Liberty Hill is now the home to a new state champion.
Liberty Hill High School senior Susie Kemper made the Panther-nation proud by taking the gold medal at the state cross country meet Nov. 12 after a season that saw her strengthen with every race.
“It’s so awesome,” said Liberty Hill Coach Kim Holt. “Not many people get to be state champions and she did a great job. She wanted it last year and she got second, so she finally got it her senior year.”
As October rolled around and the temperatures began to cool, Kemper started to heat up. After a second-place finish at the McNeil meet Oct. 1, Kemper never saw the back of an opposing runner when she crossed the finish line for the rest of the season.
Kemper ran away with gold medals at Georgetown Oct. 8 and Vista Ridge Oct. 15 before the races really started to count. She went on to earn first-place honors at the district meet in Salado Oct. 26 and at the regional meet in San Antonio Nov. 5, propelling her into the state meet Nov. 12.
Held at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock, the state meet pitted together the highest-quality cross country runners in the state of Texas that included Kemper and her rival from Lucas Lovejoy, junior Katie Ruhala.
“Susie got second to Katie (Ruhala), the girl that she beat this year,
and she beat her in the mile last year at track,” Holt said. “So that was her goal and it’s been her goal all year. She told me before she ran that she has to win this thing. She did awesome.”
In the 2010 cross country state meet, Ruhala bested Kemper in the two-mile course to win the gold. However, Kemper returned the favor once track season arrived, topping Ruhala in the mile to win first place.
Coming into the state meet, Kemper and her Lovejoy adversary were tied 1-1 in head-to-head competition. On Saturday, the University of Alabama-bound Kemper seized the upper hand.
Once the starting gun fired, it was go-time for Kemper. This is what she has trained for since her second-place finish in last year’s state meet. This is why she spent those early mornings conditioning her stamina while others may have been sleeping.
It was not always a sure thing for Kemper as she was in second, just behind Ruhala at around the quarter-mile point of the dusty two-mile course.
However, coming down the stretch with the wind seemingly increasing – and for all anyone knew the gusts could have been generated by Kemper’s churning legs herself – the virtuoso runner crossed the finish line with a 50-yard gap between her and the second-place Ruhala, clocking a time of 11:42.30 to the Lovejoy runner’s 11:52.30.
When it was all said and done, after Kemper caught her breath, she finally realized the culmination of the moment.
“It feels pretty awesome,” said Kemper of being a state champion. “The whole season kind of accumulated to this point so it’s really emotional and kind of a let down. But this is cool.
“This is where I really hoped to be. I wasn’t going to settle for anything less really. I met my goal and my team met their goal to finish a perfect senior season,” she said.
As for her foe, Kemper – who runs the mile, 800-meter and possibly the 4×4 this year – agrees with the notion that competition breeds success saying that Ruhala is a great runner who she looks forward to seeing on the track in the spring.
“Honestly, your competition is what brings out the best in you,” she said. “My dad and I talked about it and we always look forward to racing Katie. Just like in track she brought out the PR (personal record) in me. So, I couldn’t have done it without her I guess.”
In October, Susie Kemper verbally committed to run for the University of Alabama and will officially sign with the Crimson Tide on national signing day in February.
After only visiting one other college campus, Kemper’s decision was easy.
“I went to Tulsa first, then I went to Alabama,” Kemper explained. “I had some other visits lined up, but once you find something that has everything you want, there is no point in waiting. I had a checklist and I could check everything off of it…I loved everything about (Alabama) so that’s where I chose. Roll Tide!”
Kemper said that one of those categories on the checklist was the type of people she would be with. Check.
“I met two of the girls and of course all the coaches,” she said. “Everyone was super nice and had awesome accents, I just loved everything about it.”