Just a couple of years ago, Emma Hand took up running just to keep in shape for swimming.But Hand quickly discovered she liked running more than swimming. Now she’s one of the top runners on Northwest Cabarrus’ girls cross country team.Hand – an all-Cabarrus News pick as a sophomore – heads into her junior year with the Trojans looking to improve on her 2012 performance, which included a 16th-place finish in the N.C. High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) 3A state championships.“I’ve gotten off to a slower start this season, but I’m hoping by the end of the season I’ll be much faster with a little work,” Hand said. “The start of the season is always kinda slow, because you’re just getting back into it.“I’m hoping to break 19 (minutes) because I need to get my times down and set a faster pace. “I’m considering running in college – I’m not sure yet, but I’m considering it – so I need to get my times down,” Hand said. “Also, I want to get back to the state meet and finish a lot higher.”Running for a college team was the furthest thing from Hand’s mind during her freshman year, when she joined Northwest’s cross country team to stay in shape for the Trojans’ swimming team.But her performance over the 2011 cross country season led Hand to drop swimming to become a full-time runner. She finished eighth in the South Piedmont 3A championship meet, set a personal-best time of 20 minutes, 1 second in finishing 12th at the NCHSAA 3A Midwest regional. She came in 41st at the NCHSAA 3A at the state meet in Kernersville.Hand’s times and performances improved in her sophomore year – three top-five finishes during the regular season, fourth at the SPC championships and eighth at the 3A Midwest regional meet. She then set a personal best of 19:28.76 at the 3A state meet.“She’s got some natural talent,” Northwest Cabarrus head coach Daniel Helms said. “But in order to get faster, she’s had to put in a lot of miles and a lot of hard work. “She doesn’t have the same foot speed as some of the other athletes, but she more than makes up for it with what she puts into her work.”Hand may not be the best runner on Northwest Cabarrus’ girls cross country team, but she’s close.While senior Maddie Lowe is the Trojans’ top runner, she’s being pushed hard by Hand, who in turn is being pushed by sophomore Kara Dunkle.The competition between the teammates has been good for the whole team, said Hand, who missed a significant amount of training time over the summer when she was taking part in the Adventures math and science camp at N.C. Central University in Durham.“It’s pushing all of us,” Hand said. “Kara is constantly trying to catch up with me while I’m trying to stay away from her; meanwhile, I’m trying to catch up with Maddie, while she’s trying to stay away from me. The competition helps all of us in all the meets.”The competition will also be tougher at the conference level this year, with the Cabarrus schools joining with Rowan County schools Carson, East Rowan, South Rowan and West Rowan to form a new South Piedmont 3A.While Jay M. Robinson – which returns all-Cabarrus News runner of the year Natalie Andrejchak and two other all-county runners from last year’s title winning team – is considered the favorites this season, Helms said the Trojans could be right in the mix.“Our goal is to make the state meet as a team,” Helms said. “Some other teams have a little more depth than we do, but we think we’ve got the strongest top three in the conference, which bodes well for us.” Kiser: 704-895-3662; Twitter: @Bkiser_CLTObs.
Monday, Sep. 23, 2013
Talent, hard work puts Trojans’ Hand near the top
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