Profile: Pioneer grad Lydia Valtadoros is clearly on track for success

After an impressive and well-spent four years at Pioneer High School, Lydia Valtadoros decided to take the short jog up to East Lansing and attend Michigan State University. The standout runner is right now focusing on adjusting to college life, the challenges that have arrived with the pandemic and trying to put the many disappointments of 2020 behind her and staying on track for what appears to be a winning future.

“I liked Michigan State because of its size, proximity to home and how I felt when I visited the campus,” says Valtadoros, who also was considering Michigan and Pittsburgh. “I want to go into a career field that is math and science related, but I also really enjoyed my history and humanities classes in high school so I’m still pretty undecided. I’ve recently been thinking about going on the pre-medical track but as you might be able to tell, I’m very unsure.”

One thing Valtadoros is sure about was the pride she felt competing for and attending Pioneer High School.

“My high school running career wasn’t all smooth sailing,” she admits. “I learned to work hard towards my goals but also bounce back from setbacks and disappointment. I’m proud of myself for pushing forward despite injuries and plateauing.

“I’m also proud of the impact I hope I had on my team. I always tried to do my best to set an example of hard work and inclusion. If I had to choose one moment, it would be after the DMR at New Balance Indoor Nationals. Everyone on my team ran a great race and our coach, Ian Forsyth, was really proud of us. That moment was very special.”

Valtadoros, the daughter of Tassos and Wendy Valtadoros, had a lot of special moments at Pioneer both in the classroom and with her running shoes on. She had a 4.0 GPA, was treasurer of the Rotary Interact Club and was a member of the National Honor Society.

There are a track full of accomplishments and big moments for Valtadoros and the Pioneer cross country and track teams over the last four years – it’s just a question of where the best starting point is.

“Running at New Balance Indoor Nationals and the state meets with my team are definitely highlights for me,” says Valtadoros. “Throughout high school I’ve realized how rewarding I find working as part of a team to accomplish a goal.”

At the track and field state meet last year, Valtadoros ran a best time by 3 seconds (a PR 2:24.8) in her 4×800 relay split. She led off the relay at the state meet with teammates Sarah Forsyth, Cookie Baugh and Zofia Dudek right behind her as the Pioneers went 9:13.77 to take second place behind only Bay City Western (9:11.33).

Now that was a proud moment.

As was her team’s second-place finish at the cross country state finals during her freshman year. “The seniors had worked so hard since their freshman year to improve at the state meet and they had gone from below 10th place to second in four years,” she remembers. “It was a very inspiring moment for me.”

As a senior, Valtadoros helped lead Pioneer across the finish line to win the Division 1 state finals in November. She also was a team captain. “That was an amazing moment,” she said of winning the state title. “The big events stand out in my memories.”

While the big moments were big, the smaller moments were equally as important.

“My team always puts together great potluck style team dinners the day before meets and we would eat lots of pasta and brownies together,” she says. “The team aspect of running in high school has had a huge impact on me. I’ve been able to make friends who range from current high school freshman to college juniors and the memories I’ve made with these friends are moments I’ll always remember looking back on my time running at Pioneer.”

Of course, her career was cut short this spring because of the Covid-19 pandemic that forced schools to close and spring sports to cancel before ever getting out of the blocks.

“I really wanted to run personal best times in the 800 and 400 this year,” she said. “I had a decent indoor season and I was feeling confident about pushing myself to finish my high school career on a high note. My 4×800 relay team was also hoping to win the state title. We would’ve had the same team and we placed second last year so working together towards first place was something we were all looking forward to. I’m also missing out on being captain this season. I really enjoy organizing bonding activities for my team and leading us in pursuit of our goals. We were definitely ready to work together and improve as a team throughout the season.”

“I was pretty bummed out about missing the end of my senior year and my last high school season, and everyone was missing out on exciting events they had planned,” she added. “While I completely supported staying at home to best combat this pandemic, it was still disheartening to think about how different my life could be right now.”

Valtadoros’ life became quite different the first time she put on her running shoes.

“I’ve enjoyed running as part of a team for a long time, from running in local fun runs with my friends in elementary school and then at Slauson Middle School for Mr. Strite and Mr. DeWolf,” she says.  “My coach, Nancy Boudreau, is also great at encouraging new runners. All of these factors pushed me to run cross country freshman year. After that season, I knew I wanted to run throughout high school. My mom and grandparents also ran track when they were in high school, so they’ve supported me and my siblings in running.”

Valtadoros, who is in the College of Natural Science majoring in mathematics at MSU, is currently living at home and doing online classes because the university closed the dorms. Her time at home has allowed her to stay close to her high school friends, many of whom also are taking online college classes at home.

Running will always be a part of her future. “I plan on joining either the running club or maybe trying a new activity like triathlon club,” she says. “I see myself running and racing in some way for the rest of my life.”

A life clearly on track for success.