OXFORD, Ohio -- The crowd gathered at Great American Ball Park was still waiting for the first woman to cross the finish line early in the morning on May 13 for the 16th annual Redlegs Run 10K when Mike Stahr looked at his watch and realized that one of the youngest runners he coaches was no more than 10-20 seconds from crossing the line.
"Sure enough, I looked up and there was this little head that barely poked up above the railing," said Stahr, founder and CEO of Running2Win in Oxford. "You just see this little head sprinting to the finish line."
That's when 10-year-old Lucia Rodbro emerged among the crowd of older and bigger runners and crossed the finish line with a time of 42:46 to win the women's 10K.
"It totally threw everyone off," Stahr said. "It was such a thrill to watch her."
She was the 15th runner to finish the race overall.
"When I finished, I didn't know that I had won until they were going to interview me on the JumboTron," Rodbro said. "Then I was really happy that I had won. It was really fun to be on the JumboTron."
Now, nearly two weeks after the biggest race of her budding running career, Lucia is back to being a 10-year-old girl and a fourth-grader at Kramer Elementary in Oxford.
"She loves to read, and she likes to play with her friends and do all the normal stuff that most kids do," said Lucia's dad, Matt Rodbro.
But she also likes to compete. Lucia plays soccer, she swims year-round and she runs.
She runs a lot.
Lucia will run anywhere between three and six miles before school three days a week with her dad and two to three times a week after school with Stahr at the track, just depending on how much time she has with her other activities.
"We get up between 5:30 and 6 in the morning," Matt Rodbro said. "That's something that Lucia does and she creates her own program before school. She decides how far we're going to run and she wakes me up. She does all the hard work herself."
She began running with her family when she was 5 years old.
"I was out jogging and she asked if she could go one day," Matt Rodbro said. "She kept up and she enjoyed it. We began running 5Ks for fun and she enjoyed it and we never stopped."
Lucia was always competitive in her age group at the races she'd run with her family. She has competed several times in the Flying Pig 10K and the Redlegs Run 10K. But it was late last year when Matt and Sarah Rodbro, Lucia's mom, realized that running might be a little more than a hobby for her.
"In the Cincinnati Thanksgiving Day Race, she ran a much better time than we'd expected and we really took notice at that point and realized she was doing something pretty special," Matt Rodbro said. "We've been fortunate enough to work with Mike Stahr and he has really taken the reins on her training and elevated her regimen and really helped her improve her times. As a parent, it's been really exciting to watch."
Stahr was somewhat reluctant at first because of her age -- she just turned 10 in April.
"She definitely showed that potential," Stahr said. "You could tell immediately that she just loved getting out there and running. She loved it."
That is why she runs. She enjoys getting out and competing.
"I like to travel to different places for races and I like to meet new people when I'm running," Lucia Rodbro said. "I also like feeling accomplished after a race."
The Redlegs Run was her biggest accomplishment yet in a field of adults.
"It was a very big deal," Stahr said.
"For a young athlete like that to go into a race like that and win, the confidence to do that is just incredible. That's probably the biggest advantage she has. She gets into the race and she does everything right. It's a serious thing when she gets up to the line and you can tell by the way she warms up. She is there shaking her legs up until the race, just like a professional would. It's not a game when you're out there. But the second the race is over, it's back to being a little girl again."
The Redlegs Run was another family affair for the Rodbros. Matt began the race with his daughter while Sarah was at a soccer game with Lucia's younger brother, Fletcher, who is also a runner. Matt finished 481st overall in 1:06.52. Lucia ran up and gave him a hug and told her dad what had happened.
"She was just thrilled," Matt Rodbro said. "I was just so far behind that I didn't get to see her finish. I have a huge sense of pride. I'm just really excited that she's found this and I feel very fortunate to be able to participate with her, especially in the mornings when we have that time together. As a parent, there aren't that many sports where you can be actively involved with your kids like this. I feel very blessed to be part of this part of her life."
More wins could be in store for Lucia.
"She has the potential to go to the state meet as a freshman in high school," Stahr said. "Easily. And she would probably make it as a seventh-grader. No question about it, she is just one big ball of talent."
And she has big goals of her own.
"I hope to be at the Olympic trials in 2020 and I hope to win a gold medal at the Olympics when I'm older," Lucia said.