Her right foot completely healed from a late 2019 stress fracture, McCracken County’s Maggie Aydt recently committed to the University of Kentucky’s cross country program under Lonnie Greene. Now, the Lady Mustang is eyeing a return to the KHSAA State Meet, and a third top-10 finish (or better) in four years.

Finally, McCracken County’s Maggie Aydt is feeling some comfort.

After finishing eighth overall at the 2017 KHSAA Class 3A State Meet and third overall at the 2018 KHSAA Class 3A State Meet (both at Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington), the Lady Mustangs senior cross country star had to miss both the 2019 Class 3A Region 1 Meet and 2019 KHSAA Class 3A State Meet due to a stress fracture in her right foot — an early October 2019 diagnosis bringing road-bump to her career.

A year later, nearly to the day, Aydt was a proud commit to the University of Kentucky women’s cross country program. Less than 48 hours after her announcement, she won the 2020 Fast Cats 5000-meter Meet on Oct. 10 at Yellow Creek Park in Owensboro — outpacing Daviess County’s Emily Ann Roberts by 22 seconds with a season-best 19:12.39.

“Running in college has been a goal of mine since freshman year of high school,” Aydt said. “So I knew I wanted to go to a DI school, and I’ve done all the work. I emailed a bunch of SEC coaches early on, just to kind of get my foot in the door and get their attention.

“I’ve been in contact with several coaches for the past couple of years, but what led to making my decision to go to Kentucky is that I just connected with the coach (Lonnie Greene) really well. He saw a lot of potential in me, and I just connected really well with the team, and felt like I would really fit in best there. And the campus is really awesome and in my home state, which makes it 10 times better.”

The idea of becoming a Wildcat wasn’t the toughest part of the process.

It was the recruiting process as a whole, particularly in these last few months, as coronavirus constraints have made things ... unique, difficult, strange.

“It’s been very different this year, and I feel like it’s been challenging for both the coaches and the athletes trying to get recruited,” Aydt added. “We didn’t have a track season (in 2020), so they don’t have any times to really look at and know where your fitness is, or whether they’d like to have you on their team.

“So, a lot of coaches, I think, are taking chances on athletes. But it’s also difficult for the athletes, because we’re not allowed to take visits. I basically committed sight unseen. I’d been to UK a couple of times for state championships and stuff, but I wasn’t allowed to go and meet the coach or team in person, or tour the facilities. Usually, they have the recruits (on campus) and show you around and stuff, but that wasn’t allowed this year. We kind of had to make some changes, and I got on a Zoom call with a couple of teams, and that’s the most I could do.

“But I honestly felt like UK was the right decision, and I’m glad I went with it.”

With a rehabilitation, a return, and now a college resolution clearly behind her, next Saturday’s Class 3A Region 1 meet in Muhlenberg County — and the ensuing Class 3A State Meet in Bourbon County — come more clearly into focus. Can Aydt approach her personal best of 18:31, a time she clocked during her sophomore season in 2018? She hopes to, because if she does, a state crown would potentially be within her grasp. In 2017, her 19:19.22 was good enough for eighth place, and she was the second-youngest runner in the top 10 aside from Madison Central’s Ciara O’Shea (who finished 10th).

O’Shea has gone on to win back-to-back individual crowns in 2018 and 2019 with sub 18:50’s, and in 2018, Aydt’s 19:17.75 was good enough for third.

Aydt’s personal best this fall is already five seconds ahead of that pace, and earlier this week at the McCracken County FCA All-Comers Meet in Paducah’s Stuart Nelson Park (Oct. 13), she blasted a two-mile run in 12:15.28 — or a 6:07.64 per mile mark.

If she can hold such a pace for another mile-and-some-change on the state’s biggest stage, it could be just enough.

“My biggest belief is just the consistency, and putting the work in...day in and day out,” Aydt added. “And just listening to my body is a big key factor in staying healthy. And if I’m getting these nagging pains, maybe I need a couple days off. Or if I’m getting tired, just take it easy. I’m just staying consistent with training, and one workout isn’t going to make you a state champion. It’s many workouts over the course of many weeks. That’s my basic belief.”

A fitting belief for someone who’s planning to study kinesiology and exercise science while in Lexington.

After the cross country season ends, Aydt will turn to McCracken County track & field one final time, with the 4x800m, the 1600m, the 3200m (her favorite) and some weekly 5K’s in her sights.

And even though she’s feeling “a bit stronger” this year, she hasn’t been able to run a PR in a long time.

Will the lifted weight of a decision made lighten her legs these last few months? Perhaps. Only times can tell.

Follow Marlowe on Twitter @dreamarlowe85, call him (270) 575-8661, or email him at emarlowe@paducahsun.com.

Follow Marlowe on Twitter @dreamarlowe85, call him (270) 575-8661, or email him at emarlowe@paducahsun.com.

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