FRONT ROYAL — Carrie Hotek ended her senior cross country season in a perfect way — on the podium at the Class 3 State Championships.
The top 15 runners from each class are given medals on the podium after the race and this year was Hotek’s first time making it there and she did it along with her teammate Sabrina Wilkins.
“It was exciting,” Hotek said. “It was amazing. I wish I could replay that day, that last hour of the day was perfect. And it was definitely worth a lot of hard work. And it was definitely fun the whole way.”
Hotek, The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2018 Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year, finished sixth in the state meet in a time of 19:19 despite rainy and muddy conditions. It rained throughout the race and there were plenty of mud puddles on the course.
She said she was nervous about the conditions before the race but her coaches helped her keep calm and focused.
“I was worried but every time I would say anything coach would say ‘you’re ready for this. You’ve trained for this and you can do it,’” Hotek said. “‘And everyone is running in the same conditions so don’t get down on yourself.’ And so that was good. And I just kind of had that in the back of my head when I was running. I was running through puddles and stuff and I was like you know what, everyone is having to struggle through this, too. So just make the best of it and try to have a positive attitude, even when it’s not ideal conditions for running.”
In the past, Hotek had struggled in the postseason due in part to overtraining. This season she decided to give herself a day off here or there or just run fewer miles to take it easy and save herself for the end of the season. The plan worked, but Hotek said it wasn’t easy for her to cut back on her workouts.
Hotek said the regular season was a little different this year as they had several big meets canceled due to the weather. The last meet of the regular season was the Millbrook Third Battle Invitational and Hotek said she didn’t feel like she did very well there.
A week later, Hotek ran at Millbrook again, this time in the Class 3 Northwestern District meet and she had a much different result. She won the individual district title with a time of 19:10.3.
“That was so fun,” Hotek said of her victory. “I had raced there the previous week and that was my first big race back (due to postponed meets) and I was so frustrated with how I had done. I knew I could do better. So coming into that race I was determined just to give it all I had. And in the back of my mind I really wanted to win, but I was just going to see what happened that day. That was a great experience. I’m never going to forget breaking through the tape (at the finish line) that was such a good feeling. I loved that.”
The next week she finished second in the Region 3C meet in a time of 19:40.2. She held the lead for much of the race before James Monroe’s Virginia Beringer passed her in the last mile and held on for the win.
One constant for Hotek was having Wilkins there beside her race after race. The pair pushed each other a lot over the last three seasons. Hotek said they are different and that’s part of what makes them successful.
“She’s so fun to be around,” Hotek said. “Honestly I tend to be so intense about everything and she’s just naturally a very relaxed person. So I think she gets me back in perspective sometimes when I’m getting too uptight about things. She’s like it’s going to be good, like you’re going to have fun. So I think we balance each other out. And also in training sometimes when I’m going too hard and she’d be going relaxed and I’m like oh yeah I guess I could chill out a little bit. I think we provide balance as well as make each other have a good time because we’re always pushing each other to get better.”
Skyline coach Rodger Seemiller said that Hotek is hard-working and willing to put in as much work as it takes to be successful. He said that Hotek usually tells him they need to run in the bad conditions so they’re used to it if it happens in a race.
“She says coach we need to run in the cold or we need to run in the rain or in the mud or the heat (to be prepared),” Seemiller said. “She wants to do that. Most girls would complain. She wants to do that. She wants to be better. She’ll do anything it takes.”
Hotek is running indoor track this winter for the first time to help her get better prepared for outdoor track season. Last year Hotek finished fifth in the 800-meter run in the Class 3 State Outdoor Track and Field Championships. She was in a slower heat in the 800 finals, and won the heat, but she said she wants to make sure she is in a faster state finals heat next spring.
Hotek began running cross country her sophomore year and gave up other sports to focus on that. She said she has no regrets and will continue running after high school in some capacity. She said she’s learned a lot from the last three years.
“It’s crazy looking back,” Hotek said. “It was such a good experience. I’m so happy that I switched from other sports to run. I would not have traded that for anything. It’s everything — the confidence, the endurance, the mental strength. That doesn’t just go towards sports. It also goes towards life. It’s just fun to see what you’ve accomplished and realize that you are capable of more than you see initially. And just recognizing that in education or in work or in anything, I think it taught me a lot.”