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It wasn’t easy, but Natalie Norman had a record-setting performance at the state cross country meet.
Running in weather that was better suited for football than cross country, Norman trekked across muddy terrain and dealt with wind that whipped from every side to set a new school record for the Lady Braves cross country team. Norman came in 32nd overall with a time of 20:12.29, beating the previous record of 20:13.
“It was a really great way to run my last race in high school, knowing I broke a record,” Norman said. “It makes me feel very important. It’s nice to leave a mark.”
“It’s been a pleasure to get to coach Natalie this year,” Grant County coach Marlon Kinsey said. “She’s been outstanding throughout the season. She’s a hard worker, extremely talented and it’s always fun to have someone in front to challenge to be better. She leaves as the best 5,000-meter runner in Lady Braves history. She showed that she’s the best. She set the record in less than perfect conditions. She’ll be greatly missed. You can’t replace a runner like her easily. I look forward to seeing her continue running at the collegiate level.”
Preparing for the final race of the day, Norman set a goal of breaking 20 minutes, but because of the weather wasn’t able to meet that goal.
“The weather was really bad for running, but I think I ran pretty well,” Norman said. “Running against the best from Kentucky gives you more competition and helps you run faster.”
The boys’ team, coming of a second place finish at the regional meet the week before, finished 17th out of 28 schools. Last year, the Braves finished 20th.
“I think they are disappointed because we set a goal of being in the top 10 at state,” Kinsey said. “Throughout the year, we were at 12 to 14, but it was such a large group of runners, I think it affected our runners. But every team was slowed by the conditions. I still told them I was proud of their effort and to look at how we compared to our region competition.”
Jeffrey Covington led the way in his final race as a Grant County runner, finishing
72nd. Brandon McIntosh, also a senior, came in second for the Braves, finishing 86th.
“We were supposed to do better,” McIntosh said. “We didn’t meet our goals. Our team didn’t run nearly as good as we should have. It was kind of disappointing because we didn’t. It was our senior year and we didn’t do what we set out to do. We just weren’t completely prepared.”
“The race was bad,” Covington said. “Because it was so wet, we ran slow. But it was the best season that I’ve ever been a part of. It was a great senior season. We were able to compete and win.”
“It was a blast,” McIntosh said. “The people made it fun.”
Jordan Cummins came in third for the Braves, finishing 104th, followed by Shannon Fabela (123rd), Chris Ellis (144th), Michael Schultz (155th) and Devon Smith (199th).
“Schultz had one of his best races of the year,” Kinsey said. “Jordan ran a smart race and we’re looking to see how we can get him up there next year. I can see Chris winning races next year. I believe the team will go as far as Shannon will take us as a senior next year. I’m going to challenge him to move up. Dylan Jackson and Tyler Edmondson are keys to the team. We’re losing talent and they we’ll need to help make up for it.”
Looking ahead to next season, Kinsey plans on recruiting to get more girls involved in the program and also to keep pushing all of his runners to work hard in the off-season. But he will miss the five boys and three girls that won’t return next year as they graduate this year.
“We’ll miss our seniors who pushed our runners to be their best,” Kinsey said. “Their leadership will be missed. Even though some of them didn’t qualify for our regional team, you couldn’t ask for better young men and ladies. They were dedicated to being as good as they could be. But our returning runners need to be committed to a year-long program. If we want to be successful, we need to put in the work.”