Written by Michael Florek
Frisco Wakeland's Madie Zimmerman is legally deaf, but possesses heart of a champion
FRISCO — As Madie Zimmerman walked to the stage to accept her third-place medal at the Region II cross country meet awards ceremony last Saturday, the announcer listed some of the Frisco Wakeland senior’s accomplishments.
There are many: a four-year sweep of the district meet, a first-place finish at the regional meet last year, and three consecutive top-10 finishes at the state meet, among others.
As the announcer finished, the crowd started its standing ovation.
“It was a really good feeling to have that reputation and the support of everyone — like people you don’t even know — be extremely proud and happy for you,” Zimmerman said.
But perhaps the most amazing thing is that she could hear them at all. Zimmerman is legally deaf.
Shortly after being born, Zimmerman contracted a severe infection and had to be treated with an antibiotic that her parents think caused hearing loss. But it wasn’t until Madie was 3 that her parents realized she had a hearing impairment. The condition worsened until just before Madie’s 6th birthday, when she was the recipient of a cochlear implant.
The implant is placed in one ear, and with the help of a transmitter wrapped around the outside, allows the patient to hear.
“That was a life-changing ordeal,” said Claire Zimmerman, Madie’s mother.
It’s not perfect. Heat causes the transmitter to malfunction. In the summer, it breaks almost every day. Wind makes it tough to hear a coach’s instructions. It can’t get wet, either.
Quick looks behind her during a race are sometimes surprising. At times, it’s hard to know if the crowd is cheering or telling her someone is on her tail.
When she has to pull the device out, Zimmerman said she can’t hear high pitches at all and has only about 25 percent hearing in one ear.
“It does get really frustrating when it doesn’t work,” Zimmerman said. “It’s just kind of annoying, because you can’t really do anything about it.”
Frisco Wakeland coach Braegan Enright said it’s never been a problem coaching her.
Zimmerman joined the cross country team after being a soccer midfielder and running track in middle school. She spent a good portion of that year quizzing Enright on how the qualifying process worked and what she needed to do to get better.
“I had no idea what it took,” Zimmerman said. “In middle school, I just kind of did track for fun.”
It didn’t take long for her to figure it out. She finished seventh in the state as a freshman, 10th as a sophomore and sixth as a junior. Saturday, she’ll have another attempt, running at the UIL state cross country meet in Round Rock.
Her time of 18:14.45 placed her third in the Class 4A Region II race and was the sixth-fastest time for all 4A runners from the four regionals in the state. Despite it being her last chance at a state title, Zimmerman said she doesn’t have a placement in mind. She just wants to run a good race.
Whatever happens, Enright said it can’t replace the accomplishments of the last four years. Some would call them worthy of a standing ovation.
“I’ll be lucky if I have another one like her again,” Enright said.
Follow Michael Florek on Twitter at @michaelflorek
Other runners to watch at state
Robert Domanic, Hebron: After finishing fourth at the state meet last year, Domanic won the 5A Region I race last weekend.
Joe Sansone, Southlake Carroll: Sansone edged teammate Nate Sullivan at regionals. Both will lead a dominant Southlake Carroll team.
Blake Anderson, The Colony: Anderson's second-place finish in the 4A Region II race gave The Colony its first state representative since 2006.
Rico Lara, Highland Park: The sophomore was the Highland Park boys’ only top-10 finisher at regionals, taking eighth.
Jacob Perry, Sanger: The winner of the 3A Region II boys race, Perry matched his sister Bryce, who won the girls race.
Courtney Kriegshauser, Southlake Carroll: Kriegshauser finished second last year and is making her fourth appearance at the state meet.
Mary Beth Hamilton, Highland Park: With a sixth-place finish, she led a dominant Highland Park team to the Region II team title despite not having Natalie Rathjen.
Caylon McMillan, Forney: The freshman won the 4A Region II race by 10 seconds.
Katie Ruhala, Lovejoy: Second in the state in 3A last year, Ruhala had no trouble adjusting to 4A, finishing second in Region II this year.
Aaliyah Miller, McKinney Boyd: As the representative from her team to make regionals, Miller, a freshman, took fifth.
Teams to watch at state
Southlake Carroll: The defending 5A champions are overwhelming favorites to repeat.
Denton Guyer: Dropping from 5A to 4A, Denton Guyer took the Region I championship last weekend.
Lovejoy: The 2010 3A state champions are making their fifth consecutive appearance at the state meet, but their first as a member of 4A.
Plano West: Led by senior Grant Copeland, Plano West is in the state meet for the first time in six years.
Flower Mound Marcus: A second-place finish behind Southlake Carroll at the Region I meet last weekend earned Marcus a trip to the state meet after it missed out on it last year by six points.
Southlake Carroll: Like the boys team, the girls are the defending 5A champions and are expected to win it again.
Highland Park: The defending 4A state champions didn’t lose a single varsity runner to graduation last year.
Frisco: The Raccoons lost just one runner from the team that finished eighth in the state a year ago.
Sanger: The Indians lost just two of their seven runners from the team that finished sixth at the 3A state meet a year ago and are coming off a dominating performance at regionals.
Hebron: The Hawks squeaked into the state meet by beating Flower Mound, which finished third in the state a year ago, by three points.
UIL state meet
Where: Old Settlers Park in Round Rock
5A girls: 9 a.m.
5A boys: 9:30 a.m.
1A girls: 10 a.m.
1A boys: 10:20 a.m.
2A girls: 10:50 a.m.
2A boys: 11:10 a.m.
3A girls: 11:40 a.m.
3A boys: noon
4A girls: 12:30 p.m.
4A boys: 1 p.m.