Jun. 10—West Lauderdale's Emily Snodgrass began competing with the cross country team as a seventh grader after running with her mother for a few years.
"I wanted to represent my school and become more competitive in the sport I already loved," Snodgrass explained.
She's made the most of it so far, as Snodgrass finished sixth at the MHSAA Class 4A state meet this past fall as a freshman with a time of 21:04.26. Her strong performance earned her Premier Preps female cross country Athlete of the Year honors.
"It's an honor to have this title," Snodgrass said. "This was a hard year for everyone because of COVID. I had to take precautions to stay safe and healthy along with my usual training. It feels great to have all of this hard work pay off."
Paul Shelly, West Lauderdale's cross country coach, said Snodgrass is a humble and unassuming person but also a terrific runner.
"She works hard every day at practice and is a great teammate," Shelly said. "She is a great example to the younger runners on the team and has shown a lot of consistency during her three years running cross country. She has a bright future ahead of her running, and I think she will be a really good collegiate athlete."
Snodgrass said being a role model is important to her due to having been influenced by role models on the team herself.
"It was great to have someone to look up to and to talk to, not only about running, but life in general," Snodgrass said. "Now that I'm one of the older girls on the team, I want to be a person that younger teammates feel comfortable with."
She also leads by example, which includes having the right mindset in big races like the state championship meet, though she said that's still a work in progress.
"The pressure that comes with that level of competition is something I'm still learning to handle as a runner," Snodgrass said. "I'm grateful to my coach for training me and pushing me to do my best. Because of him, I feel confident that I had done all I could to prepare. I'm continuing to learn how to handle the pressure of the race itself, though."
In fact, Snodgrass credits Shelly for a lot of the growth she's seen in herself over the past three years.
"He's really gotten to know me as a runner and a person," Snodgrass said. "He knows my strengths and weaknesses and coaches me based on them. He's experienced as both a runner and a coach, and he's trained me with both discipline and kindness. He does his research on everything from training plans to mental tactics, going that extra mile to make me feel fully prepared for races. Coach Misty Atkinson has also played a huge role in my success as a runner, leading strength training workouts and supporting me at every practice and meet."
Not wanting to remain the same runner, Snodgrass said she's focusing on the process of improving, knowing the results will be there if she does.
"Although I do have achievement-based goals for this fall — such as placing well at state and breaking my 5K (personal record) — I'm focusing more on effort," Snodgrass said. "I want to train harder and for more hours than in previous years and just put in more work. That's my main goal for this upcoming season."