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Bulldogs sprint ahead

King’s Fork’s track and field season — in fact, the whole high school sports season — is almost over, but the track season is far from over for Qualitra Brown and Vince Mosby.

On a recent, blazing hot afternoon on the track around King’s Fork’s football field, Brown and Mosby train for an upcoming national meet far bigger than the state championship both competed in recently.

The state championship rightfully carries a lot of prestige, but there is one major way national meets differ from states — the importance they carry as far as college scholarships.

Brown and Mosby are competing in the New Balance Outdoor Nationals meet this Friday and Saturday in Greensboro, N.C. Brown will go against an elite field in the 200 and 400 meters. Mosby is in the boys’ 400.

“It means a lot, with all the college coaches and scouts who will be there. It’s really what I’m working for out here,” said Mosby.

“Nationals are all about a big chance for publicity,” Brown said. “All season, and even at states, college coaches can’t really be there, so a national meet is mainly to showcase the nation’s best athletes.”

“I hope South Carolina’s coaches are there and notice me, because that’s the school I’m most interested in,” Brown said.

Brown, a junior, will be capping a great outdoor season. She finished fifth in the state in the 400-meter dash with a time of 55.80 seconds, a personal best, in the preliminary heat and 56.30 in the final.

“This has been the best season of all of them,” Brown said. In districts, she finished second and set a personal record that stood for just a few weeks before her race in the state meet.

“At states, when I was told I ran 55.8 in the prelims, I was just like, ‘Wow!’ I had always been able to physically do it, but this season, mentally I’ve become a lot better. My coaches, every day in practice, they’ve been yelling at me and telling me that’s the difference,” Brown said.

“Finishing fifth was really exciting. It’s a huge improvement for me and it shows first (in the state) is in the near future,” she said.

Mosby’s results this season would be great by most standards. He doesn’t feel the same way. The New Balance Nationals is a chance to finish the season with a major achievement to build on.

“I’m not very happy with how I’ve done this year with where I was last year,” Mosby said.

The extra practice time in the past few weeks as been valuable though, Mosby said.

A normal practice during the season has around 40 athletes, said King’s Fork head coach Tony Johnson.

“We’re out here from 2 until 5 or later,” Brown said. Now with only the two national-level athletes at practice, “we’re done in around 30 or 45 minutes,” Brown said.

“Working more on my own, I feel I’m getting better with the stuff I’m working on,” Mosby said. “Hopefully (the nationals) will be a chance to show that all the hard work is paying off.”

Brown started running as a freshman at the 100 and 200-meter distances. She added the 400, what’s now her best distance, during the outdoor season of her freshman year.

Last summer, Brown took a big step forward by medaling with a sixth-place finish (57.22 seconds) in the 400 in the Emerging Elite division at Nike Nationals.

The final seedings were set to come out Friday, Johnson said, but they were hopeful Brown would be among the top 16 qualifiers in her event and get to be in the championship heats.

“A lot of the younger ladies look up to Qualitra. It’s sort of, ‘if she gets there, I can, too,’” Johnson said.

King’s Fork’s girls team finished third in the Southeastern District Championships in May.

“With the majority of the younger group, it’s more about getting to the point where they can compete. We had a lot of success with the younger girls this season. We’ve doubled the number of girls we have on the team in the past couple years.”

At this point in the calendar, after practicing non-stop since October and leading up to the indoor season, practices are more about setting up to be healthy and peak at the right time.

“For the last two weeks, it’s been mainly about keeping my win up. We haven’t been sprinting so much that you become tired. It’s more of a recovery and reconditioning type of period,” Brown said.

After the New Balance meet, there’s no time off before AAU meets. Brown, as a part of Five Star Track Club, will be getting ready for a meet in Orlando July 4-10.

“It’ll be fun, but I hope I’m not burnt out by then. My summer’s going to be pretty packed,” she said.

After thinking for a few seconds, and after laughing for a second, Brown sums up the usual time she gets away from running and training during the year.

“Usually at the end of summer, for a couple weeks, and for the first couple weeks of the school year,” Brown said. She then goes into cross country season to get ready for track season.

“Once you taste success once, you want to have that success over and over again,” Brown said.