Hollingsworth makes big gain at state
Anyone who knows the rigors of running 5k races is aware that one year's worth of steady training can make a huge difference in course experience, stamina, confidence and strength for a cross country runner.
Marshall County High School sophomore Leah Hollingsworth improved on all four categories in the past year and her hard work paid off with a huge leap up the leaderboard on Saturday at the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association's State Cross Country Championship, finishing 22nd in a field of 184 in Class A-AA.
Hollingsworth posted a time of 21 minutes, 22.55 seconds on Saturday, compared to last year's time of 22:10:27.
"I feel really good and I'm proud that I improved," Hollingsworth said. "It feels like all my work has paid off."
Hollingsworth, who finished sixth in the region meet last week, finished 42nd at last year's TSSAA 5k event run on the Percy Warner Park Steeplechase Course in Nashville.
"That was a great kick at the end. She pushed herself really hard and gained almost 10 spots from the halfway point to the finish, so we're really proud of her," Tigerettes coach Heather Denton said. "She lost a minute from her time from last year, and in running, a minute is huge."
Before the race, Hollingsworth was a little nervous, but intent on improving from her appearance at the race as a freshman.
"It feels great to be here, because I know my hard work has paid off throughout the season," Hollingsworth said. "I trained harder throughout the week and pushed myself more everyday just a little harder, and then added a little to that."
Hollingsworth was in a good starting spot and made a nice clean move at the sound of the starting gun on the soggy tract.
"The start line is the worst," she said. "As soon as the gun shoots, the nerves are gone and then I just run. I try to run fast and get out in front to avoid all the people and then it spreads out."
She made a steady move up as she was 32nd about a third of the way through the race before picking off four more runners at the halfway point.
"I moved up just a little bit there," Hollingsworth said.
As the race progressed, Hollingsworth began to get a second wind and near the end, the sophomore made her patented kick toward the finish, passing Laura Bretscher from L&M Stem School with about 20 meters to go.
"I told myself I had to pass three people when I had 400 meters left and she was the third, so I had to go," Hollingsworth said.
Hollingsworth, who also plays basketball and softball at MCHS, takes a break from running until the spring.
"Leah has tons of potential," Denton said. "Like I said, she gained a minute from last year's state time, so next year we hope to get another minute off her time and finish in the top 15 and then in her senior year, we hope to get her in the top 10."
Top 10 Results
Taylor Cuneo (Murfreesboro Central Magnet School, 18:21:24)
Rebecca Story (CAK, 18:45:10)
Stephanie Peterson (Signal Mountain, 18:58:64)
Taylor Cosey (CAK, 18:59:68)
Taylor Luthringer (Signal Mountain, 19:58:40)
Shila Kapaya (Knoxville Catholic, 20:03:89)
Kailey Schyler (Columbia Academy, 20:08:06)
Becca Umbarger (Signal Mountain, 20:11:85)
Anna Johnson (Dresden, 20:23:01)
Kaelyn Meir (Merrol Hyde, 20:26:57)