Rebecca Timm figured out sometime during eighth grade that her athletics future would be in a sport with no ball involved.
"I enjoyed soccer, but I don't have the eye-hand coordination," she said. "I'm super clumsy. I'm better at cross country. It's a lot easier for me to not be clumsy."
When it comes to running, there's nothing awkward about the 5-foot-10 Portage freshman, who effortlessly consumes ground with each long stride.
"We expected her to come in and contribute, we just didn't know how much," Portage coach Jay White said. "She showed up every day in the summer and just jumped right in there. She's adjusted to all the workouts and has just gotten better and better."
Timm and Fegely Middle School classmate Madison Allen were top five finishers in the conference meet in eighth grade, which was about the time Timm began to focus her attentions on running.
"The seniors came and talked to us about cross country," she said. "They made a point about how they were all so close. They were like sisters, like we are now."
It didn't take Timm long to fit in during summer workouts. She ran in the 21-minute range for 5K at Fegely, which she used as a starting point for her freshman season at Portage.
"I didn't know my teammates' times, so it was the only baseline I had for what I was doing," she said. "I made a goal of breaking 20:30. It didn't seem that far out of reach."
After her second race, Timm had to establish a new goal of 20 minutes. A race or two later, it was 19:30, which is her target time for Saturday's state finals race.
"I didn't know how well I would transition," she said. "The first race, the course seemed like forever. It was shock, the first time I won."
The shock soon wore off as finishing at or near the top of the lineup became the norm for Timm.
"She's not afraid to stick her nose in there," White said. "She's gained confidence with each race."
"The Portage way" is used to describe a group mentality that emphasizes the team and not the individual. That philosophy has helped Timm realize she simply has to do her part for the cause. Nothing less. Nothing more.
"We're all together, all interchangeable," she said. "Though we're competitive, we stay together and work as a big pack. We're really close. No one's super-far ahead. In a race, (White) tells us to stay at each other's hips, on their shoulders. Everybody has each other to lean on."
That deep, balanced lineup has been the key to Portage's return trip to today's state finals. After placing 21st last year, the Indians hope to make a run at the top 10.
"I was told the Culver (Academies) Invite was like a mini-state — that's the only information I can base it on," Timm said. "We did really well at Culver, so I believe we'll be able to do it. The team says it's fun. We get a day off of school. That's one bonus of going. There will be a lot of team bonding."
An avid reader and A student, Timm is excited about what's down the road for herself and Portage.
"I want to use it as a springboard," she said. "My goals are a little higher. It would be awesome to get on the (awards) podium, but I've got four years ahead of me. I don't want to get so far ahead that I'm in outer space. We'll see what the future holds."