By LANCE CATCHINGS
At the Vista Ridge XC Invitational on August 25, something unusual happened. During the first 100 meters of the girls’ two-mile race, senior Panther Molly Cowart lost a shoe, but she kept running.
“Within the first 100 meters, there was a point where all the girls had to make a U-turn for the two-mile race,” Cowart said. “We were still in a big mob and a girl stepped on the back of my shoe, which made it come off. I had a split second to decide what I should do. We were still in a big group, so I couldn’t stop, and I didn’t want to quit, so through the tears, the pain and the rocks, I just kept running.”
In a sport that is already physically demanding and requires a lot of mental focus, many runners would have stepped off the course and called it quits or taken the time to put their shoe back on, but not Cowart. In fact, she finished the race in 22nd place, a respectable finish with one shoe, to say the least.
“I was really wanting to quit within the first half mile,” she said. “I started thinking this is not worth it. I could hurt myself and my team is already way ahead of me. When it got tough, I remembered what my dad and grandpa always told me, which was to never quit no matter how hard something is, so I decided to keep going and I knew that God would get me through the race.”
Her love for running started long before she was the lone senior on the Lady Panthers’ cross country team.
“My grandpa ran a lot when I was growing up, so I would run with him,” she said. “He was my inspiration in running and a really hard worker. I just wanted to be like him and everything he did inspired me to want to run.”
Finishing a race with one shoe is not the first time she has toughed it out through physical pain. In the eighth grade, she collapsed during a practice and later found out she would have more hills to climb.
“I got really sick for two weeks,” she said. “I was put on four different inhalers because I had a lingering cough and choking episodes. I also wheezed while I ran. That year at the Liberty Hill race, I was taken to the hospital afterwards because I could not catch my breath. I was diagnosed with vocal cord dysfunction and esophagus spasms. I went to a speech therapist until my freshman year where I learned how to control my breathing during races without it effecting my performance.”
Last season, she was forced to sit out her junior campaign due to a back injury and tendonitis in her Achilles tendon.
“I still went to every meet and practice as a manager,” she said. “It was tough, because I wanted to be competing with my teammates.”
Through all the adversity Cowart has overcome, a missing shoe seemed like a minor thing to her.
“When I was running with only one shoe, I remembered my past years of hardship during cross country,” she said. “I knew I could finish one race without a shoe if I could overcome all that happened previously.”
According to Head Cross Country Coach Kim Holt, Cowart is the type of person we can all learn from.
“Molly is a great person,” Holt said. “She works really hard academically and at cross country. She has had some adversity throughout her running career at the junior high and high school level, but she never quits. She is tough.”
Cowart was on crutches for about a week after the Vista Ridge meet, but recently returned to practice. She suffered a deep foot bruise due to running on gravel and rocks without a shoe, but the damage has nearly healed, aside from some soreness and discomfort. Cowart is now focused on preparing for the Liberty Hill Cross Country Meet for her final time as a senior, whether she is 100 percent healthy or not.
“As the only senior, it has been a little different for me this season,” Cowart said. “The younger girls have become like my sisters. We are one big family running together, and being the oldest, I want to be a leader for them. I want to show by example how to be as a runner. Even if you’re not the fastest out there, have the best attitude, heart and the best ambition. Lord willing, I will be running at the meet on Saturday. It may not be my best race, but I hope to be running with my team.”
If all goes well this week, Cowart will be running with her team this Saturday, Sept. 9 in Liberty Hill.