Cross country sometimes can be a lonely sport. A runner can feel like they’re out in the middle of nowhere with nobody else around.
Sarah Carter doesn’t feel that way very often. The Xavier Prep junior has her teammates, coaches, parents and friends running alongside her as she goes up and down the hills and through the desert terrain.
All of them were with her on Nov. 7, when she crossed the finish line first in the Division I state meet at the Cave Creek Golf Course in north Phoenix, helping Xavier finish second in the team category. Carter became the 10th runner in school history to win the prestigious race.
“I want to give a huge thank you to my teammates, coaches, parents, and a good friend of mine for all of their support. I couldn’t have done it without them. They were inspirational,’’ Carter said.
“Our season was great. We had a great attitude and all of us worked really hard.’’
Carter said the Gators did more “hill work’’ this year to prepare for their races.
Included was an area near the Arizona Biltmore Resort that was nicknamed “The Beast,’’ for its challenging course.
“It was a very tough workout, but I enjoyed it, one of my favorites,’’ she said.
Carter began running at the age of 6, going out with her father. He would challenge her and then Xavier coach Dave Van Sickle took over when she participated on his club team. She even tried triathlons.
“Those were incredibly fun,’’ she said.
There was progress along the way, but the transformation to an elite runner began during her sophomore season in track and field this spring. She competed in the 3,200 (meters), the 1,600 and the 800.
“I didn’t feel like I was reaching my full potential,’’ she said. “I started to push myself more, physically and mentally.
“I love the sport. More than anything else, running is mental. It’s about who is the toughest and wants it in the end.’’
That approach served her well in the state meet.
It started with what Carter termed was a conservative pace.
“There was a big pack, and we (Xavier runners) were working off each other,’’ she said. “About the middle, the leaders kind of broke away and I was second with about 1,200 (meters) to go.
“I knew it would hurt, but I told myself, “I’m going to catch that girl. “There’s nothing worse than crossing the finish line with something to give. So I gave it my all.’’
Carter gives everything she has in the classroom as well. She has a 4.4 grade-point average and she is taking four advanced-placement classes.
She enjoys hiking and camping and being outdoors, and hopes to use that in college as she studies the environment and conservation issues.
And she will continue to run, of course.
She has talked to a few schools already, but at this point is keeping her options open.