501Der Women 2024: Celebrating Athletic Excellence – Van Buren County’s Maddie Cabana

By Dr. Robert Reising

“Her main love in life is Jesus,” her mother recently explained in a discussion of her teenage daughter’s impressive record-setting feats. With challenging national and international competitions awaiting her at Tulsa-based Christian liberal arts institution Oral Roberts University (ORU). Maddie Cabana is currently completing one of the most celebrated public school cross-country and track careers in Natural State history. 

Photo by Mike Kemp

Her faith and humility have served her handsomely and promise to do no less in the future. The Lord’s will governs and guides her, she confidently and proudly proclaims.

Blessed with a sister, Sophia, two years her senior, Madelaine “Maddie” Cabana was born outside Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. Soon thereafter, they resided in Florida and, later, Texas. The family then moved to Van Buren County, where, at age six, Maddie enrolled in the public schools of Clinton.

Maddie has soared beyond academic and athletic norms. Honors have never escaped her, and she currently holds a 4.3 grade point average (on a 4-point scale), while expecting to carry credit from five advanced placement courses and exams to ORU in the fall.

“My grades have always been very important to me,” Maddie admits. Her parents welcomed her zeal for the classroom, no less her love of sports participation. Her mother, a registered nurse, and her father, a retired military officer, have been unflinching in their support over the years as Maddie met the increasingly fatiguing demands of competitive sports, especially cross country and track. 

Clinton senior Maddie Cabana has competed for years, and her numerous awards are from area, state, regional and national competitions. At the Junior Olympics last July, she impressed with third place in the nation in the 1500-meter run and fourth place in the nation in the 3000-meter run. Her future is bright!

Ever-more demanding and challenging early-morning and evening workouts and ever-more scrupulous time management, along with strict nutritional needs to fuel her ever-improving performance, all accompanied Maddie’s sports successes.

As a ninth-grader, Maddie was well-prepared to meet Arkansas’s strongest senior high school cross-country and track and field runners. The 2022 State Cross Country Championships marked the third appearance for Maddie in the event. In 2020, as a freshman, she had finished fourth and in 2021 third; in both 2022 and 2023 she took first place.

The Clinton Yellowjackets Booster Club thought so highly of “Her Historic 2022 Cross Country Track and Field Season” that it presented the driven teen with a handsome plaque listing seven of her principal achievements of the year. Included were “2022 Democrat-Gazette All-Arkansas Team” and “2022 Gatorade Player Of The Year Nominee.”

Her second state championship victory last fall represented the culmination of one of the most dominant cross-country seasons in Arkansas history. Maddie claimed victory in eight of the nine events she entered during a season launched the previous August. In the lone meet that she failed to win, the prestigious 28th annual Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival in Fayetteville, she captured sixth place in a national field of 391, including numerous intercollegiate runners. The time she recorded was her personal best for the season. She was also one of only two Arkansans to finish in the top eight.

A few weeks later, Maddie won her conference’s Cross-Country Championship at War Memorial Park in Little Rock. Her margin of victory? An amazing four minutes and 38 seconds ahead of the meet’s second-place finisher.

The same season later took her out of state as a member of the elite Team Arkansas, which topped Team Oklahoma on the latter’s home soil. With Maddie again contributing, Team Arkansas traveled to Oklahoma in February to register another triumph outside the Natural State. Two victories closer to home also came in consecutive years, 2023 and 2024, in Little Rock where Maddie won the 10K in the Little Rock Marathon, which unfolded a field of more than 900 runners, including both men and women.

Her achievements in track and field were just as numerous and at least as spectacular. Key in the spring of 2023 were her performances in the one-mile and two-mile runs: in record-breaking times, she emerged the 3A State Champion in both. The following summer she added a strong performance in the Yukon, Oklahoma Invitational, an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Regional Meet, to her honors. Two eye-catching performances in July at the Junior Olympics at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, capped her 2023 exploits: third place in the nation in the 1500-meter run and fourth place in the nation in the 3000-meter run. 

In February, the 5-foot, 8-inch athlete experienced a first in her remarkable career: she raced indoors. At the Randal Tyson Track Center at the University of Arkansas, she won the Indoor 4A State Championships in the 1600- and 3200-meter runs.

Maddie Cabana loves sports and especially running. She is completing one of the most celebrated public school cross-country and track careers in Natural State history.

She hopes to have added the 4A State Championships in both races as the highly successful Clinton High School program advances at a competitive level. Maddie will then hold the coveted Triple Crown (i.e., State Champion in Cross Country, Indoors and Outdoors) if she has claimed either the 1600- or 3200-meter race state championship at the state meet in Pocahontas on April 30. [Because of press deadlines, we are unable to include the results in this magazine.]

Before fall’s arrival, the soon-to-be 18-year-old dubbed “the favorite daughter of Clinton” will be morphing into “the favorite daughter of ORU,” eager to learn, to serve and to run.

Bob Reising