Running to victory: North Central runner goes the distance to earn honor


Maddie Rocchio didn’t even know she was in contention for Marion County Female Athlete of the Year.

“I was reading a book on our deck and my mom showed me an article where they announced the three finalists,” Rocchio said. “I was happy just being mentioned.”

The 2024 North Central High School graduate earned the Marion County honor in May in a vote of athletic directors.

“It was definitely a confidence booster,” she said.

After earning the title, Rocchio finished ninth in the 1,600-meter run May 31 in the IHSAA girls track and field state finals to capture her first individual medal. Her time of 4 minutes, 55.90 seconds was her personal best.

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Maddie Rocchio with her IHSAA state meet medal. (Photo courtesy of North Central track)

Rocchio, who will run for Indiana University’s women’s cross country and track teams next season, had been trying to crack 5 minutes since her sophomore year. She had previously broken the school record in the 1,600, with a time of 5 minutes flat.

“I knew I had a decent chance to be on the podium. It just depended on how everyone else did and how I raced in comparison,” she said. “It was a little hot. My perfect running weather is mid-60s and sunny. It wasn’t that but it was nicer than it had been for a couple of weeks.”

Rocchio said she was friends with the girls she ran against in the state final.

“I think four of the nine girls on the podium were fellow IU commits, so it was cool to see all of us on the podium,” she said.

As a sophomore, she was part of the 3,200 relay team that placed sixth in the state.

Rocchio suffered through a junior season where she battled illness.

“I feel like I was sick every other week,” she said. “I couldn’t get over the colds I had, and it set back my training a little bit. I’d be out for a couple of days and then had to go back to training and start over. I lost some confidence in myself.”

Rocchio stayed healthy as a senior, which she credited to eating a grapefruit every day at lunch, giving her vitamin C.

Rocchio played softball from age 6 until eighth grade. She made the middle school softball team in eighth grade but the 2020 season was canceled because of the COVD-19 pandemic.

She ran cross country in middle school but competed in softball instead of track.

“When I got in high school, I started to focus my attention on running and started to get better,” she said. “As I got better, I enjoyed it more. I had played softball for so long, I wasn’t opposed to trying something new and I ended up really loving it.”

Rocchio placed 19th as a senior and 22nd as a junior at the state cross country meet. Her younger sister, Elizabeth Rocchio, a sophomore, was right behind in 20th in 2023.

“The 5K is my favorite and then the mile,” Rocchio said. “I’m definitely not a short sprint girl. The shortest I’d go is the 800.”

North Central cross country coach Chad Wallace said Rocchio had been scoring points in state meets since she was freshman, first being on a cross country team that finished fifth.

Rocchio reports to Indiana University the first week of August.

“I’m super excited to see how training goes,” she said.

Rocchio said she didn’t have a super-fast group of girls to train with this year, but will next season at IU.,

“I always tell myself if you run with the fast runners, you get faster,” she said.

Rocchio, who plans to major in biology on a pre-med track, has a U.S. Air Force ROTC training scholarship at IU.

“She works so hard, whatever event they decide to do with her, I’m sure she’ll excel because she is up for the challenge,” Wallace said. “I used to call her Mad Dog because she would do anything we ask. She’ll run through a brick wall. She stepped in as a freshman and wasn’t afraid to compete with seniors at workouts. She kept getting better and better. She met her outdoor goal, but she holds five indoor school records as well.”