King setting a pace for LHHS cross country

Mckynzie King placed second in District 25-4A cross country. (Shannon Hofmann Photo)

Mckynzie King placed second in District 25-4A cross country. (Shannon Hofmann Photo)

By Mike Schoeffel

Like mother, like daughter.

Chloe King became a state champion runner when she was just a sophomore in high school. A generation later, her daughter nearly pulled off the same feat.

Mckynzie King, now a junior at Liberty Hill High School, placed fourth at the state meet as a sophomore. That finish proved she’s truly a chip off the old block – but don’t think for a second that mom is some sort of stickler for running.

“She doesn’t put a lot of pressure on me, because she felt that when she was younger,” said Mckynzie. “I put a lot of stress on myself, and she helps to relieve that stress.”

How so?

“She packs me candy for lunch all the time,” said Mckynzie. “My coaches are like ‘You shouldn’t eat that! That’s so unhealthy!’ But I love it.”

Not like all that sugar is having a negative impact on Mckynzie’s performance. All she’s done is establish herself as one of the top runners in the area before becoming an upperclassman. She qualified for the state meets in cross country and track her freshman year.

Then, apparently unsatisfied with that rare achievement, she pulled the state double dip again her sophomore year.

Empty calories be darned. After all, it’s not like she eats candy bars right before a meet.

“I always have a granola bar or a Gatorade whey bar right before competing,” she said. “Oh, and I drink lots and lots of water.”

That’s the only pre-meet routine Mckynzie adheres to. Her mother, on the other hand, used to ritualistically put on her right shoe first before every competition. Mckynzie said she scrapped any belief in superstition sometime during her freshman year.

“I know a lot of runners have to do certain things before meets. I just sort of go out there and run,” she said.

She may not be superstitious, but Mckynzie still makes sure to get into a certain state of mind before taking to the course. Liberty Hill cross country coach Kim Holt has seen it first-hand.

“She doesn’t show much emotion when she gets ready to race,” the coach said. “I think that helps some members of the team to see someone with a calm and cool demeanor.

“I know her mom was a runner in school, so she has some genetics,” she added.

Chloe, in fact, ran track and cross country at Texas Christian University as a freshman and a sophomore.

Candy, granola bars, a lack of rituals…whatever Mckynzie is doing, it’s still working. As she nears the end of her junior cross country season, she appears to be on track for another state meet.

Point in case: at the beginning of October she placed eighth overall at the McNeil Invite, one of the biggest Austin invitationals of the year. Out of 400 runners from 67 schools, Mckynzie was one of only nine girls to average fewer than six minutes per mile.

Mckynzie likens her state of mind during a race to that of meditation. Running brings tranquility, and tranquility apparently brings results.

“Running has always been like a religion to me,” she said. “It’s always come very natural. I like running until I can’t feel anything. It’s a good time to think, to relieve stress.

“It’s silence, which is nice to have every once a while.”

Still, all that running can take a toll on a body. Mckynzie is no exception.

During her freshman and sophomore years, she suffered shin splints that hindered her ability to train and compete at full strength. She attributed that ailment to her failure to ease herself into training at the beginning of the season. This year, she’s avoided injury by carefully pacing herself.

As she pointed out, it’s all about self-knowledge.

“I’ve gotten to know myself better,” she said. “I know where my strengths lie and I know how to work up to the time I want.”

While running plays a major role in Mckynzie’s life, it’s not her only interest. She loves to watch movies and bake cookies with her best friend across the street. Stephen King is her favorite author.

“Especially since we have the same last name, that’s cool,” she said.

And she has a passion for science that she one day hopes to turn into a career in the biomedical field.

“My parents bought me a microscope when I was little and I was always playing with it,” she said. “They got me a telescope that I loved, too. I think I still have it, actually.”

Still, when the topic shifts to running, there’s no doubting what Mckynzie has the chance to become.

Just as coach Holt said, “She has the potential to be one of the best distance runners to graduate from Liberty Hill.”