By DANA DELGADO
For distance runners, the race can be grueling, physically punishing and a brutal mind game. But for most, it is the challenge of a mountain to climb and to conquer.
At Liberty Hill High School, it is no different except LHHS has established a tradition of successful distance runners.
“It really stems from the kids and their parents instilling a love of running at a young age and our kids having great Intermediate and Junior High coaches helping them get started and laying down great groundwork,” said Track Coach Gretchen Peterson. “Our kids grow up knowing about cross country and track at such young ages. It has really made a huge impact on our high school programs. We are all very lucky.”
This year’s crop of distance runners are of the same fabric who run for the love of running. Senior Mitchell Germann heads up the distance runners on the boys’ side while a cadre of three including junior Chelsea Cole, sophomore Danielle Rimann and freshman McKynzie King form the nucleus for the girls. All four are coming off a phenomenal medal performance at the state cross country meet in the fall. The girls’ team finished third with King placing fourth while Germann captured third.
“All of these kids are confident competitors, who have worked hard to push themselves, but along the way have really helped push one another,” said Coach Peterson. “It’s great to see them grow and mature into such accomplished runners, and the good news is all of the girls will be back. They all bring something different to the table in terms of style and personality, but when they step on the track, they are all the same. They want to win, and they compete with such desire and purpose. They are a fun group of kids to coach along with the whole distance group.”
Germann says running has made him mentally tough and has motivated him to accomplish more and more. The senior says he is a good pacer but a conservative runner who likes to test out the other runners during race. His competitive spirit, he adds, is what makes him run as hard as he can. Germann first competed in the Marathon Kids Club and had a break out race at the McNeil Invitational while in junior high. Running against 400 runners over the two-mile course, Germann placed second.
“I knew then that I wanted to compete and get better in high school,” he said.
Germann would go on to make his mark at the state high school cross country meet. Seeded fifth in the state meet, he wore down the fourth seed in a highly competitive race to finish third.
“Mitchell has improved and continued to build on the success that he started having in junior high, so it’s no surprise to me that he has been able to accomplish all that he has in his four years here at LHHS,” said Coach Peterson.
The senior is working on remaining strong in the third quarter of his race and finish stronger this year so he can qualify in track in his last season. He plans to attend the University of Texas to study mechanical engineering, but does not plan to compete for the Longhorns. Instead, Germann, who was heavily influenced by his sister who was also a runner, his mother who was the only girl on her track team in Kansas, and a host of junior high and high school coaches, has his sights on competing as a marathon runner.
Cole has made a name for herself with her long stride, steady running and strong kick.
“I just like to compete and do well,” said Cole, who learned she had it in her when she ran away from the pack in her first track meet in seventh grade. “I realized how good I was. I beat everyone.”
As a freshman, she competed at the state cross country meet and had a good track season with a new personal best time.
“I want to accomplish more,” Cole said. “But I need to get a little stronger, pace myself better and bring down my times.”
Rimann, who transferred from Round Round in the eighth grade, is motivated by the challenge and success that she first savored that year by placing second at the district meet. She first started running by participating in the running club at her elementary school. As a runner who likes to start out fast in a race, the junior says she simply “likes to run” and hopes to compete in college as well as becoming a marathon runner.
Rimann medaled at the regional meet last year with a third place finish and has hopes of returning this year. Running long distances has taught me patience and has made me more “strong-minded.”
Freshman King made a big splash in her first year of competing in the high school with a medal performance at the state cross country meet in the fall. For years though, she’s been well known in running circles. She was undefeated her seventh grade year and was the gold medalist at the district meet.
“I really like being good at something,” she said. “I want to go to regionals, but will need to beat my personal record of 5:17.”
An apparent natural talent, it is a bit surprising that King processes every step in her head.
“I think every move out,” she said.
While this year’s crop of distance runners have had great success in cross country, qualifying for regionals in track have been a whole different matter. Perhaps, this is the year LHHS distance runners break the drought.