Proving to be quick study

North Carroll junior Katie Hursey has experienced quite a run of success after giving up lacrosse and soccer for track and cross country.


Katie Hursey had one goal in mind when she started running track last season for North Carroll.

Beating her mother.

"She always ran, so when I picked up running, I needed something to [aim for]," Hursey said of her mother, who ran the 1,600 meters in 5 minutes, 17 seconds and 3,200 in 11:29 while competing at South Carroll from 1978 to 1980. "And I don't know if that's me being a bratty child of hers or whatever you want to call it, but it was a goal of mine to see if I was as good as she was when she was younger."

Hursey has been even better. After playing lacrosse for the Panthers as a freshman, she turned to track as a sophomore and was named Carroll County Performer of the Year, winning state crowns in the 1,600 (5:00.13) and 3,200 (11:10.32). Both times are the second-fastest by an area athlete that season.

"It took me a lot of years to get to that time," said MaryLynn Hursey, who also ran for Western Maryland (now McDaniel College). "But she got it in her first season."

The state titles capped victories at the Class 3A West regional meet (5:12.7 in the 1,600 and 11:34.0 in the 3,200), county championships (5:33.20 and 12:04.85) and Monocacy Valley Athletic League's Chesapeake Division meet (5:21.40 and 11:46.27).

Hursey also won the 800 at the Knights Invite (2:24.6) and county championships (2:26.07), which the Panthers took for the first time since 1986.

Hursey, whose older sister Kristin runs distance events at York College, didn't stop there. In the fall, the junior decided to give up soccer, which she played for two years at North Carroll, to run cross country.

She opened the season with wins at the Westminster and Gettysburg invitationals, but then was third in the medium schools division at Hereford's Bull Run. The All-Metro and Carroll County Runner of the Year never lost again. She swept the postseason, including the Carroll County (18:38) and Class 3A West regional (18:58.89) titles. Her winning time of 19:12.54 at the state meet was the fastest by a female runner in all four classifications. She also set three course records during the season.

"Because I changed from soccer, I thought I should make something of it," Hursey said. "I love soccer. It was also one of my favorite sports because I loved how it was contact. And by giving up my last contact sport, I thought I better do something good with this one or it's going to be kind of wasteful to have switched, especially since right after I wasn't sure if I had made the right decision to quit soccer."

North Carroll distance coach Jim MacDonald is confident Hursey made a good decision and wasn't shocked by how quickly she dominated the sport.

"Her first track meet, I was surprised at how well she ran. It was her first race ever, and after that first track meet we knew we had a special runner," he said. "So I really wasn't surprised that her success from the spring continued in the fall because she did so great at the state meet, and the times she ran were really, really good. Not only did she win, but the times she ran were outstanding."

In addition to running being in her genes, Hursey's rapid development into one of the state's best distance runners might also be explained by her background in swimming, which she has been participating in competitively since she was 8.

"Swimming is a great sport for kids because it develops overall muscle strength as well as cardiovascular fitness and lung capacity, so they can take that background and apply it to other sports," said Mike Kremer, who is Hursey's swimming coach at the Westminster YMCA. "It obviously gives them an advantage."

Hursey, along with five others from her team, just returned from the Short Course YMCA Nationals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where she swam the 200-meter freestyle and the 200 and 400 medley relays. She swam a personal best in the 200 free time trial (1:57.4) to qualify for next year's event.

"I think [by swimming] it gives you a sense of competitiveness. ... In running, it's kind of the same way, because if you're behind someone, you are going to try to catch up to them," said Hursey, whose strong kick in swimming can be attributed to her running, Kremer said.

"But also I think it helps with your endurance," she added. "And with swimming, it basically keeps your whole body in shape, but it's still a hard transition from swimming to running because running is a lot harder on your joints."

Hursey has had a slower start than usual this spring. She has been hampered by tendinitis in her left leg and has run in only three meets - at Francis Scott Key on March 28, the Knights Invite on April 11 and the Don Boyer Invitational last Wednesday, where she finished first in the 1,600 (5:23.80) and 3,200 (11:44.10). At the Knights Invite, she was third in the 800 (2:30.60) and third in the 1,500 (5:08.50) but helped the Panthers finish first in the 3,200 relay (10:24.00).

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