By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – Running is an individual, solitary sport. Even during a lockdown, there were no rules against hitting the road.
Now that Bedford North Lawrence’s team has been reunited for workouts since July, as the 2020 season races into view, the Stars have an opportunity to push together, and push each other to faster times, for a team goal.
With three returning veterans with state tournament series experience and success at the top of the lineup, the Stars are set for improvement. They came up seven points shy of advancing from the sectional last season, but they have higher goals now.
Grace Tanksley, a junior who qualified for the semistate as an individual last year, and senior Myra Roberts (a semistate qualifier in 2018) give BNL a solid foundation, and former BNL track ace Autumn Spence has returned after a year in Colorado. None of them are big, but together they will be a Big 3.
“We should have a strong top three,” BNL coach Jill Vance said. “I’m not sure what order they will be in. That will come and that could change throughout the season. They’re definitely going to push each other.
“Having someone to run with, who can push you, is really important for improving the performance. I’m hoping we see a lot of improvements across the board.”
If that trio leads the way, BNL will still need fourth and fifth scorers to compete for postseason prizes. Vance is counting on senior Kaitlyn Phillips (a distance runner in track who is racing cross country for the first time) and junior Lynnae Greene to contend for those positions.
“Kaitlyn has been very consistent,” Vance said. “She looks really good. She’s an X factor because she’s never run cross country before, but her strength has been the longer distances in track. She can be a force.”
Others among the 11-runner roster in the mix will be senior Emily Bartlett, junior Jillian Webb (back from a stress fracture) and sophomore Katelyn Moody. The key will be keeping that unit together for an entire season and building toward the sectional.
“Everyone is healthy, knock on wood,” Vance said. “Keeping them that way is always a challenge.
“We definitely want to get out as a team. Our goal is always getting out of the regional. I would really like to see the whole team get there. It will be an interesting season for a lot of reasons. We’re about to see how that plays out.”
The Stars will open the regular season in the Terre Haute South Invitational on the LaVern Gibson course on Saturday.