Coweta Cup: Gollnick leads the way again for Lady Vikings
By CHRIS GOLTERMANN
Northgate junior Hailey Gollnick admits she likes the view from up front on the cross-country course. She had it all to herself on Saturday at the annual Coweta Cup Championships at Northgate High.
Only the pedaling of a mountain biker could manage to stay ahead of the Lady Viking, who breezed to her third consecutive county title in one of the best performances of her varsity career. What made this year’s effort that much more enjoyable however was sharing in a team trophy with a young group of teammates on a day where her first-place mark of 19:35 came just seconds off a personal best.
“I’ve gotten to love it more,” she said, afterwards. “I feel like I’m so blessed to be able to run like this. It just opens your eyes to how much I can push myself.”
Northgate’s initial four scorers all finished within the top six on Saturday to pace a 27-point effort to outdistance Newnan (36) and East Coweta (36) among team scores. Only a personal-best time by Lady Cougars sophomore Elizabeth Westerfield and an equally strong effort by Lady Indians junior Darian Pugh — both of whom shaved a minute off last week’s marks at the ASICS Invitational — came between the Lady Vikings top foursome.
Freshmen twins Erica and Taylor Lee placed third and fifth, respectively in 20:40 and 20:51, and sophomore Caitlin Bellora took sixth in 20:54 to get a jump on Newnan’s pack of runners that finished seventh through 10th to complete its scoring behind Westerfield.
The Lady Cougars, looking for their second straight county championship, when Northgate freshman Abby Coe’s 12th-placed effort in 22:24 completed the Lady Vikings scoring and equally sealed the team trophy.
On a fast day that saw the majority of runners shattering last week’s times either from the ASICS run or Northgate’s trip to the Pike County Invitational, Gollnick’s pace trumped them all. By the start of the second of three loops on the 3.1-mile course, the majority of which was comprised of the pasture adjacent to the high school off Fischer Road, it was just her against the clock while finishing 1:12 ahead of last week’s victory at Pike County and a mere nine seconds from tying her personal best of 19:26.
Last year, Gollnick earned a county title in 21:09, an improvement that was as much a reflection of her decision to train year-round. Instead of taking the winter and summer off, the Northgate standout began the 2012 cross country season fresh off trip to the AAU and USA Track & Field Junior Olympics. She’s well on pace to both qualify for a return trip to the GHSA State Championships in Carrollton and improve on last year’s finish of 20:34 with hopes of also running at nationals.
“This year I trained year round instead of stopping,” she said. “Usually in the summer and the winter, I stop. I haven’t stopped training since last year. I want to do really well at region and state. After this, I’m going to try and go to cross-country nationals.”
Gollnick has equally emerged as a leader of a steadily improving Lady Viking lineup that included just one senior on Saturday. The times by the Lee sisters and Bellora were all at least two minutes faster than last week’s on a tough Pike County course. It’s a role that’s come on the persuasion of Northgate head cross-country coach Chris Kimes.
“At first I didn’t really know what to do,” Gollnick admitted. “Now I can give some advice and see if I can help them out.”
While Northgate now begins its push for the Region 4-AAAAA championships in two weeks where it will face tough competition from Fayette and Henry county lineups, Newnan’s girls seemed to put themselves in a position to contend for a Region 3-AAAAAA title while led by underclassmen.
Westerfield’s improvement led the way with the sophomore overcome with emotion after discovering she had bettered last week’s time by 62 seconds. Junior Junior Hannah Hudson (7th, 21:05) and sophomore Anna Haydon (8th, 21:19) also improved over last week for the Lady Cougars.
Sophomore Maya Sherman (9th, 21:59) and junior Ally Thomas (22:14), who was a minute faster than at the ASICS meet, rounded out Newnan’s scoring.
East Coweta was led by Pugh, a junior, who was 1:06 faster than at the ASICS meet. Junior Rebecca Baker placed 11th in 22:19, followed by senior Amber Williams (23:10), sophomore Anna Weatherly (24:15) and junior Sydney Bollinger.