Female Athlete of the Week: Skyline’s McGill sees improvement

Olivia McGill

FRONT ROYAL – It was the first meet of the high school track and field season for Skyline High School, and it was snowing, but Hawks sophomore Olivia McGill already sensed the improvement.

Coming off a stellar freshman season in which she placed second in the girls 100-meter dash at the Group 3A state meet a year ago, McGill started the 2016 campaign out on a positive note at the nine-team Arrowhead Invitational hosted by Sherando High School last Saturday.

McGill fell short of her personal-best mark of 12.17 seconds that she set in the state meet last season, but her time of 12.84 in the 100 on Saturday was plenty quick enough earn the sophomore a first-place medal.

“Her start out of the 100 was much better,” Hawks head coach Steve Burton said before practice Monday. “She stayed down in her first phase, so she is learning. You can tell that she’s stronger. I know the times don’t show it with the weather conditions but if you look at the difference between her time and number two there was definitely a large margin there.”

McGill, the Northern Virginia Daily’s Female Athlete of the Week for March 14-20, beat second-place finisher Ania Summers, of Sherando, by over sixth-tenths of a second, a positive sign after working consistently to improve on her start off the blocks, what she calls her “biggest weakness.” Last season, Burton said, McGill was too high in her initial drive phase off the blocks.

“I really felt the offseason when I first ran,” McGill said.

“I was really nervous about my block start because I’d had problems with that in the previous year, and we were working on it nonstop since the season began. I think I did a pretty good job on my block start. And it was just a really fun race. I love that race.”

McGill, still a relative newcomer to the sport who was inspired to run track by her older brother Desmond, a collegiate hurdler at Florida International University, also got out of her comfort zone a little bit last Saturday and competed in the girls long jump for the first time since joining the Warren County Middle School track team in eighth grade.

McGill placed ninth with a leap of 13 feet, 8.25 inches, falling short of the winning jump by nearly 2½ feet. She said she’s unsure if the long jump will be a season-long endeavor for her this season, though Burton added that the plan is to get McGill into more events as her track career progresses.

“It was definitely just kind of a learning experience, just how it is at different schools, how they jump, just trying to get over into the pit,” McGill said.

In what was also a bit of experimentation for Skyline’s girls on Saturday, the Hawks found success in the 4×100 relay en route to winning the seven-team race – which included B squads from Sherando, James Wood and Handley – with a time of 55.82 seconds. McGill ran the second leg for the Hawks’ relay team that consisted of event newcomers Carrie Hotek, Zaryn Rateb and Shyla Schmitz.

“I think we had really good handoffs for our first time being out there,” McGill said.

Much like last spring, McGill’s sophomore season will consist primarily of the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes and the 4×100 relay, with the possibility of the long jump thrown in. To prepare for the anticipated workload, McGill said she did more weightlifting in the offseason, a fact that has caught the attention of Burton.

“She’s put in time in the weight room. She’s gotten into the advanced P.E. class and is doing the lifting,” Burton said. “She did the offseason lifting and she’s continuing to lift throughout the season, where last year she got maybe one lift a week. Now she’s getting at least four days of lifting.”

All of that work is being put toward McGill’s ultimate sophomore season goal – a return to the state meet, where she admits she surprised herself with her performance last year.

“The goal is just to keep improving,” Burton said. “She has gotten stronger on the start (in the 100) but there’s other things that she can still work on – holding it through and at the finish of the race.

“And then endurance, we’ll work on that. She doesn’t like to hear it but we told her at some point she’s gonna run a 400,” he added with a smile.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com