On Friday, Nation Ford senior Katie Pou will toe the starting line one last time trying to distance herself from the competition and history.
With a win in the 5A state cross-country championship, Pou would become a four-time state champion in the sport. The 17-year-old senior already has five state titles between track and cross-country and has solidified herself as one of the best runners to ever lace up a pair of shoes in Fort Mill. If Pou could win Friday, she would tie former Fort Mill High runner Meredith Kilburn for the most state titles in Fort Mill athletic history in the sport of running. Kilburn won one cross-country state title and four state titles in track, with two of those coming in relay events.
Pou said going into the 5A state cross-country championship and knowing its her last cross-country meet, she plans on laying it all on the line.
“I have had a couple ups and downs this year,” she said. “I partially tore three ligaments around my ankle and I have been roughing it out while working a lot of recovery and still running. I know I put in a lot of hard work this summer. It has carried me to this point. This past weekend, I dipped back under 19. This weekend was another step in the right direction.”
Pou said she plans on cherishing this last meet and enjoy the opportunity to compete, because she knows that many states haven’t had a chance to have a cross-country season.
“Seeing everyone do well throughout the season despite COVID has carried us throughout the season,” she said.
The University of Pennsylvania commit said she wants to push herself and get a time of low-18 minutes or under 18-minutes. One thing that might aid her in reaching her goal is the fact that the state championship course will be at the Sandhills Research Center, a place the state qualifier was held this past Saturday and a place where she has won two of her three state cross-country championships.
“I am hoping to feel good and have a good race and go out there and lay it all out,” she said.
Nation Ford head coach Jake Brenner said he feels good about Pou this Friday and feels like she is peaking at the right time.
“Her chances are just as good as ever,” he said. “It was nice to see here get back into it this past weekend. The hardest part of the course gets knocked out in the first mile.”
Brenner said that there are some challengers for Pou’s crown, but feels confident in his top runner.
Pou is also confident in her ability and in being able to run the course like she needs to for the win.
“I like the layout of the course,” she said. “It is a good course.”
However, there is one thing that is driving Pou going into this last race and that is running with her team one last time.
“This is my sixth year running cross-country,” she said. “Having everything culminate in this last moment and I want to finish my last season strong. I want to go out there and have a good race not just for me, but for all those who have supported me and helped me through the years, for my team and my coaches. I am just going to cherish this last race and enjoy it.”
While Pou should make history Friday, her legacy has already been cemented at Nation Ford, and it to her it goes past athletics.
“My legacy isn’t just how I competed, but also the mark I made on my team and the bonds I made over the years and these friendships,” she said. “I hope all my teammates know that I am not just a leader and mentor as I have gotten older throughout the years, but I am someone they can come back to and that we are going to be lifelong friends and if they need anything they can talk to me, if they need advice or encouragement, I am someone they can rely on. I am going to be there for them.”
Mac Banks: firstname.lastname@example.org, @fortprep