South Oldham girls cross-country coach Stan Clark repeats the old runner’s adage often: “Summer miles bring autumn smiles.”
For the three-time defending state champs (Class 2-A), a dedication to offseason summer training has brought not only smiles, but November titles as well.
At last year’s state meet the Dragons overwhelmed the field by placing three runners among the top eight finishers and clocking an average time of 20:33.31, more than 45 seconds quicker than runner-up Elizabethtown.
This season the Dragons are ranked No. 1 in 2-A by www.KYtrackXC.com and return a loaded stable including junior Grace Whitworth (personal record, 19:30.00), who placed sixth at the state meet and sophomore Keightley Dudgeon (PR 19:56.00), who finished 23rd.
Sophomore Alex Gilliland (PR 20:48.18) and freshman Erin Wilson (PR 20:53.66) have both worked their way into the team’s top seven.
“It’s a very talented group,” said Clark. “I think we’re going to be eight or nine deep with girls capable of finishing in the top 50 or higher in races.”
The veteran of the speedy crew is senior Kami Orrender, who Clark said, “will literally run until she passes out.”
“She guts it out and that’s a rare quality. Most people drop when they get into trouble, but she’ll keep pushing and pushing,” he said. “I credit a lot of the improvement in some of these girls to Kami’s leadership by example.”
Orrender posted a cross-country personal record of 19:52 at the Ted Fox Invitational last season in Bedford, Ind. During track season in April she ran a 19:39.00 to win the 5000 meter run at the Harry Greschel Invitational.
With the heat index soaring last week, Orrender took some time away from the trails to answer questions about her race strategy and the pursuit of a fourth state championship.
How did you get started in running?
I heard about the cross-country team when I was in second grade at Centerfield Elementary, but we weren’t allowed to run until third grade so I trained for a year with my dad (Kevin) before I got a chance to race.
What is your race day routine?
I usually eat noodles, a banana and a bagel two hours before the race. I think of what strategy to go out with and try to calm myself. Closer to the race I stay distracted and try not to think about anything until I get on the line.
Do you have a consistent strategy during races?
It changes a lot depending on how competitive the race is but I’ve always been a frontrunner and I like to be at the front of the pack from the beginning of the race ‘til the end. Sometimes it may hurt me depending on how fast I go out, but I like to go straight to the front.
Is there a target time you would like to hit this season?
At the beginning of the season I’d like to be right around 19:30 and by the end I want to be in the low-19s.
What is your favorite course?
I prefer hilly courses and I like our home course in Buckner where the Dragon Invitational will be run (Oct. 15). It’s got every aspect of cross-country – you run across creeks, through woods, up and down hills and finish on a track.
Tom Sawyer (State Park) is fairly close to my house and it’s shady and grassy with trails, so that’s where I do most of my training runs.
Are you planning to run in college?
I do plan to run and I’m being recruited by a variety of out-of-state and in-state schools. I’m still undecided, but I’d prefer somewhere in the South. I’m looking at Mercer and Emory in Georgia and a few schools in Florida as well as the University of Alabama. I want to major in business.
What would capping your career with a fourth-straight title mean to you?
It’s our overall goal and there’s always a team in 2-A that comes up and surprises us. Right now it’s all about time and getting PRs. It’s an individual sport as much as it’s a team sport right now but a state title is our common goal.
Contact columnist Chris Cahill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Category: High School Sports Report