Lady Braves make most of final year

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By Ryan Naus

Four years, three years, two years and one.

The four Grant County seniors on the girls’ cross country team each had a different amount of experience, but learned that they could be at their best when they raced together.

Christina Haubner (three years), Kara Pennington (four years), Jacki Roche (two years) and Emily Thomes (one year) joined together to help make the program the most competitive it’s been in the past couple of years.

“My favorite part was the team bonding and getting so close with the coaches and the other runners,” Pennington said.

The other three seniors joined Pennington this year and the girls quickly learned the amount of work they would have to be in to be at their best.

“Our training/camping trip was full of a lot of strenuous workouts, but I think that it helped us bond as a team,” Roche said.

Last season, the girls’ team didn’t field a full team until late in the season, but this year, the girls started the season with a first place finish at the Pendleton County Invitational. The girls ended their season by finishing sixth at the region meet, two spots away from making it to the state tournament.

“I had a feeling that we would do well this season,” Pennington said. “I was amazed to see how close we came to making it to state. I didn’t think we would get that close. I was proud. It showed us that we could do anything we wanted as long as we put our mind to it. Cross country is like 99 percent mental.”

“It means absolutely everything,” Roche said. “Everyone improved across the season. Cross country is like a journey of improvement, mentally and physically.”

Each senior brought something different to the team, but they believe that’s what helped make the team so strong.

“This was the best team I’ve ever been on,” Haubner said. “I think I helped the team by encouraging the girls every day. It means everything to have been with this team.”

“I strived hard every race,” Thomes said. “Knowing that my teammates were pushing me, it made the competition fun.”

“I think I pushed my teammates,” Roche said. “I would try to trail the runners in front of me to try to make them better.”

“I was the team clown for most of the season,” Pennington said. “I tried to show that we could have fun while we worked to get better.”

The girls each have advice for younger runners as they hope the program can keep improving.

“I finally joined senior year and I loved it, so my advice would be that younger runners will have a blast,” Thomes said. “If they join early, they will be able to progress and get better.”

“Stay positive because if you go into a race with a negative attitude, you won’t get what you want,” Pennington said. “If you go out knowing what you’ve been working for, you’ll do a lot better.”

“It doesn’t matter how good you are,” Haubner said. “Just get out there and do it. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but knowing that you can do it, it’s amazing.”

“Bottom line, it will never be easy,” Roche said. “The last race still hurt as much as the first one, but you’ve got to be mentally tough. When you cross the finish line, you should know that you gave everything you had.”

Favorite memories:

Haubner: Mine has to be the camping trip, because although it was hard, it was where we first started to bond.

Pennington: One of my favorite memories is that one day we were supposed to go on an adventure run, a 45 minute relaxing run. We decided to go on an adventure to a mudslide and went down it. We thought we were going to get in trouble. We got back and no one was there. We went and looked for coach and the rest of the team and they were on the mudslide.

Roche: It was the camping trip for me too. I was running with Emily, trying to stay with her. I ended up falling over the side of the road, feeling sick. But I had my teammate encouraging to keep going. It was my favorite memory because it showed how close we were going to go.”

Thomes: My favorite memory was the camping trip because that was the first time I hung out with the team and it was the first time I realized how hard the sport was going to be. I found out that it was one of the best things I was involved in.