June 29, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Iron deficiency is no longer torturing Highland’s Natalie Zidd

Last year’s trip to state didn’t go the way that Natalie Zidd expected.

The reigning Division I state champion in the 800-meter run had high hopes of getting back to the top of the podium in Columbus. The stage appeared to set when Zidd won titles at the Suburban League, Lakewood Division I District and Amherst Regional meets.

Air Force recruit Natalie Zidd of Highland is hoping for a big senior season. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY RON SCHWANE)

But it didn’t play out the way the Highland runner envisioned, as the then-junior fell short of her goal by over 7 seconds and finished fifth.

The 18-year-old learned later something wasn’t quite right.

“After the state meet, I wanted to end on a good note, so I went to the New Balance Nationals and did OK,” said Zidd, who placed eighth at the event. “I tried really hard, but I just didn’t feel right.”

Zidd had been battling all season with being tired constantly, but didn’t think twice about it when she was competing.

The All-Gazette selection then discovered after talking to other coaches she had an iron deficiency, which is common in runners.

“I knew something had been wrong,” she admitted. “It was just hard from the first meet out. I had dead legs.”

Zidd has been on an iron regiment since. It started by taking an iron tablet over the summer then turning into a liquid in the winter with the intentions of switching to a pill high in iron.

The 5-foot-4 standout is on a gluten-free diet and eats a lot of meat, along with her usual intake of fruits and vegetables.

“I’m happy it happened,” Zidd said. “Even though it wasn’t good, it was a learning experience and now I know what to watch out for.”

Now that she feels better physically, Zidd has her sights set on making a fourth consecutive trip to Columbus and bringing back another gold medal.

While Zidd is already a disciplined worker when it comes to getting miles in during practices, veteran Highland girls coach Paul Lushes feels Zidd is in good spirits as well.

“It was disappointing at the state meet, but that didn’t change her mindset,” he said. “She’s always been determined and motivated.

“She may be disappointed, but still standing on that platform … a lot of girls would love to be there. She’s accomplished so much and is one of the most successful girls to come through this program, so there’s no pressure this season.”

With the healthy outlook, the Air Force University recruit is ready for all challenges.

Despite her unknown health concerns at the time, Zidd qualified for regionals in both the 800 and 1,600-meter runs — winning the mile in a personal-best 5:02.25. She went on to clock a season-best 2:12.89 to win the 800 at the Amherst D-I Regional, out-striding Medina’s Anna Boyert in a thrilling finish to earn the repeat trip to the state meet.

Now, she’s ready for more.

“I felt like it was hard (last season), so I’m optimistic for this season,” she said. “My workouts have been good so far and race-wise, Coach is going to ease me in. I definitely will look for the 800 in the end and maybe a few miles, but I’m going for the race that gives me the best chance to win.

“I feel better and I have a better handle on my health and diet, which is most important. It feels great and I feel like everything will go well. I can taper for states and hopefully a few meets after that as well.”

Contact Dan Brown at sports@medina-gazette.com.