By Joseph Garcia
Just about two years ago, Liberty Hill freshman Danielle Rimann had no idea she liked cross country running until she trained for a few weeks and found her calling. She wanted to play volleyball like her older sister, Samantha, who is currently on the varsity team.
Coaxed by her father and namesake, Daniel, to try out for the cross country team in seventh grade, the 14-year-old is well on her way to becoming the next accomplished female runner in Liberty Hill High School history on the heels of the graduated and former state champion Susie Kemper.
Rimann and her family did not move to Liberty Hill until last year.
“I ran (cross country in seventh grade, but I wasn’t that serious about it and then in eighth grade I moved here to Liberty Hill,” Rimann said. “I wanted to play volleyball, but my Dad wanted me to do cross country just to try it out and see how I felt about it. It wasn’t until about the third week that I realized that I actually liked cross country and like to run.”
The cross country teams will have run five meets as of Thursday, Sept. 20. The first race was a relay hosted by Burnet in which no times were officially recorded. But the next week, the real meets began in Belton, giving Rimann and her teammates their first real taste of the cross country season.
In the Belton meet, the Liberty Hill girls took second place behind district rival Lampasas, with Rimann finishing fifth overall with a time of 13 minutes and 21.1 seconds.
It did not take long, however, for Rimann to earn her first personal title of the season as the very next meet in Lexington she did just that, running a 14:38.4 and leading the Panthers to their first team win of the year.
“It felt really good,” Rimann said of the win. “I think that the best part about winning is getting congratulated by everyone and that’s when it really sinks in that you did a good job.”
Then on Sept 15 at St. Andrews, Rimann nabbed a silver medal yet again running Liberty Hill to victory lane with an individual time of 12:21.7.
Liberty Hill cross country Coach Kim Holt had an inkling the freshman would be good. But she was pleasantly surprised when her performance began influencing the team in a positive manner.
“In junior high, she did really well in cross country and track so I kind of had an idea that she had it in her to come out and be good,” said Holt. “Right now she’s good, but she is going to be even better because she’s just a freshman. That also helped the other girls to want to push, like Chelsea Cole who wants to get up there with her. So it’s just helping all the way down with the girls being more competitive and wanting to improve each week.”
Rimann, a 14-year-old whose favorite subject is English, said the biggest change from junior high to high school is the fact that there are more people and she does not get to see all of her friends as much as she’d like. However, she said that the cross country team that includes six other freshmen is like a family for her.
“I like them; we are basically like a family,” she said. “I see them at school and have them in a lot of the same classes, so we are really close.”
At Liberty Hill Junior High, Rimann and the other freshmen were coached by Julia Shaffer where they learned the basics as well as advanced techniques. Shaffer helps build the foundation for the incoming freshmen and her stellar work is not overlooked.
Coach Holt knows she is blessed to be able to reload with a class that is varsity ready.
“(Reloading like we did) doesn’t happen all the time,” Holt explained. “But it’s really nice for the freshmen that we have to be able to step up and compete to where we were last year or even better. Coach (Julia) Shaffer has done an awesome job (at the junior high) with the freshmen coming up and they are ready to compete at the varsity level. That’s just awesome and I couldn’t ask for anything more. It’s just an awesome group of freshmen that we have right now.”
Rimann said Coach Shaffer instilled within her the drive to push herself and improve with every training session and meet, even when things did not go her way.
“(Coach Shaffer) is a really good coach because she really pushes you to do your best,” Rimann said. “Sometimes it would be a bad day but she would give you little tips that help the most or it seemed like she would give you really fast target times that you wouldn’t be able to reach but you can actually push yourself and reach them.”
Although Rimann is just a freshman, she is leading the girls’ cross country team to wins with a bright future ahead. Rimann is not a vocal leader like Ray Lewis is for the Baltimore Ravens. She does not preach to and pump her team up before meets. Instead, she lets her running do the talking.
“She is just a freshman, so she is not really being an outspoken leader, but she is leading by example and what she’s doing,” Holt said. “She works really hard. She stepped up in that role as being the No. 1 girl on our team and she’s just gotten better every week.”
Rimann agreed saying she feels like every week things get easier. Her times are improving, but also the little things like breathing easier and staying up longer.
Her goal is to make it to the state meet and crack the top 15. There is a very good possibility of that happening, especially after she got some advice from the former state champion and LH graduate Susie Kemper.
“Last year before our track season started, I went and I ran over with (the varsity team) and so I was running with (Susie) a little bit and she actually helped my arm form a lot,” explained Rimann “I got to know her a little bit and she helped me.”
For Rimann and LHHS’ sake, hopefully some of that gold-medal luster rubbed off and will lead to similar if not greater things.