Becker has become one of the top cross country runners in the area this fall sports season.
Every day after school for the past six weeks, Becker has raced from one extracurricular activity to another.
"It's definitely a busy schedule," said Becker, a student at St. Mary's who runs for the Storm Lake High varsity girls cross country team.
"Right after school, I have cross country practice, then I go back to St. Mary's for dance squad practice. After that, I have private dancing lessons and I usually get home around 9:30 p.m."
After a couple of hours of studying, she calls it a day at around 11:30 p.m.
There's more. At 15, Becker is an accomplished pianist who has been taking private lessons since she was in the second grade.
On Sundays, she and her mother are sometimes featured as choir soloists at church mass. She also runs track and plays softball for the Panthers.
So, when does this talented freshmen finally get some down time?
"I usually catch up on sleep on Saturdays," she said. "And I'm into boating on the lake. I like to get out on the water."
She has also taken to running. Becker has been the top SLHS girls finisher in every meet so far, and has also medaled in every invitational.
Last week at the Storm Lake Invitational, Becker finished 12th overall in a field of 120 runners. She set a new Tornado girls CC record for 4,000 meters with her time of 16 minutes, 33 seconds. That broke the old mark of 16:46 set by Lisa Bowman in 2002.
"I think a lot of people were surprised by that," Becker told the Pilot Tribune Tuesday afternoon. "Now, a lot of people think I might be able to make state.
"That would be awesome, but the competition is really difficult. There are a lot of great runners in our district."
Nevertheless, Becker keeps chopping seconds off her school record time. Tuesday of this week, she finished sixth overall at the Sheldon Invitational and broke her own school record, setting a new mark of 16:26.
"Christine just keeps getting better and better with every meet," Storm Lake High cross country coach John Brostad said.
Becker added that the Sheldon meet was a preview of the district meet in October.
"Coach Brostad told me that if I run like I did (Tuesday in Sheldon), I should be able to finish in the top ten and make state," Becker said Tuesday night.
"He said the best runners in our district were all at Sheldon, and it was also the biggest meet we've had so far."
With her numerous top-ten finishes, Becker has been a welcome addition to the SLHS girls CC program.
Last season, the Tornado girls often finished toward the bottom of team competitions, but this year, they have a number of middle-of-the pack finishes under their belts.
"Christine has given our girls team a big lift," said Brostad. "Not only does Christine take 30 or 40 points off our score, she sets the pace in practice and that can only help the other girls run faster."
At the first few practices this season, Brostad said, Becker even surprised some of the runners on the SLHS boys team.
"The guys would look back and Christine would be right behind them," Brostad said with a chuckle.
Brostad, whose coached cross country at Storm Lake for 27 years and track for 22 years, knows a natural distance runner when he sees one. And, he says, Becker fits the bill.
"She's got that natural endurance that you always look for," Brostad said. "She's had to make a difficult adjustment to running from the junior high level to varsity."
Becker ran for St. Mary's teams in seventh and eighth-grade. She would run two miles in those meets, but trained hard early this season for the longer distance of 4,000 meters, or just over 2.5 miles.
"Christine had to get out of her 'comfort level' early in the season in training and at her first few meets," Brostad said.
According to Becker, the Storm Lake Invitational was her biggest challenge to date.
"There were so many more runners competing, and there were some of the top runners in the state there," she said.
"It's harder to run in a big meet, but the most difficult thing was that the pace started to fast. I just tried to stay in the top group and was able to stay there through most of the race," Becker said.
Becker says her family is "very musically-oriented," but her two brothers also ran cross country for Storm Lake High.
Her younger brother Phil is a senior on this year's boys team and an older brother, Sam, also ran for SLHS two years ago. He now runs track at Morningside College, where he is a sophomore majoring in engineering with a minor in music.
"I used to run all the time with my brothers," Becker said. "Iearned a lot about running and cross country training from both of them."
Later Tuesday night on the phone from her home in Storm Lake, Becker didn't sound a bit phased by concluding a long school day with a 4,000 meter race against top-notch competition.
But she says her busy schedule is a mixed blessing at times.
"When I'm in the midst of being really busy, I wish I had more time to relax. But when I don't have much going on, I feel like I should be doing more," she said with a chuckle.
Busy or not, when Becker gets through with high school, she'll most likely be one of the most accomplished musicians - and runners - in Northwest Iowa.
That's called getting off to a fast start.