Anna McElrath always figured she’d have success as an athlete in high school – she just thought it would come on the soccer field, where she’d grown up excelling. So, when McElrath arrived at Independence four years ago, she played on the soccer team and only took up cross-country as a way to stay in shape.
Lucky for the Patriots program, she stuck with running.
“It’s been a great thing,” McElrath said. “If I’ve learned anything from this, it’s that sometimes dreams change. I always said I wanted to be a soccer player, but when God opens the door and leaves it open, you have to go through it.
“I really had to trust that this was what was going to work out for me and it really did and I’m really glad that I made this decision.”
For the third consecutive season, McElrath is the Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group’s Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly Girls Cross-Country Runner of the Year, but she saved her best performance for her senior season.
McElrath upped her training last summer, running around 35 miles per week and even touching 40 miles a couple of times before her junior season. This summer she averaged 45 miles per week, worked on speed training and incorporated weights into her routine for the first time. The results speak for themselves.
“I ran more miles this summer, but I had a lot of goals so I knew I was going to really have to work to reach those goals,” she said. “I worked hard this summer and during this season and it paid off for me.”
McElrath was named to the Southwestern 4A all-conference team, broke the 19-minute barrier when she finished seventh at the Wendy’s Invitational, won the Providence Invitational meet, finished in the top 15 in the Western Regional and competed in the state meet, all of which were goals coming into the season.
So, yeah, she had a pretty good ending to a star-studded career.
“I did,” she said. “Last year I wanted to break 19 minutes and make it to states, so I’m really proud of that and happy that I got to do both of those things – it meant a lot.”
As the sun sets on her high school career, the former soccer player turned cross-country star said she’s looking to run in college, something she couldn’t have imagined when she took up the sport four years ago.
“I didn’t even think about that at all,” McElrath said. “But I’m really excited about it. I’ve come this far so I’m going to keep going with it. I’m nervous about it, but I’m excited to see where it takes me.”