NSA’s McCracken sets a school record

Published 11:45 pm Saturday, November 10, 2012

Nansemond-Suffolk senior Katelyn McCracken ran the 5k at last week's TCIS cross country meet with a 19:01 time to break the school record. As a result, she entered this week's state competition as the top Division 2 seed and received 883 votes to become the Suffolk News-Herald's Player of the Week.

Katelyn McCracken, a senior cross country runner at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, has had a couple of big weeks.

She broke the school record for the 5k, set a personal record and received 883 votes in The Suffolk News-Herald’s Player of the Week poll, grabbing the honor for the first time for a cross country runner.

At the recent Tidewater Conference of Independent Schools meet at Newport News Park, McCracken placed second among the girls participating with a time of 19:03. Her previous personal record was 19:49, which she had set only a week before at Mount Trashmore.

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“I had a feeling it would be a personal best, because when I had run that course in previous years, that’s where I had PR’d, because it’s a really flat course, and I can run it pretty quickly, but I had no idea that it would be a PR by so much,” she said. “I was more focusing on my place, rather than my time. It’s just a happy surprise that that’s how fast it was.”

By finishing in the top 15 of this event, she was named to the list of all-conference runners.

McCracken is among the very best runners for Division II independent schools in Virginia, despite suffering an injury that kept her from competing last year and interrupting her off-season training this year. Her coach, Karen Norman, said McCracken tried to run in the spring, but was still in pain, so she worked redoubled her efforts this summer.

“For her to come back and do the times that she’s doing after being off for, really, an entire year, has been pretty remarkable,” Norman said. “She is the hardest worker. She’s great.”

“I started out slower than I would have liked and slower than I normally would have, but every week I cut probably 15 seconds off, at least,” McCracken said.

To get an idea of her level of improvement, compare the 19:03 time to the pace she set at the 18th Bill McGough Invitational on Sept. 15, where she ran a 21:22 race.

McCracken has been participating in cross country since ninth grade, when a fellow runner convinced her to switch to it from volleyball.

“I was kind of good from the start, in my opinion,” McCracken said. “I’m better at sports where it’s just me, when all the pressure’s on myself. So, I feel like I motivate myself to do better, and that it’s something that I can control, so I like that better.”

For her, the key to the sport is willpower.

“Just determination,” she said. “You can pretty much push yourself to do anything, I think, as long as you’re willing to do it.”

McCracken shared what motivates her each time she competes.

“The people behind me,” she said. “I’m extremely competitive, and I don’t like when people get ahead of me.”

Her status in the sport would be particularly understandable if she dedicated herself to it year-around.

“But she does swimming in the winter and then softball in the spring, which is unusual for those cross-country runners that are at the very top of the heap there,” Norman said.

Cross country is her favorite, though, but she does not expect to pursue it in college.

“From what I’ve heard, I’ve talked to runners at Duke and runners from Elon and you basically train so long and have to eat a certain way and have to schedule your classes a certain way,” she said. “I’d rather focus on college, rather than running.”

She has made her mark on the NSA record books, though, and she finished second at the state competition on Friday afternoon, being named to the list of all-state runners within the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association.