Going the distance / Sechrist a runner like no other

Emily Sechrist, holding her most recent state medals, is the most decorated female distance runner in Hillsboro High School history. Sechrist said she hasn?t stopped to count the medals, but when they moved them once they weighed around 13 pounds. Don Ratzlaff / Free Press

Let?s state the obvious: Emily Sechrist is the best female distance runner Hillsboro High School has ever produced.

Consider her legacy:

? In cross country, she was the Class 3A champion as a freshman and the 2A champion as a junior; the other two years she was the 3A runner-up.

? In track, she won the state 3,200 meters as a freshman, and placed among the top three all four years; she placed among the top four every year in the 1,600, and medaled in the 800 in 2014.

? As for school records, her fastest 4-kilometer time in cross country was 14 minutes, 36.75 seconds her senior season, which shattered the pre-Sechrist standard of 18:03 set by Heidi Schroeder in 2008.

? In track, Sechrist shaved nearly 30 seconds off the 3,200 school record set by Tam?my Penner in 1983, and ran 15 seconds faster than the 1,600 record set by Juli?Anne Chisholm in 2004.

Well-grounded

Considering the enormity of her accomplishments, Sechrist is strikingly well-grounded. She cites her family as a major contributor to both her success and her humility.

If not for her parents, Sechrist said she likely wouldn?t have given distance running a shot.

?I didn?t really like running when I was younger,? she said. ?When we had to run a mile in P.E., I hated it. But my parents always made us do fun runs in town. I didn?t like that, but they made us do it.?

Then she started beating her older brother and her father in those local runs.

?I?figured, hey, this is getting better,? Sechrist said. ?In middle school (our parents) made us do a sport each season, just to try it. I did track and I did pretty well in it.?

When she began winning races in high school, her family?s stability kept her both encouraged and level-headed.

?My parents and family helped me keep it in perspective?like, ?You?re a state champion but you can still do the dishes,?? she said with a smile.

?Also, just keeping everything in perspective?that it can change in a day,? she added. ?You can get injured and someone else can do well.

?I?ve worked hard, but God?s given me a lot of talent.?

Emily Sechrist lowers her school record in the 3,200 meters at the state track meet May 29 at Cessna Stadium. Free Press file photo

Contributing factors

Her coaches say her work ethic and determination were key components to Sechrist?s success.

?She has been extra successful in part due to all the hours she has put in training on her own,? said Stuart Holmes, her cross-country mentor all four years.

?She has been self-disciplined and determined enough to make her running a part of her daily schedule in the off-season?which is a sign of her maturity and dedication.?

Track coach Dennis Boldt echoes that sentiment.

?There are kids that work hard, and make no doubt about it, Emily has God-given talent,? he said. ?But I will also say she has worked very hard to make take the talent and get even better.?

Boldt said one sign of Sechrist?s determination is that her times continued to improve during her high school career.

?She?s way faster than she was as a freshman?and that doesn?t happen to girls all the time because of the way they develop,? he said. ?Emily is not built tall and long, but she makes the most out of her races. Everybody should have an opportunity to coach someone like her.?

Both coaches cite her competitive consistency.

?Some outstanding athletes have outstanding performances mixed in with some mediocre performances as well,? Holmes said. ?But Emily has been tremendously consistent due to her excellent mental preparation and determination.?

Supporting others

Boldt describes Sechrist as keenly competitive when she?s racing, but also supportive of her teammates and even her chief competitors when her race is over.

?I?ve rarely had a kid who has had so much success?that everybody likes,? he said. ?She is kind, encouraging, and when she?s running her cool-down laps, she?s encouraging others?both boys and girls.?

Even opposing coaches have noticed.

?She gets cheered on by coaches from other teams,? Boldt said. ?I had a coach tell me at the league track meet, ?I catch myself rooting for Emily because when she?s done, she thanks people and she goes right to the other competitors, win or lose.??

Sechrist said the individual nature of running lends itself to collegiality.

?In basketball and other sports, competitors just hate each other and want to demolish them,? she said. ?It?s kind of different in track. You?re on the same track and you?re running together. You just get to know each other.

?I?ve gotten to know people a lot through the four years,? she added. ?I always cool down with my competitors. Some I?m more happy with than with others.?

Career transition

This fall, Sechrist plans to run for Oklahoma Baptist University.

?I like the campus, the academics and that they are a Christian school,? she said of her choice. ?I also like that there are other girls to push me and to run with.?I do like running by myself most times, but it gets really long at times.?

Sechrist will be sorely missed by her high school coaches.

?I guess I feel fortunate in that not only did I get to coach literally one of the best track girls we?ve ever had, she?s made me a better coach,? Boldt said. ?What I?ve learned through working with her will make me a better coach, and I?ll always be grateful for that.?

Added Holmes: ?I have been blessed to try to help a number of outstanding young people reach their athletic and academic goals, and she certainly is among those at the top of the list in consistently working and being focused mentally.

?She has left a legacy of dedication and success that is inspiring.?

Sechrist anticipates her future, but not without some sadness about the end of her high school career.

?After the 800 (at state), when Coach and I were walking out of the stadium for the last time ever in high school, I started tearing up,? she said. ?It wasn?t because I didn?t get a medal in the 800. It was because it was over. I couldn?t believe it was over already.

?I don?t think I embraced and appreciated it, like at state track,? she added. ?Other years, I was so worried and stressed out about placing in my races instead of what an honor it was just to be there with all those people and represent my school.?

Written By
More from Don Ratzlaff
Shaw wins gold, silver at Hesston Invite
Freshman Wes Shaw led Hillsboro’s effort at the Hesston Invitational Thurs­day, tallying...
Read More