MERRILLVILLE | Andrean senior Becca Conley hasn’t been honing her baking skills as long as she’s been developing into one of the area’s elite runners.
Her red velvet cupcakes, however, are gaining in popularity each time she brews up a batch.
The gourmet confections are a rare chance for Conley to do some mixing. Everything else in her life is broken into distinct parts.
There’s her highly successful running career with the Andrean cross country and track teams. There’s a brilliant academic career that has her in the top five of the senior class. Add in her solo workouts at the dunes, her summer job at a golf course and her aspirations of a career in business and politics.
She’s a complex character on the cusp of another outstanding school year, but she avoids being overwhelmed by compartmentalizing.
“With my life I like to separate things,” Conley said after last week’s Andrean Invitational. “I don’t have them intermingle. It’s kind of hard, but it’s nice to have a balance.”
The top local individual finisher at last year’s state cross country meet, finishing 14th, Conley can’t decide which college she’ll attend, let alone prognosticate her potential for this season.
“My head’s been really busy,” said Conley, who has visited several East Coast colleges, including Washington and Lee University and Boston College.
Her legs have been active as well. She logged 50-55 miles a week this summer, running on the sand near her Ogden Dunes home. The state course in Terre Haute is renowned for hills, so it’s no wonder Conley bested every region girl at state last year.
She hadn’t been to state her first two years, but after a rigorous preseason routine before her junior season, including her first experience with tough weight room workouts, she broke out. Along the way she won the Crown Point Sectional and Crown Point Regional and took sixth at semistate.
“I don’t want to dwell on (the finish), but I have a lot of confidence from it,” Conley said. “This year I’m really excited about our team, too. We have a lot of talent and possibilities.”
Conference champ and rival Taylor Austin of Griffith will provide a push, as she did by beating Conley at the NCC meet last year and the Andrean Invite last week.
Preseason workouts were tough and demanding, and Conley trusts 11th-year coach Rick Torres’ program.
“She’s a great listener,” Torres said. “If I told her climbing a tree would take 30 seconds off her time, she’d be up that tree. She’s a great student of the game.
“The demands she puts on herself are probably worse than the ones I put on her.”
Everything she’s earned she attributes to cross country.
When Conley was in sixth grade at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage, she began working out with the Andrean cross country team because older sister Beth was a freshman on the squad and Torres allowed middle-schoolers to tag along.
“At first I wondered why I kept coming back,” Conley said. “I just started to love it and got into it. I liked the idea of coming to practice every day and constantly getting better. I brought that into other aspects of my life.
“Cross country is one of those things where all of these good characteristics seep into every part of your life.”