Steve Schadler – Rio Rico (AZ)
Steve Schadler was a high school Millrose Games Mile champion and Penn Relays 1500 meter champion in 1984. He then attended Stanford University to run for Brooks Johnson and eventually the Reebok Aggies. In 1992\ he moved to Arizona and served as an assistant track coach at Nogales High School for three years.
In 1995, Steve moved to the brand new Rio Rico High School and started the running program from the ground up. After starting with four boys and two girls, the program has risen to prominence across Arizona and the Southwest over the past 23 years. Under Steve’s head coaching leadership, boys cross country has won 2 state championships, five state runners-up trophies, and 19 consecutive regional titles (1998 – 2016). They have also won three boys track championships and been runners up twice. The girls program has won a state cross country title, a state track runner-up trophy, 12 regional cross country titles, and currently enjoys a streak of five consecutive individual state cross country champions. Three individuals (1 male, 2 female) have qualified for NXN on four separate occasions, earning two Nike All-American certificates. Also, Steve coached Carlos Villarreal to the Arizona state 1600 meter record and his daughter Allie to the Arizona state cross country course record and the state 3200m record. Carlos (2) and Allie (4) combined to earn six Arizona Gatorade Athlete of the Year awards in both track and cross country.
During a seven-year hiatus when Steve was not coaching, the program won two more boys team cross country titles, four runners-up trophies, kept the regional streak alive, qualified two male runners for NXN, won one girls cross country team state championship, and produced three consecutive female individual state champions.
Altogether, Rio Rico athletes have won 284 state medals, including 60 individual or relay state championships.
In 2017, AZMilesplit.com declared Rio Rico the #1 Boys Cross Country program all-time in Arizona based on a virtually scored meet of the fastest five runners from each school’s history. The Rio Rico girls ranked #6 all-time.
Today, Steve is the Assistant Superintendent for his school district and volunteers as the head cross country and track and field coach at Rio Rico High School. He is also the founder and president of the Rich River Athletics Club, a community-based, non-profit running and walking club that promotes elementary and middle school running events while also sponsoring an annual scholarship for a graduating senior.
While I often try to bring variety to my middle distance workouts by including 300’s and 500’s as “off” distances, infusing short tempo runs in the middle of a track workout, or otherwise trying creatively simulate race conditions, I find my bread and butter workout is always basic 400 meter workout.
• I vary the volume but typically go 9 to 12 with rare occasions going as many as 15 (see below).
• I vary the sets (3×4, 4×3, 2×5, 2×6, 3×5)
• I hover the pace near target race pace but often drop the pace across sets. For example, a boy with a 4:24 target may go: 4×4@ 67…4×4@ 66…4×4@65
• I vary the recovery with a 300, 200 or 100m jog. I always have them jog rather than stand and recover. I think the movement keeps them loose, the mental toughness they develop is amazing, and logistically, we so many groups on the track, it ensures that no one stands around too long and gets forgotten. Struggling athletes are encouraged to cut across the field or jog backwards around the track to stay with the group.
• We will likewise jog in between sets…typically an extra 400 meters above the regular recovery. In other words, if we are taking 200 recovery jogs, the between sets recovery will be 600. If we are taking 300 recovery, I’ll round up to 800 between sets.
Here are two examples from Carlos Villarreal in 2015:
Two weeks before his state record 4:03.97…
3 x 5 x 400 @ 64…but #4 in each set was a 61. 200 jog between reps.
Two weeks later – and two weeks before he won the Prefontaine High School Mile…
4 x 400 @ 63 w/100 jog
3 x 400 @ 62 w/200 jog
3 x 400 @ 61 w/300 jog
Rarely did I see Carlos humbled by a workout but this one came close. Watching him lean against the fence, head on his arms, legs struggling not to buckle, I remember simply thinking… “Damn! “ and smiling to myself while I stared at the final stopwatch split.