Gibson eager to lead Stonewall girls track in senior season

Stonewall Jackson's Hayley Gibson runs during a meet last season in Quicksburg. Rich Cooley/Daily file

QUICKSBURG — What started out as just a sport to tryout for turned into something much bigger for Stonewall Jackson track and field standout Hayley Gibson.

The senior, who last year broke a school record in the 800-meter run, has fallen in love with the sport.

“It was just kind of a sport for me to do, and now that I’ve really gotten into it over the years it’s kind of a passion for me at this point. And I want to coach in the future,” Gibson said.

Gibson said it wasn’t until her freshman year at Battlefield High School in Haymarket that she started to really like track and field.

She was part of a state-qualifying 4×400 relay team as a freshman at Battlefield, and she said that year made her want to work even harder at the sport to keep improving.

Gibson, who has already verbally committed to run track and field at Radford University, moved to the area after her sophomore year and said it was an adjustment coming to Stonewall Jackson at first. Battlefield is a Group 6A school, and Stonewall Jackson is a 1A school.

“The small school vibe was definitely a new thing,” Gibson said. “It was definitely hard to fit in with at first in such a small community, but it’s nice now. Everyone knows your name. Everyone talks to you. So it’s really friendly — I like that.”

Last year Gibson hit her stride in the 800 at the state meet. She set a new school record in the 800 at the Group 2A state meet with a time of 2:24.70.

“What a way to end a season,” Stonewall Jackson distance coach Mary Clanahan said. “That’s hanging right there on her. She’s got her own personal goals. She wants to set that bar again to re-break that so when she leaves Stonewall she’s got it there. Her name’s up on the board, but she wants to set it again her senior year.”

Gibson placed fifth in the state meet in the 800, but this year will be a new challenge as the Generals have dropped down from being a 2A school to a 1A school.

Gibson said that the best of running track is just the feeling of finishing a race and knowing you accomplished something, and it counters the pain you feel during a race.

“Being a runner is definitely painful. I’ve definitely asked myself why I’ve done it lots of times,” Gibson said with a laugh. “But, honestly that feeling of when you finish a run or finish a race, there’s nothing better. You’re exhausted but it just feels so good that you’ve done it, and it’s over.”

Gibson experienced a new level of pain in running during the fall season as she went out for cross country for the first time. The Generals placed fifth as a team in the Group 1A state meet this year.

She said it was a great experience.

“Cross country really helped because it gave me a lot more physical endurance, but man that is a whole different animal. It’s a whole different race,” Gibson said. “…I think it really helped me for track season. I think it really got me in good cardiovascular shape, which I’m really excited about. So coming out here on the track it was just a lot of speed work, and I think it will go well.”

She will be the only senior on the girls team this year, just like she was in cross country, and Clanahan said that Gibson is trying to be more of a leader this season for the younger girls.

Gibson expects to also run in both the 4×400 and 4×800 relays, and she really enjoys that team aspect of things.

“I really like relays just because it’s such a teams atmosphere, and it brings you so close to your teammates,” Gibson said. “…I’m really excited about our 4×8 team. I think our 4×8 team will be very strong by what talent we have in here right now.”

Gibson said she will be signing her letter of intent with Radford on April 13, and she’s looking forward to running with them in the future. She said that track has helped her realize that she enjoys working with younger athletes and wants to get into coaching.

“I really like working with people in track,” Gibson said. “I find it to be a real passion and getting to work with the kids and getting to try new things, especially when the middle school comes in here. I try to work with them on different stuff and acceleration stuff. I just really like the bond, it’s really good.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or