Athlete of the Week: Wilkins delivers for Hawks in first XC meet of season

Sabrina Wilkins

FRONT ROYAL – Sabrina Wilkins is only a sophomore, but prior to the start of the 2017 cross country season her Skyline High School teammates voted her one of the squad’s two team captains. Her elevated leadership status among her peers gave Wilkins a little extra drive in the first meet of the season last weekend.

Wilkins, wanting to perform well for her teammates, delivered the type of performance they – and Hawks head coach Rodger Seemiller – have come to expect. She placed fourth overall in the 10-team girls race at the Central Invitational, completing the three-mile race in a time of 19 minutes, 33 seconds, a new personal record.

“Coming in I was ready to get like at least in the 19’s but I wasn’t expecting to PR that meet,” Wilkins, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Athlete of the Week for Aug. 21-27, said on Tuesday. “But I was expecting to do really well. Not only did I PR but most of our team PR’d, so I was really happy about that. It might’ve just been a good meet for all of us.”

Wilkins, who led the Hawks to seventh place overall, tackled the North Street course with a racing strategy that included rounding off the track’s many corners and easing her way from the second pack of runners to the lead group in the race’s final mile.

Once settled within the lead pack, Wilkins said, she joined up with teammate Carrie Hotek, and the two Hawks pushed each other to the finish line. Hotek, a junior, finished two seconds behind Wilkins for fifth place.

“When you run with a teammate it pushes you and it helps you get better times because if someone’s faster than you then you’re like oh I’ve gotta catch up with them,” Wilkins said of racing alongside Hotek. “… It just increases your time, your confidence and you’re like I can actually stick with this person, maybe I should try it next meet. It’s just exciting to run with a teammate because I have someone else my pace.”

The sight of Wilkins and Hotek racing alongside each other during meets became a common one by the end of the 2016 season.

Seemiller likened the duo to that of a “bruising fullback” (Hotek) and a technical speedster (Wilkins) combo on the football field – the two run with contrasting styles but complement each other on the course.

While the start of the 2016 season saw Hotek consistently leading Skyline’s charge, Seemiller said she and Wilkins started going back and forth as the postseason hit. Wilkins got the best of Hotek in the first race of 2017, but Seemiller doesn’t expect that to be the norm.

“That’s not gonna happen every time, I guarantee it. And that’s good. That’s what you want. You need that kind of intrasquad competition,” Seemiller said.

“They’re good for each other. They push each other. They’re gonna beat each other and I hope they can push each other all the way to the finish and maybe do something together.”

That “something,” Seemiller said, could be a championship-caliber showing for the duo at the Class 3 state cross country meet in November.

Wilkins came close to earning all-state recognition as a freshman last season, finishing 18th overall and three spots shy of earning a medal. That pushed Wilkins through an offseason that included taking part in a running camp at the University of Virginia for the first time.

“Since I was very short of all-state, I was like I’ve gotta improve. That’s what pushed me,” Wilkins said. “Making all-state is what’s pushing me this year, like I have to do better. That’s what I’m going for, all-state, top 15.”

Seemiller said something even better than a top-15 finish could be in store for Wilkins by the time her high school career is over.

“For Wilkins, she’s got three years left. If she commits to it I see multiple state titles. That’s what I’m looking at in my crystal ball,” Seemiller said. “Hotek too. If they commit, and I think they have, they’re gonna see state titles and they’re gonna have to beat each other to do it.”