JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
MARBLE FALLS — Moments after signing her commitment to Angelo State University with a letter of intent May 11, Marble Falls High School track-and-field senior standout Natalie Schulz celebrated the moment the only way she knew how.
She declined a cupcake, adding she would eat it later, changed clothes and headed to the track with Lady Mustangs head coach Anthony Torns for a light workout.
After all, the athlete is competing at the Class 5A state track meet beginning with the triple jump May 12 at 6:30 p.m. and followed by the long jump at noon and the 300-meter hurdles at 8:45 p.m. May 13. The meet is at Mike Myers Stadium on the University of Texas campus, 707 Clyde Littlefield Drive in Austin.
This is the third consecutive year she has competed at the state meet.
Schulz committed to the program a few weeks ago and did what Torns discouraged her to do as a freshman: try to copy her brother.
Back then, Cody Schulz had carved his own path in the sport, earning numerous medals while competing for the Mustangs and at summer Amateur Athletic Union meets.
Torns recalled a big moment in his work with the younger Schulz. It happened during the Badger Relays in Lampasas in 2012. Natalie was feeling pressure to be as successful as her brother. That’s when Torns took her aside.
“You live up to what you can do,” he recalled saying. “If people don’t like it, it doesn’t matter.”
Both chuckled as they remembered that moment, with Natalie finally saying — with the confidence her coach was looking for — “I am probably the better Schulz.”
She said Torns has been there when she felt low and taught her life lessons she will continue to use.
Schulz laughed as she remembered the first time Torns met her boyfriend.
“He introduced himself as my third dad,” she said.
The coach said he decided Schulz would make the ideal hurdler when he was told she was a barrel racer. That showed fearlessness, which is important because a hurdler will fall; they must have the ability to bounce back, he said. But she also is athletic enough to perform well at the event.
“I figured she’d be tough enough if she fell,” he said.
As for her signing with ASU, the Lady Mustang said it came down to a comfort level with the campus, the atmosphere and coaches.
She said she stopped worrying about her individual results this year and focused more on helping the team, whether that was encouragement or offering a listening ear.
Torns said he saw her improve each year, noting she took the final step in her development. Her ability to forget a bad race or a bad jump and focus on the next one will be vital at the college level, where athletes are expected to contribute immediately. He added that Schulz’s versatility is valuable.
“They’re getting a good one,” he said. “It’s just a good feeling to see her live out her dreams, and I was glad I could help.”