Coldwater Sr. Sarah Kanney has never run a race where she went into it thinking she wasn’t going to try to win. She has become more confident and comfortable each year. She has transformed from from a runner to a racer through her experience from her freshman to her senior year. Her running has reassured her that you can overcome battles – both on the course and in life itself. She has three state titles; one in Cross Country and two in the 1600. Over the last four years she has been one of the state's leading female runners and enjoys pressing the pace. Can she repeat again in a couple of weeks and again in the spring? She has the experience, the confidence and the determination and winning is a part of her nature.
1,600 Meter Run
- 2014 Outdoor 4:53.66
3,200 Meter Run
- 2013 Outdoor 10:49.36
400 Meter Dash
- 2013 Outdoor 1:01.09
5,000 Meter Run
- 2012 CC 17:43.41
800 Meter Run
- 2013 Outdoor 2:12.75
OhioMileSplit: Let’s talk about XC first and then we’ll get to track. At the 2011 State D3 State XC Championship way back when you were a freshman, you finished 9th with a time of 19:10.56. That year, two other freshman girls finished ahead of you. Fallon Doyle of Bellaire St. John’s ran 3rd (18:35.29) and Liberty Center’s Brittany Atkinson led her team to the title as she won the race in 18:27.51. Liberty Center scored 65 points. Your Coldwater team was 2nd with 82 points. As a sophomore, you won in 17:58.03, Atkinson was 2nd in 18:06.67 and Doyle was 11th in 18:51.15. Liberty Center won their 2nd team title defeating Coldwater 101-116. Last year, Atkinson won her 2nd individual title in 18:31.45. You ran 4th with an 18:51.13 and Doyle was 8th in 19:06.53, as Liberty Center won their 3rd straight team title and Coldwater was 3rd, with Gilmour Academy placing second. As a Freshman, what were your expectations going to State the first time? What were your thoughts placing in the top ten?
Sarah: As a freshman, I was definitely very nervous going into my first state race. I have never ran a race where I went into it thinking I wasn’t going to try to win. This is a good thing because it keeps you competitive, but at a young age it can also be a negative thing. I was aware of the rankings and where I could possibly place or was “expected” to place, and instead of letting that fuel me, I let it scare me. I also knew our team had potential to win the meet, and being the top runner, I let this knowledge add to the pressure I put on myself. Mentally, I was not mature enough as a runner to handle it all. The high expectations I put on myself exhausted me before the race had even began. I will be honest in saying that I was very disappointed in myself that day. However, I am glad I learned a tough lesson because it is a race I can often refer back to. From that race on, running has been a lot more lighthearted for me. I absolutely love competing and running itself, and am able to view disappointing races as lessons to be learned instead of failures on my part. I’ve realized that sometimes in order to move forward in the sport, you have to take a couple steps back. (whether that’s an injury, mental block, etc…) I am lucky to have had great teammates and coaches along the way to comfort me and keep me believing in myself!
OhioMileSplit: Going into the State meet your sophomore year, you knew the course and you knew both Atkinson and Doyle were running. What were your expectations for the race?
Sarah: As a sophomore, I still held high expectations for the race that day, but did not let that overwhelm me. I felt much more confident and comfortable. I was still nervous going into the race, but was able to hold my composure and turn it into positive energy. I knew of the talent Atkinson, Doyle, and many other runners had as there is at any state race, but I didn’t let that scare me. I expected the race to be just like any other. I would go out at a brisk and comfortable pace, and then continue to push from there.
OhioMileSplit: You pressed the pace the first mile and had approximately a 15m lead over Brittany and Sr. Delaney Phelps of Toledo Christian. Was it part of your race strategy to push the pace your first mile? Were you surprised that Brittany had not gone with you? Were you running comfortable or were you concerned that you may have gone out to fast?
Sarah: I don’t think I have ever ran a race in which I didn’t push the start. (With the exception of the 1600 at the 2014 state meet.) Going out fast wasn’t necessarily part of my race strategy, but a part of my nature instead. It’s something about the adrenaline in the start of the race that makes me really go on instinct. Because of this, I am used to running alone at the beginning of races, so I wasn’t very surprised Brittany and some of the other runners had not gone with me. I was actually very comfortable with my pace, and I often do feel very comfortable the first mile of many races. The second mile is where I really have to focus, and the third takes great concentration to finish. (I’m guessing this style of pacing will be tweaked in college, haha!
OhioMileSplit: As you entered the straightaway down the track just before the two mile, you maintained your lead and Brittany had pulled some 10m ahead of Phelps. What were your thoughts at this point in the race?
Sarah: My thoughts in the race at this point were just to keep pushing. I didn’t have doubts in myself, and I knew my team didn’t have doubts in me either. From the race my freshman year to my sophomore year, I was a completely different person when it came down to my mentality.
OhioMileSplit: Coming down the finish straight, what were your thoughts as you approached the finish line? You threw your arms up as you crossed the line. It looked as though you were not only happy that you had won, but relieved that you were able to hold on? Did the race go as you had expected? What were your thoughts as the new State champion?
Sarah: It is a very good feeling to reach the finish line and know that you have run well. Every race is an obstacle for each runner in some way, and when you finish well, it is very rewarding. I know what it is like to have a very good race, and a not so good race, so I think finishing well was really a relief because it reassured me that you can overcome battles – both on the course and in life itself. The race did pretty much go as I had expected, and I was pleased with it. Being the new State Champion was very exciting, but sometimes I am very shy about winning. Cross country isn’t one of those sports where the winner is always the one to work the hardest or do everything right. I knew every one of my teammates had put in great work throughout the season and helped push me along the way, and I feel like that deserves equal credit. Don’t get me wrong, being a State champ is very exciting, but at the same time it is very humbling, and I don’t feel the need to elaborate upon it.
OhioMileSplit: The 2013 race was a battle. What were your expectations going into the race as the defending champion? What was your race strategy?
Sarah: My expectations for this race were as any before: I was going to do my best to try to win it. This is usually an unspoken goal because I don’t like to emphasize personal goals, but deep down I knew it was realistic and I knew my team sort of expected me to be up in the front pack. Having the target on your back is never an easy thing, but I had been in this position in track (1600), so I knew I was capable of repeating. I treated it just as any other race, getting out fast, but I couldn’t quite hold on. Brittany ran a very smart and strong race.
OhioMileSplit: At the mile, Brittany and you were side by side. Was your intention to push the pace and run the same type of race as in 2012? What were your thoughts at this point in the race with Brittany right at your side?
Sarah: I think I panicked a little at this point in the race. I didn’t expect her to go out with me, and it caught me off guard a bit. I can’t say I remember my thoughts at this point in the race too well other than the fact that I was kind of having “oh crap” moments. Those are obviously not good to have in state races haha!
OhioMileSplit: Atkinson began to push the pace in the loop in the field just after the mile and you dropped off some 10m. Were you concerned at this point in the race?
Sarah: Yes, I was concerned because it wasn’t the way I envisioned the race to play out. You can’t take back a race, but you can learn from it, and if I would be in that race again, I would hopefully stay ‘attatched to her hip’ and keep striding with her until I gained confidence and strength.
OhioMileSplit: Atkinson ran a very determined race in winning. At what point did you concede first to her or were you trying to catch her in the finish? Were you disappointed in your run that day?
Sarah: She did! She is a strong determined runner who doesn’t give in. I don’t remember the end of that race too well, but I don’t think I thought I could catch her. Yes, I was disappointed, but it was another race I could take and learn from. Losing is never easy for me, but I know it is something that will happen in college and so on, so you just have to take the best that’s given to you and make the most of it. **smiley face
OhioMileSplit: Let’s talk about your track career and then we will get back to this year’s XC season and what your expectations were going into the season and as we get nearer to championship part of the season. Coldwater in track runs in the D2 division. As a freshman, you won the D2 1600 in a time of 5:00.97. You also ran 3rd in the 3200 with a time of 11:09.39. You defended your 1600 title as a sophomore with a time of 4:55.26 and ran 3rd in the 800 with a 2:12.75. Last year you were third with a time of 4:53.66 in one of the fastest 1600 run in the State meet of any division. What was it like as a freshman when you went to the line in the 1600? Did you expect to win?
Sarah: Again, my expectations of myself don’t really change. I was going to try to win the race. I knew where I was seeded, and this time I didn’t let the pressure of that get to me. I was obviously still very nervous as a freshman, but it was more of an excited type of nervous – not one of fear.
OhioMileSplit: Were your expectations, as the defending champion in the 1600, any different in the 2012 race? In that race another freshman, Mary Kate Vaughn of Oakwood stood next to you at the start. She was the 2012 D2 State XC champion, running 17:41.57. She would finish 2nd in a time of 5:00.41. How aware of Mary Kate were you? Was your race strategy any different with her in the race? What was your strategy?
Sarah: I was aware of Mary Kate, and I really respect her as a runner. (I am cheering for her to be completely healthy again… she adds a great amount to competitive running.) It was kind of nice that we were in the same lane so that I could gage myself in respect to her pace. However, my race strategy didn’t change much as I went out fast again. One of the guys from the mile told me that I took the race out faster than they did…although I don’t know if that is true or not and would have a hard time believing it, that is probably not something I should be proud of.
OhioMileSplit: You were 3rd last year in the 1600 with a fine time of 4:53.66 in one of the fastest girl’s 1600’s in Ohio history. Jr. Sammy Bockoven of CVCA won in a new D2 record and a D2 State Meet record of 4:49.53. Wauseon Jr. Taylor Vernot just nipped you at the finish running 4:53.34. As the defending two time champion, what was your race strategy? At the end of the first lap you led with Vernot and Bockoven just behind you. You continued to lead through the half with Bockoven tucked in behind you. Vernot had dropped off a couple of strides. You led Bockoven going into the last lap and into the back straightaway, where she passed you going into the last two hundred. Vernot had dropped back a good 10m. What were your thoughts as you came through the 3/4. Did you know that the pace was fast? Was it a concern to you? What were your thoughts when Bockoven past you? Were you disappointed in your race?
Sarah: This is a race I will never forget! Oddly, my strategy was slightly different this time…. About ten minutes before the race, the coach who had coached me my freshman year met/surprised me at the gate of Jesse O. He told me he had a plan for me to not go out as fast as I usually do, but stick with the front group. Then, at the 800 I was to pull a move. I carried out this plan very well, but Sammy fought back and made a move on me after I surged. We continued to go back and fourth, making move after move. I was so lost in the race that I did not realize how fast the pace was, therefore it was no concern to me. When she passed me the last time, she did it with a very strong kick. If I would have changed one thing in the race, it would have been to push as hard as I could immediately then, and continue pushing that last 150 meters. I am slightly disappointed in myself that I sort of slowed up after realizing I would not get first place, causing me to just miss second place by a hair. This is sort of the mental fault that I have to continue working on because in an important race, I know I will always need to have a strong finish no matter what place I’m in. However, overall, I was not very disappointed in that race – Obviously I don’t like to lose, but that was a very exciting race to be in and I am happy there were many PRs.
OhioMileSplit: How will this race affect your strategy this coming spring, as all three of you are returning seniors?
Sarah: Having the knowledge of how the race played out last year will be helpful in prepping for this coming spring. If we all continue to stay healthy (which I hope we do), I am banking on it to be very competitive again. As far as strategy goes, I don’t think I would change it much, but I would be prepared to respond differently to the things that happen in the race.
OhioMileSplit: Do you refer the track to XC?
Sarah: I have mixed feelings on this question. I love the speed in track, and also the fact that it is more predictable, but I also love how Cross Country tends to be more team oriented. Overall I love running so it’s a win-win in both sports.
OhioMileSplit: Turning back to XC. You have had great rivalry in XC with Brittany Atkinson from your freshman seasons. She is a very determined and talented runner. When you are preparing for a race that you know she is in, does it change your preparation or your race strategy?
Sarah: To be honest, my race strategy does not necessarily change. I do change my mindset though, because I know I will have to be prepared for a competitive race. I have to be aware that I expect her to be right with me from the start, and I can’t let this get to me mentally.
OhioMileSplit: What were your expectations going into this XC season? Do you feel any added pressure this year as a senior?
Sarah: Going into this XC season, my expectations were still high but reachable for myself. I expect to work hard and have fun, and I expect the same out of our team. (I think we pass.)
Actually, I do not feel much pressure at all. I have come to the understanding that I am just in High School right now, and right now is my time to enjoy it. Wasting this time on worrying about pressure is not very productive and it will not get you anywhere. Senior year has been very fun so far. Yes, I have the pressure to decide certain things as a senior, but all of my friends and senior teammates do as well, so there is really no escaping that.
OhioMileSplit: As you look back at the last three years, what changes do you see in yourself?
Sarah: (I could go on and on with this question, but am just going to touch the basics.) First, I see a change in my confidence. As a freshman, I was little shy and not very confident in my running or racing. I would get extensively nervous before races and now I very rarely even get butterflies before them. Also, I clearly didn’t take on any form of a leadership position as a freshman, but I also think that is ok because you are young and don’t have the knowledge the upperclassmen do about the sport. As the years progressed, I continued to be more vocal and encouraging to my team. Now I am a senior leader along with 15 other teammates. Most of all, as the years progressed, I have transformed from a runner to a racer through experience, and I think that is very important. For myself, running has helped me grow in so many ways. You grow through the disappointments, losses, difficult workouts, and the hours upon hours you spend pounding your legs against pavement.
OhioMileSplit: Thanks Sarah. We are looking forward to watchng you run the remainder of this XC season and to track next spring.