Athlete of the Week: Hotek is instant hit for Skyline cross country

Carrie Hotek

FRONT ROYAL – When Carrie Hotek joined Skyline High School’s track and field team as a freshman last spring for her first venture in a running-centric sport, she dabbled in a few events.

Hotek first tried the 100-meter dash but wasn’t quite fast enough to be competitive. The same held true for the 200, and again in the 400. When Hotek finally attempted the 800-meter run, Hawks assistant coach Rodger Seemiller began noticing a trend – the longer the distance, the better Hotek became.

“The distances, I love it because it’s a mental game,” Hotek, who went on to place 11th in the 800 at the Group 3A state track meet, said Tuesday afternoon. “Instead of just like your pure speed it’s just like if you can beat the other person with your mentality.

“It’s all in your determination, which is awesome.”

Practically on a whim, the result of a combination of personal interest and the urging of friends, Hotek decided to expand her high school athletic career to include cross country this year. She’s been an instant hit.

Already voted a team captain by her teammates, the sophomore established herself as the Hawks’ leader on the course last Saturday at the Central Invitational, when she was the first girl to cross the finish line in her cross country debut with a time of 19 minutes, 25 seconds.

Hotek, the Northern Virginia Daily’s Female Athlete of the Week for Aug. 22-28, said she wasn’t expecting to take home the first-place medal in her inaugural race, but her rapid success came as no surprise to Seemiller, who is coaching Skyline’s cross country team for the first time this fall.

“I’ve been at it for 39 years coaching one thing or another,” Seemiller said, “(and) that could be one of the most coachable athletes I’ve ever laid eyes on. … Work ethic, that’s through the roof. She’s got personality. I met her last year in track, first time I met her she just worked hard.”

Having had no experience running a cross country race before, Hotek said she relied on advice from Seemiller, who suggested that she keep sight of the number one runner at all times and try not to let any more than 10 runners get ahead of her in order to maintain that contact with the leader of the pack.

Echoing a habit she formed running the 800 during track season, Hotek started fast at the gun to kick off the 3-mile run along Central’s North Street course.

“The beginning of the course was like the cornfield, so I just like busted out of there and I kind of found my pace afterward,” Hotek said.

While waiting to see if Hotek’s quick start was too fast for her to keep pace, Seemiller recalled spotting his sophomore runner with a handful of others at the head of the pack after the first mile. Seemiller said he knew if Hotek remained in that position at the second mile, her kick over the final 1,600 meters could propel her to victory.

Indeed, Hotek emerged at the second mile with Clarke County’s Madison Webster at the forefront of the race. Trailing Webster by about 5 yards in the closing stretch, Hotek erased that distance as she powered up the hill that marks the course’s final 200 meters before crossing the finish line a full six seconds ahead of Webster.

“I think they’re fun,” Hotek said of running hills, “because initially at the beginning of the season I was kind of scared of them, but then we’ve been doing so many hill workouts it’s like, ‘Yeah, I’ve been training for this.'”

With her confidence now soaring high, Hotek said her goals for the rest of the season are to remain humble in whatever successes follow while trying to be the best leader she can be for her teammates. That type of attitude should bode well for Seemiller’s quest to rebuild Skyline’s girls cross country team.

“We’ve got a large group of veterans and youngsters, and I’m trying to sort of get a youth movement together here and that’s a good start,” Seemiller said. “We’ve got another girl, (Sabrina) Wilkins, she took fifth (on Saturday) and she’s a freshman. All these seniors are gonna graduate and if I can get a supporting cast around those first two we can have a future here.”

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