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Elizabethtown coach Jack Breunig admitted to being just a bit anxious when junior Hannah Godfrey returned to running cross country after breaking her foot last September.
Several questions flooded his mind. How would she react? Would she be timid? Would she be the same runner she was before the injury?
The coach’s fears were allayed the first day of practice. Godfrey was stronger than before and picked up right where she left off after suffering the injury during the Central Hardin Invitational.
“From the first day of practice, she was herself,” Breunig said. “I felt like from Day 1, she just took off. She was running a lot on her own coming into the season. It definitely helped her. She worked hard all through the summer and her fitness level was high.”
Things started so well, the injury wasn’t even discussed. Breunig figured there was no reason to dwell on it any longer.
“We just started the season off like any other, and she continued to grow,” he said. “She ran track in the spring for the first time, and I think that really helped her. It helped her get past dealing with any of the post-injury developments. When she came into cross country season, she was able to start off just like she always has.”
And believe it or not, she was even better.
Godfrey was the area’s top runner yet again, rolling to wins at the conference and region meets.
“I was hoping to stay healthy like I did in track and have a good season, which hopefully wouldn’t be stopped by any injuries,” she said. “You always have that mental area in your head after an injury like that. I just had to look at the positives and prayed God would get me through the season.
“I just did the best I could for my team and my coaches, and I tried to get my best times.”
She did that, too, shattering the Elizabethtown school record at the Class 2-A, Region 2 meet in 19 minutes, 15.63 seconds.
Not only did she reclaim her region championship, she was also named the Area Runner of the Year for the second time on the annual News-Enterprise All-Area Cross Country Team.
Godfrey was a unanimous selection, receiving all of a possible six first-place votes to win the award in a runaway over Central Hardin juniors Abbie Chandler and Mackenzie Pennington. Chandler had 14 points, while Pennington had the other first-place vote and 10 points. Voting was done on a 5-3-1 points scale and coaches could not vote for their own runners.
“I feel honored to be voted to this by the coaches in the area,” Godfrey said. “I know there are really great runners out there from all the different schools, and I’m honored to get the award.”
After finishing seventh at State this season, Godfrey’s goals will be even higher next year.
She’d like to win a state championship, something Breunig feels she can reach.
“We’re so lucky to have her on our team,” he said. “I hate there’s just one more year with her. I’d love to have her back for a couple of more years. We’ve got to get her a state championship. Hannah can do anything she puts her mind to. I’d love to see what she can do when she’s completely healthy.”
SOPHOMORE OF THE YEAR. Mary Kate Powers caught her coach, Larry Garner, by surprise this season.
Knowing she was also playing volleyball, the longtime Meade County coach figured it’d be a while before Powers rounded into complete running shape. But Garner said Powers ran a lot over the summer, which paid huge dividends for her this season.
“Last year, she ran terrible in September,” Garner said. “Once volleyball was over, she really stepped it up. I just figured it’d be the same this year, but she put in a whole lot more miles in the summer and ran more on her own. She was usually No. 1 for us this season, so I think the extra work helped her not do what she did last year.”
And it helped her be chosen the Area Sophomore of the Year.
Powers received five first-place votes and 28 points to win the award over North Hardin’s Jillian Shufelt, who had one first-place vote and 17 points, and Elizabethtown’s Taylor Kuklinski, who garnered eight points. John Hardin’s Kaitlyn Arel received the other first-place vote.
“It was definitely my most successful and most consistent season, for the most part,” Powers said. “I don’t know if I’d say I was expecting to have such a good season, but I knew I wanted to work hard this year and push my limitations.
“I’m really honored to win this,” she added. “I feel great that they chose me and believed that I’m the best of the sophomores we have in this area.”
Garner expects Powers to be the Lady Waves’ top runner next season.
“She’s very driven,” he said. “You could just tell she was more fit when the season started. She was out there running with the top girls all the time; she was never behind them. She was a leader on the team, and that’s one thing I like about her. She never felt she was the volleyball girl who was running. Her work ethic and leadership out there really does help us a lot.”
COACH OF THE YEAR. Kris Mix had some pretty high expectations for the Lady Bruins entering the season.
They didn’t get off to the best of starts, but that was more than OK to Mix.
“I told them at the beginning of the year that the goal was not to peak early, it was to peak after region,” she said. “It was a tough start for them, but their times started dropping and they started coming together as a team. They worked together really well. It’s a really good group of girls. I felt very lucky to be able to coach them this year.
“They’re fun to be around and they’re easy to coach,” Mix added. “They’re just good kids. There’s a lot of natural talent on the team, and you can’t teach that.”
Central Hardin began heating up near the end of the season. The Lady Bruins won the conference meet, finished third in 3-A, Region 2 and placed 20th at State.
Mix’s colleagues took notice, voting her the Coach of the Year behind four first-place votes and 24 points. Breunig was second with three first-place votes and 18 points, while Garner was third with eight points.
“It’s really an honor,” Mix said. “They’re all terrific coaches. We get to know each other pretty well throughout the season and we all bring our best to the table. The competition is really, really strong in the area. There are a lot of really good coaches in this area.”
ALL-AREA TEAM. Godfrey led the way on the five-member First Team, joined by Chandler, Elizabethtown seventh-grader Savannah Kingery, Pennington and John Hardin senior Carlie Core.
Making the five-runner Second Team were Powers, North Hardin freshman Katie Gilbert, Central Hardin senior Shelby Wade, Meade County junior Kaylea Neal and Shufelt.
Josh Claywell can be reached at (270) 505-1752 or email@example.com.