Amanda Vorthmann can't decide what she likes better: winning a race or making a culinary treat.
“It's a really hard toss-up,” the University of Nebraska at Omaha senior said. “I love to run so much. But I love to make amazing food and make people happy when they eat it.”
Distance running is Vorthmann's specialty for the Mavericks. During this cross country season, she posted some of the program's fastest times ever. The Riverside (Iowa) High School grad will attempt to win the Summit League title at Saturday's conference meet in Rochester, Mich., where UNO will compete in its first Summit championship.
But she also owns and runs her own catering business, Amanda's Sweet Treats. Her specialty: candy-filled cupcakes.
So how busy can things get for the 23-year-old Vorthmann?
On Sept. 15, she ran the 6,000 meters in 21:49.4 — second-fastest in UNO history — at the Woody Greeno meet in Lincoln. She then went home and catered a wedding reception for 400 people.
To fit that into one day, she got up at 5:30 a.m. to drive the 40 miles from her home in Persia, Iowa, to Omaha to catch the team van to Lincoln. She finally went to sleep around midnight after completing cleanup at the reception.
“She's driving 40 minutes, running a catering business, training 70 to 90 miles a week and she's one of the best runners I've ever coached,” Mav distance coach Marc Bierbaum said.
Vorthmann beat all the top college runners in the state when she finished fifth at the Greeno meet. Then she beat the best small-college runners in the area at the Briar Cliff (Iowa) Invitational on Oct. 6, when she ran the fastest 5K in UNO history (17.12.38) for either track or cross country.
Twice she's been named the Summit's athlete of the week, a first for a UNO woman. Before this season, she broke the school records for both the 3K indoor and outdoor, and the 3,000 steeplechase in track and field.
“She's a hard-worker, a farm kid. She does everything I ask of her,” Bierbaum said. “She has faith in what I ask of her and she doesn't skip on details.”
Vorthmann said her success stems from raising her base running from 55 miles as a freshman to 70 to 80. She's also increased her regular mileage pace from 8 minutes to between 6:45 and 6:50.
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“You have to have a good base to have a good year,” Vorthmann said. “Workouts are where your speed comes from. If you are not doing workouts, you are not going to get any faster.”
Because she lives 40 miles from Omaha, Bierbaum allows Vorthmann to do some training on her own.
Might she skimp on those individual workouts? Not a chance.
Vorthmann learned at an early age in Oakland, Iowa, to approach everything with maximum effort. A learning disability — she retains little of what she reads — has forced her to put in extra time on many tasks. She may need two or three hours to complete homework that would take someone else an hour.
Her love of cooking has helped her improve her reading retention through reading cookbooks.
“The process of how to make the item, it really helped me,” she said. “It just helped me to read because I love food. That's the only thing I wanted to read.”
For Vorthmann, cooking and learning — she's getting a degree in general studies with an emphasis in business hospitality and physical education — go hand in hand. Running, though, is its own task.
The time she spends running is her down time, when she clears her head except for the occasional chat with the farmers she sees while running western Iowa's back roads.
On Saturday, she'll concentrate on doing her best. Just like she did last Sunday when she made an airplane cake for a farmer and former airline employee who was celebrating his 80th birthday.
The family was happy, so Vorthmann was, too.
“I love it,” she said, “when I put a smile on someone's face.”
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