Running For RecordsOct 31, 2014 02:14PM ● By Michelle Bodkin
Freshman Katie Duckworth is helping Olympus make great strides this season. Photo courtesy of Tracy Duckworth
Holladay local Katie Duckworth is taking the cross country world by storm and she's only in ninth grade. This past summer, she qualified to run in the Hershey North American Final.
Duckworth has also been making waves for Olympus High's cross country team, which qualified for the state finals on Oct. 22 (after press deadline).
Duckworth is relatively new to the sport, having spent most of her childhood playing softball. She made the switch after participating in Girls on the Run (a program dedicated to teaching girls healthy lifestyle techniques) and realizing she had some natural ability.
"My dad told me I was doing pretty good, and so I was like, 'I should try cross country,'" Duckworth said. "So I started running cross country and I liked it and took third in my first year, so I was pretty excited about that. Then I ran the mile this year and I took first in our district. This summer, I was on a track club, and that's when I got invited to go back to Hershey."
Duckworth's father Tracy said qualifying for the Hershey run was a goal Katie had set for herself to reach and was a huge accomplishment for her. From July 30-Aug. 2 Duckworth competed with some of the best athletes in the western hemisphere and ultimately took second place in her event.
"I went with 10 other athletes from Utah, all running different events, and I was one person representing five states (California, Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada and Utah)," Duckworth said. "[That] Saturday we had our race, and mine was first. I raced against people from other states, Canada and Puerto Rico."
Lately, Duckworth's attention has been turned to helping Olympus win state in cross country. Even though she's a ninth grader, Duckworth is the Titan's No. 1 runner and constantly competes with girls three or more years older than her, which she relishes.
According to Olympus coach Todd Mitchell, Duckworth is easily one of the most talented freshmen, not only on Olympus' team but in the state.
"Realistically we're shooting for a top-20 finish (for her) at the state meet," Mitchell said.
"It's more competition," Duckworth explained. "They've been doing it so much longer than I have, and some of them have been able to get so many more miles under their belt. It's probably helpful for them to be older than me, but I feel like I have some natural ability that's hard to find, and I think that's what sets me apart."
To prepare for big runs, Duckworth loads on carbs and makes sure to keep her body in tip-top shape with endurance and speed workouts the week leading up to her races.
"I eat a lot of pasta, and I drink lots of water the whole week before my race," she said. "I'm constantly drinking water and make sure I get to bed on time, because I won't run well if I'm not well rested. I also have to make sure I'm stretched out completely or else I'll just die during a race."
Overall Mitchell is confident not only in Duckworth's abilities but also his entire team (boys and girls) which qualified for state for the first time in many years. The expectations are high, but Mitchell feels his team can finish strong.
"It's been a long time, so [qualifying for state] was a big accomplishment for us," he said. "We are sending 14 athletes to the state meet, and we are hoping for a top-eight finish for the boys and girls."