Whitney O'Bryan is a junior at Daviess County High School in Owensboro. She has placed third at the Class AAA Kentucky State Cross Country Meet the last three years. She will look to get past the third spot and go after her first state title this fall.
KYtrackXC: First off, how did it feel to have your first complete track season in high school after missing track during your freshman year?
WB: To get the first full season under you seems like a great feat. I learned numerous lessons and tried to help benefit the team any way possible. John 3:30 really helped me during this season, it humbled me. "He must become greater, I must become less." This was one of the most valuable lessons I learned this season. Track provided me with time to focus on speed work and make that speed become consistent throughout races, which can be a challenge for me at times.
KYtrackXC: 3 Goals for XC this fall
WB: I like to hold myself (and team) to high standards and set our goals accordingly:
1. Win state as a team continue to NXN- that's always been a goal for Coach Fortney. We have a "large" crop of incoming young guns that I see an abundance of potential and talent in. Amelia Reynolds, junior, has been doing some tough practices during the off season. She should be a pretty big threat; in addition to Claire Payne, senior, who's been logging high mileage week by week throughout the summer. Abby Eades, Kelly Boling, Kate Duty, also juniors, and BreeAnn Burgess, soph., are dedicated runners and are also veteran runners with a few years of experience under them. The entire team is showing some desire to go far already this season. I want us to reach our full potential by November.
2. Win state as an individual, has been on my mind since last season came to a close. I ended last season in a boot 2 weeks prior to the State meet and sat out Regionals for the first time since 8th grade... Tough loss but you learn that excuses don't matter and you don't toe the line not willing to give everything you have to offer. This season things are operating differently and the years of experience will help me.
3. Sub 18. Some say that's a lofty goal but I rely on Matthew 17:20:
"He replied, "Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
KYtrackXC: During track it seems your primary focus was the 3200m, how will that help you during XC?
WB: This season started with emphasis on 1600... Each time I raced it I noticed lack of mental game. I was offered the chance to run 3200 at a meet in Indiana and loved it. I expect the faster pace (than a 5k) will carry over to cross. We worked on techniques a little and I'm hoping those will benefit me this season also.
KYtrackXC: How would describe your confidence level in your ability as a runner? During the Eastern Relays 3200m run you led the first half of the race setting the pace for example. Not everyone has the ability to lead.
WB: My confidence is only as good as my training. The past few years on the team have been nice to gain experience and get a grasp on how to train, the next few years will be used to get down to business.
Since I began running with Coach Fortney, he has stressed the motto "Trust Your Training." I struggled with trusting his methods and strategies considering they were geared towards the team's best interest; whereas I was focusing on me, me, me. I tended to run the way I wanted and the way I thought best for myself and typically that meant getting out fast... But all that knowledge was based off of middle school 3k's and 4k's, which getting out quick on those races is fine. When you're racing 5k's.. not so much. My newest coach, Suzanne Holt, always reminds me, "You can't win the race in the first mile." This is where track season really came into play, I was humbled, realizing the upcoming season is my junior year of cross country, it can't hurt me to give Fortney's ways a shot (he may hurt me worse if I don't; the impatient yells during races where I lead were reminders of what was coming after the finish line ha-ha!) As a side-note, I'm extremely blessed because he (Fortney) is a phenomenal coach and I couldn't ask for a better one.
I haven't ever been the type of runner who truly enjoys workouts or during a workout think, "This will make me better one day." Therefore, to be honest, there have been few times where a solid effort was made (during a practice). So I guess you could say my perspective on running, amount of determination and level of motivation has been transformed since last cross country season. Which is why another verse I'm taking to heart this year is Hebrews 12:11-12, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees."
KYtrackXC: How are your coaches and you adjusting your training to prepare yourself to go after and individual state title especially when the gap at most you are making up is just a few seconds over 5000 meters?
WB: My coaches haven't adjusted the training much. My mentality and competitive edge however has improved and continues to get better. Hebrews 4:12 "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."
The training wasn't the issue last season, it was what I was doing the other 22 hours of the day. I'm focusing on my eating habits but not to a point where it becomes extreme, I'm a high school kid... You still have to live a little. Targeting strength training will also be key for me as well as my teammates. They're a huge help as far as keeping everyone's confidence up and pushing the training level further, I couldn't do it without them.
KYtrackXC: How has having a female, former state champ/college runner coach in Suzanne Holt around changing the girls team at Daviess?
Suzanne has been a tremendous asset to the team over the past year. She is a phenomenal runner, hearing her story of how she made it to state and all the obstacles she's overcome along the way is inspiring. She's got a strong work ethic and the kind of ability to lead that's rarely seen. Being a new coach on the scene you would expect the girls to give her grief but we've cut her some slack (she's often involved in the practical jokes). Suz makes the atmosphere carefree and it's nice to have someone who can relate to everything a girl may be faced with. Granted Coach Fortney is a great person to talk to and is wise beyond his years, Suz understands our perspective with a little more depth. The biggest impact Suz has made on us is redefining the boundaries of our practice sessions to obtain no limits. The caliber of runner Suz is is yet another plus; still in top notch shape, she keeps pace with our front pack on a daily basis. She pushes us beyond our comfort zones, encourages us, motivates us... she has truly influenced our team for the better.
KYtrackXC: Being a DC girl, do you ever look at former great Sara Graybill as a motivator?
WB: Sara holds multiple records at our school, including the 5k in 18:04, being the only one of the only girl to qualify for Foot Locker Nationals for Daviess County. She's the kind of front pack runner every girl desiring to be a lead runner or future state champ should compare themselves to. Sara is a huge motivator, to strive to be the level of competitor she was is a major task to take on but remains to be a personal goal.