EDMOND — Despite being a sport of endurance and not just speed, the first 100 yards of the Class 4A girls cross country state championships Saturday morning at Edmond Santa Fe was absolutely crucial for Stilwell sophomore Sydney Lawrence.
Sydney came into the championship race undefeated this season and the likely favorite to win if only the 4-foot-9 runner could get off the starting line without being run over.
“The size of her scares me,” said Stilwell coach Joe Means. “You can get pinned down in there by the bigger kids.”
But Lawrence has developed a simple strategy to avoid any collisions, and it certainly worked Saturday as Lawrence cruised to her first cross country state title with a time of 11:51.39, nearly 30 second ahead of second-place finisher Laura Kunz of Lincoln Christian.
“When I hear that gun, I just start sprinting,” Lawrence said. “Not an all-out sprint, but I sprint to where I feel like I can keep that pace. I like to know that no one is going to come and mess me up.”
It also must be good for Lawrence to know her size won't keep her from being one of the top runners in 4A as well as the state. According to Coach Means, most great runners are tall and lanky. But Lawrence seems to make up for her size with tenacity, or as Means put, “she has the heart of three taller girls.”
For Lawrence, her size, or lack thereof, is a motivation and a reason why she is so good.
“A lot of people tell me, ‘Imagine if you were four inches taller how fast you would be'”, said Lawrence. “You see people that are tall and you think they will be really good because they are tall, but they don't always finish in the front. I think it is just a matter of how much passion you have for the sport and how hard you work. I feel like I have to fight harder than the other girls because I have to make up for my size.”
Lawrence's work ethic includes running during her downtime. After winning the Pre-State Meet earlier this season, Lawrence competed in a half marathon the next day and placed third in the female division despite losing nearly five minutes off her time when she got off course.
“She is just like that,” Means said. “We have practice and then she will go and run some more on her own.”
Saturday's win possessed an element of redemption for Lawrence who finished 17th during last year's state meet due to an Achilles injury she suffered earlier that week.
“All I wanted to do today was just finish and be happy with how I did because last year was so disappointing,” Lawrence said. “Because of my injury I didn't get to train all week. I finished 17th and I wasn't happy with it. I came into today feeling like everyone expected me to win. It ended up being a lot of pressure. Everyone was depending on me. It just means a lot that I won.”