Prouty following in family, Mustang tradition
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Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013

Prouty following in family, Mustang tradition

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Picasa - COURTESY OF SANDI GREENE
Mary Prouty is now the top runner for Myers Park’s cross country team.

Mary Prouty has been around great runners her entire life. Her father, Clint, ran in college at Georgia Tech, and her older brother, Jeff, was also a standout at Myers Park before going onto study physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

While Mary watched and learned from father and brother, she admits she didn’t take running cross country seriously until she got to Myers Park High.

“I ran cross country in youth programs and at Carmel Middle School, but I was never that serious about it until my freshman year,” Mary Prouty said. “I think the combination of getting to work with Coach (John) Cline (former Myers Park cross country and track coach) and Lamont Hayes (current Myers Park track coach, former assistant) helped me to the realization that I could be good at it. So, I started training a lot harder.”

Mary quickly began to make a name for herself as she vaulted from the No. 8 runner on the team in her first year to the No. 2 spot on a deep and talented, Mustang squad as a sophomore.

Prouty was not only running better times, but starting to see the results pay off as she finished fifth at the Southwestern 4A (SW4A) cross country conference championships, 15th at 4A West Regionals and 29th at the 4A state meet last season.

While Prouty got a lot of advice and guidance from Coach Hayes and her dad, she said training with former Myers Park cross country star Sonya Payerpaj (2013) was also big.

“Sonja really motivated me on a daily basis,” Prouty said. “To be able to train with her and try to keep up with her made me a better runner and a better competitor.”

This season, Prouty, 16, has moved to the top of the Myers Park lineup and is the midst of a breakout season as she has notched wins at the Bluegrass Invitational (Johnson City, Tenn.), the Furman Invitational, the Myers Park Invitational and the Winthrop Invitational.

The only race Prouty has run that she hasn’t won is the prestigious Wendy’s Invitational at McAlpine Park, which was her best run of the year.

Prouty finished fourth in a loaded field and ran a personal best 18:07, which more than a minute better than her previous best 19:14.

Her Wendy’s performance was also the second-best time run by a Myers Park girl at McAlpine Park in school history, and it was good enough to give the Mustangs the team title.

“I was pretty excited when I found out I had run that time,” Prouty said. “But I really didn’t feel like I had run much faster than I usually do. I think the biggest difference is having the great competition (at Wendy’s).”

“Her time at Wendy’s wasn’t a big surprise to me, but I think it was to the rest of the state,” Hayes said. “Mary is not afraid of the big race or the big moment. She’s a very dedicated runner and has set her goals high. Everything is coming together for her now.”

Prouty hasn’t been the only Myers Park girls’ runner to have a breakout season. The entire top eight has posted times less than 20 minutes, including freshmen Katie Eiselt (18:52 best time), Story Gourley (18:53), senior Abby Watkins (19:09.01), junior Rachel DeMay (19:31), senior Julia King (19:39.9), senior Meg Greene (19:49.73) and senior Madeline Frank (19:59).

“I love having some many great teammates, we push each other every day,” Prouty said.

That kind of depth and talent has earned Hayes and the Mustangs the No. 1 ranking in the state, according to ncrunners.com, and the No. 25 ranking in country in the latest Saucony Elite 50 poll.

Myers Park rolled to an easy victory in the SW4A championships Oct. 16 with Prouty, the conference runner of the year, setting a meet and course record at Myers Park with a time of 19:34.10. The Mustangs dominated the meet taking seven of the top eight spots with Eiselt (second), Gourley (fourth), Watkins (fifth), King (sixth), Greene (seventh) and Frank (eighth).

Now the Mustangs turn their attention to the biggest two meets of the year, the 4A West Regional at McAlpine Park Oct. 26, and the (4A) state meet at Wake Med Soccer Park in Cary.

“I’m very excited about regionals and states,” Prouty said. “In the past, I’ve never been a true contender for all-region and all-state (top 10 in both events). Now, I have a good chance, but I have to go out and prove it.”

While Prouty wants to contend individually, with her goal to finish in the top, she is also constantly thinking about her times. Mary says she wants to break 18 minutes, with a 17:52 in mind, because it’s a perfect 5:45/mile split, something she learned from her father.

Hayes says those kind of times would add to the college interest that has already started.

But for Prouty the future is now as she hopes to contend for championships in the next few weeks, including a 4A West Regional and state team titles.

“I think if we stay healthy, we should have a shot at both of those events (regionals/states),” said Hayes, noting teams like Green Hope, Providence and T.C. Roberson will be major challengers. “Our focus all year was to give ourselves a chance. We are right where we need to be.”

Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at jedwardsjr23@gmail.com.

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