Holly is Well Above Board as Swift and Sound Runner for Valley Girls’ XC
The long and winding course that has been Holly Board’s race within athletics has gone down many paths, but it has come full circle by reigniting her passion for running as a standout racer for the Valley Regional girls’ cross country squad.
The Warriors’ junior started soccer and gymnastics at the age of 3, quitting the former at age 5 and the latter around 5th grade–though she did return to gymnastics and still takes part in it. At the behest and encouragement of her elementary school gym teacher, now one of the Valley girls’ cross country coaches Brian Drinkard, she joined cross country in 7th grade. She then joined the volleyball squad at Valley as a freshman and sophomore before coming back to the cross country course this fall, quickly becoming the Warriors’ No. 1 runner.
“My coaches have pushed me to a new level that I did not think I could get to, and the team here has also been amazing. For each meet, I focus on my personal time and beating the previous one,” says Holly. “What also helps is having the right mindset and trying to stay positive and not get into your own head. You have to try and focus on your own improvement and not focus on what the other teams and their runners are doing. I worry about myself and my own improvements out there.”
A big burst of speed right off of the starting gun is not the onset of a winning strategy, per Holly’s experiences. She further details that when it comes to traversing various terrains of a race, it is not solely confined to focus on the legs, but additionally overall body language with all limbs.
“A big mistake a lot of people make is that you do not want to start out a race too fast. It is okay to start strong and get in front of people you want to get ahead of, but you do not want to overdo it,” says Holly. “I drive my legs uphill, and then I keep my core tight going downhill to avoid cramping. You also cannot squeeze your hands while running, or else you will lose energy. Our coaches also help with pacing and are there at the 1-mile and 2-mile marks. But you still want to go fast at the end and put everything into it, because before you know it, you are done with the race.”
Some of it is in the genes, but there has been a symbiotic relationship when it comes to surmising Holly’s athletic gains in the attributes avenue. While running is a core element of training for any athletic endeavor, her other conquests in competition have aided her on the course.
“My cross country success comes from genetics, because my mom is good at running. Gymnastics helps build up strength with the workouts. Cross country can help you with other sports as well,” Holly says. “Cross country is one of the most mentally and physically challenging sports, because you could quit the race at any moment, but you never do. Also, other sports are more about perfecting a certain skill, but with cross country, it is about you and your body running a course.”
It is a numbers game when it comes to comparing Holly and the Warriors’ postseason aspirations in the league and state-wide title meets. Still, she details that several Warriors will leave it all on the line as they try to cross the finish line towards big-time solo accolades.
“We are all really trying to put everything into the Shoreline Championship meet. There are a lot of us who have a chance at making First or Second Team All-Shoreline, and we feel we have more of a chance at Shorelines instead of states, simply based on the bigger number of teams at states,” says Holly. “We have had a great year and are all focused on doing our best.”
Drinkard was very impressed with Holly’s speed upon his initial impressions back in junior high, which has been extrapolated on the high school circuit, along with her showing her ability to connect and bond with her peers when she is not pedaling towards paydirt.
“We were very excited when Holly decided to make the transition from volleyball to cross country,” says Drinkard. “She had been an outstanding runner in outdoor track, and I had her as an elementary PE student, where she always loved to run. I always imagined she would be a great runner at Valley. So this year, Coach Chris Allegretti and I were very pleased when she decided to make the change. She is the top runner on our girls’ team. More than that, she is a good teammate and fits in well with our team. She should have a solid two years in our program and, if she decides to, I believe she could run at the next level. She is a hard worker and is very competitive, which helps her find a little more near the finish line.”
Through her time trials and physical tests, athletics have taught Holly to never underestimate her abilities while overcoming any psychosomatic hills that may hasten a sprint to a personal summit.
“I have learned that you are stronger than you think you are,” Holly says. “I did not think I could do as well with cross country as I have now done. I could not do it without my coaches and their motivation. I also learned a big part of the sport is knowing that it is more about focusing on your own improvements and personal growth.”