The heat did not stop Katelyn Greenleaf from running and training for her final cross country season this fall. Greenleaf believes she has improved every year since she started running in high school. Last season as a junior, she was All-NCAA South Region and second team All-SEC, but for senior year she wants more.
“I definitely want to go out on a good note and make this season the best out of all of them so far,” Greenleaf said. “I want to make nationals as a team; it’s our top goal, and it would be really cool to get All-American in cross country, but we will see what happens.”
Greenleaf said she and her teammates have high expectations this year. The team lost no runners to graduation last year and added a transfer from Texas named Kendall Howen. The team will have much more experience compared to last year, and Greenleaf herself will have three years under her belt.
“Each and every year she achieves a new milestone, and I think it really fuels her to go get the next one,” assistant coach Meredith Tribble said.
Greenleaf first started to get involved with long-distance running in high school. Her dad, Barry Greenleaf, was her coach at Northside Christian in St. Petersburg, Florida. He said she was not really interested in running for college freshman year, but then she changed her mind the next year, so he started to prepare her. He wanted to ramp up mileage, but not enough to leave her exhausted by the time she committed to a school. Barry said she was also involved in other sports as well as many social and academic groups, which played into the decision to not over-run her.
“I tried to keep running fun as well as competitive,” Barry said. “Knowing what we know now, how fast she is, she certainly could have won a state championship if we had run her more in high school, but she said ‘no, you kept running in high school fun.’ That’s made college that much more enjoyable for her. She is really happy it played out the way it did.”
Katelyn is not shy to talk about her Christian beliefs. She said she wants to honor God with the gifts that he gave her and that it is a huge motivation for her when she runs.
“She has a really solid foundation when it comes to her beliefs,” Barry said. “Her beliefs really drive her and give her strength and give her motivation, whether it’s a practice or a meet; it gives a path every single day, and that’s her no. 1 driving force.”
Barry said her teammates are her second source of motivation. Katelyn is part of a senior class that he said has changed Alabama’s program, and will leave it better than when they became a part of it.
“They came when it was nothing and it was quite bad, and they are continuing to raise the bar and take the team to a new level each year,” Tribble said.
The expectations are high after just missing an opportunity to go to nationals. The team finished third place at the NCAA South Regional Championship, where the top two finishers automatically qualify. Alabama awaited a decision to see if it made the cut, but was let down. Katelyn and her teammates hope this year there won’t be another letdown.
“With the team we have this year, I won’t say it’s easy, but we can do it and go to nationals this year,” fellow senior Meropi Panagiotou said.
Source:: The Crimson White Sports