By KEITH SPARKS
Mckynzie King has been dominating the track for the Lady Panthers since she stepped foot on campus, but that reign came to an end last week.
The senior runner, who competes in both cross-country and track, finished her career as a Panther at the Region 3-4A Track Meet, which took place April 28 and 29 in Huntsville, with a sixth-place finish in the mile run, a fourth-place finish in the two-mile run, and a ninth-place finish in the 800-meter run. King was one of only four Lady Panthers to qualify for Regionals.
King admitted that after the Regional Meet, the emotions that came with the realization that it would be her last meet as a Panther began to set in.
“It was pretty emotional,” she said. “Not really at the meet, but afterward, while I was driving home with my parents, realizing my high school running career was over, I definitely got a little sad, but everybody has to move on from that point.”
Although her final competition as a Panther was in track and field, cross-country is where King has really established her dominance, and where she feels the most comfortable, due in large part to the fact that cross-country lends itself to a more team-centric atmosphere.
“I definitely enjoy cross-country season a lot more than track, just because it’s one race, and it’s usually only one day,” she said. “We have a lot of goals to really work toward as a team, and track is a lot more individualized. We’re still a team, but everybody does their own workout, kind of, and works at their own pace.”
As a senior last fall in cross-country, King finished third in the UIL 4A State Championship in the 3,200 with a time of 11:34.4. She also placed second in the two-mile run at the UIL 4A Region 3 Championship with a time of 11:56.0 and first at the UIL 4A District 19 Championship in the two-mile run with a time of 12:09.4.
That third-place finish at the State Championship is a race that sticks out for King as one of the most memorable moments in her cross-country career.
“It was just a really beautiful race,” she said. “The whole race, I felt great. It was just a great day for me, and it was the best race I’ve run all year.”
Since the moment she began running as a sixth grader, King’s mother, also an accomplished runner, has been at her side, giving her advice and supporting her along the way.
“She’s definitely made me a lot more comfortable with running,” King said of her mother’s influence. “She’s taken me into a kind of familiarity with it. She always has good advice for me. She always has little tips and strategies on how to run and everything, and she’s just been super helpful my whole life with running and everything else.”
One of King’s biggest takeaways from her four years of running at Liberty Hill High School is the fact she simply enjoys running more now than she did as a freshman, a trend that will hopefully follow her into college.
“Our coaches always told us to envision what our main goal is, and I’ve been doing that all four years of high school,” King said. “I guess as a freshman, I envisioned myself still running as a senior, and hoped my times would remain constant if not better, but I’ve definitely enjoyed running more as I’ve gotten older. I used to get so nervous for meets my freshman year, and now I’m able to actually enjoy myself.”
King’s dominance in cross-country has earned her a scholarship to Texas State University to run cross-country for the Bobcats in San Marcos. Between now and her arrival at Texas State in the fall, King will be working on a training regimen given to her by her new coach at Texas State, which will up the intensity of her current workouts by adding an additional day each week, bringing her weekly total to six days, instead of five, and implementing more core exercises.
“I really want to run a lot more mileage than I am now,” King said of her goals as a collegiate athlete. “I’d like to really get focused on running, and I’d like to be a part of the travel team as a freshman.”
As she prepares to graduate from Liberty Hill, King hopes that she’s remembered first and foremost as somebody who cared deeply for her Lady Panther teammates and remained focused on her goals.
“I hope to be remembered as somebody who really cared about her team,” King said. “Someone who was a team player all the time, has her priorities set, was focused on running, and was always positive about the running program.”
King signed her letter of intent to run for the Bobcats on May 5 at Liberty Hill High School with her family, friends, and coaches in attendance.