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McCue-Woods goes the distance for Lady Falcons
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No one has to tell her when to run.

Dedicated to the sport, Kiara McCue-Woods is at the track every morning at 7 perfecting her craft. With every mile run she remains focused on improving her time, testing her limits.

“I’m really self-motivated,” the junior at Flowery Branch High said. “I just want to get better and I’ll do what it takes to get better. If that means getting up at 7 every morning, I’ll do it.”

This year, that focus and dedication nearly translated to a state title.

After winning region titles in both the 1,600 and 3,200-meter run, McCue-Woods ran a personal best 11:04.96 at the Class AAA state meet in Carrollton, but lost to Riverwood’s Bret McDonald by 20 seconds.

For those accomplishments, McCue-Woods is The Times 2009 Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

“I wasn’t disappointed at all about the 3,200 because that’s the same girl that beat me in cross country,” said McCue-Woods, who finished second to McDaniel at the 2008 girls cross country championships. “But this was a lot closer race, so I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better and closer to her.”

Losing twice to McDaniel — three times if you include McCue-Woods’ fourth-place finish in the 1,600 that McDaniel won — has provided a little outside motivation, but McCue-Woods knows that she can’t control how fast her opponents run.

“She’s a good motivator,” McCue-Woods said of McDaniel, who is also a junior. “She’s not really the first thing on my mind when I’m training. I want to get better myself and make my times better and I can’t really control what she does and her races. So, I’m just focused on getting myself better, and if that gets me closer to her, that’s awesome.”

Getting even remotely close would not have been possible without the self-motivation and a little help from her coach Jimmy Sorrells, who got McCue-Woods to start running in the ninth grade.

“At first I was like, ‘are you crazy?’” she remembered saying when asked to run for Flowery Branch. “I came for a day and never came back.”

But Sorrells saw something in McCue-Woods and never gave up on her. He kept asking repeatedly for her to run, until she finally gave in. She hasn’t left the track since.

“The biggest thing with Kiara is she has a determination and a will for success,” Sorrells said.
That attitude is displayed through her work ethic.

“We don’t mandate practice,” Sorrells said of the summer workouts. “The runner is a very self-motivated athlete. I want the kid that’s motivated to be at practice and that’s what Kiara is.

“It makes it easy being a coach.”

Especially when all that motivation helps lead a team to where it’s never gone before.

Along with McCue-Woods’ performance at the state meet, Flowery Branch got strong performances from Ericka Rucker and Sam Salyers that propelled the team to a sixth-place finish, scoring points for the first time in school history.

“We were surprised because we never scored a point before,” McCue-Woods said of the outcome at state. “We thought if we all did our best then we could have a strong showing.”

They did, and with all three runners returning next year, Flowery Branch is poised for an even better showing at the state meet. “My goal is always top 3,” McCue-Woods said. “If you’re in the top three, then you’ve done something special.”

Ultimately her goal is to win state and end her high school career on the highest note, and after that she hopes to take her skills to the next level in college and run for either Georgia Tech, Georgia or the University of North Carolina.

Wherever she ends up, she hopes to run the 5K or 10K, two races that suit her ability to run long distances.

“I just love to run,” she said. “It’s good to get away and have some you time. It’s a lot of fun, I really like it.”
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