One race changed Savannah Shirley’s work ethic, which eventually became the difference in the runner she now is.
Already one of the top runners returning for the defending 1A state champions at West Union, Shirley set a goal to win state as an individual, a feat she accomplished, but it was not an easy road to get there.
“She went through a spell this year, where she was dehydrated in a race and they had to give her fluids,” coach Hugh Yates said. “She realized then that she’ll have to do more than just run. She’ll have to train; eat right and take care of her body. She came back and did that.”
The eighth grader held first place finishes at the Union County Championships as well as the Division 2-1A meet and took that momentum into state, where she was the top finisher with a time of 16:14, only seconds shy from the 1A state record.
“I had it as a goal set for me, and I was going to try and achieve it, but I didn’t think I really would,” Shirley said of the individual title. “Coach Yates and I set a goal to run a 6:30 pace, and we practiced that every day, and when it came time for State, I ran it, with his help.”
“It’s just the type of kid she is,” Yates added. “If she sets goals, or we set them, she will do everything she can to reach them. I didn’t think it was that hard to reach, and I kept telling her to consistently knock off seconds and eventually it will be there.”
The Lady Eagles finished behind Myrtle for the overall team title, but Shirley credited her teammates for their effort, as they each ran personal bests.
“They did a great job, and every day in practice, we pushed one another to run harder,” she said. “They did great and all ran their individual best times, so they did really good, I think.”
As for the athlete she has become, Yates knows he has a runner with the potential of achieving many things over the next four years.
“She’s just an athlete. Any sport you put her in, she’ll be competitive,” he said. “She’s good at basketball, and if she played softball, she’d be good at that as well. Running, she’s dedicated. She works at it every day and doesn’t miss, and she continues to work at it. She sets her goals and tries to achieve them.”
Besides picking up more first place finishes next year, there is one goal Shirley hopes to accomplish; breaking the individual record in 1A.
“That’s my goal, and I’m definitely going to try.”