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The Times Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year: North Hall's Victoria Rogers
Victoria Rogers is The Times Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.

Boys Runner of the Year: North Hall's Cody Barger

Coach of the Year: North Hall's Drew Rogers

All-Area Cross Country teams

The 2010 cross country season was a breakout year for North Hall’s Victoria Rogers.

A sophomore, Rogers went from having no top five finishes in 2009 to having seven in the Lady Trojans’ 12 meets. She won the Hall County Championships in late September and the Mountain Invitational in October. She came in second at a West Hall meet and had another top five finish at the Berry Invitational.

Her second-place finish at the Region 8-AAA meet at Unicoi State Park — she ran the 5K in 19 minutes, 40 seconds — guided the Lady Trojans to the region title.

In the biggest race of the season, the Class AAA state meet in Carrollton, Rogers finished fifth (19:51.82) to help the Lady Trojans finish second overall, giving them their only other top-four finish since 1995.

For her efforts, Rogers is The Times 2010 Cross Country Girls Runner of the Year.

“It means a lot to see how good our team turned out and that the hard work paid off,” Rogers said. “The last couple of years, the (North Hall boys cross country team) always had the chance to win state and we’d barely make it. So this year it felt good to get the chance to earn our own state trophy and not just cheer on the boys.”

Rogers’ father, Drew Rogers, is coach of the North Hall cross country program. He said Victoria began hitting her stride as a long-distance runner last season as a freshman.

“She’s worked hard the last couple of years,” he said. “She was above average in middle school, but she dedicated more time to training once she was in high school and she worked real hard all summer long.”

Victoria has shaved nearly seven minutes off her 5K time since middle school, and a big reason for her progression this season was teammate Ansley Lawson, a senior. Lawson was running better times at meets earlier in the season, which pushed Victoria to run faster. “Those two went back and forth,” Drew said. “The competition between Victoria and Ansley made both of them better.”

Added Victoria, “I guess we both worked off each other. We’re really good friends and we practiced together and it was nice having someone to workout with and not have to be alone.”

Drew said he and Victoria never really sat down and discussed goals for the season, but that he knew she wanted to win the Hall County meet. Not only did Victoria achieve that, she never lost to another Hall County runner all season long other than Lawson.

The regular season meets helped the Lady Trojans realize their ultimate goal of a top-four finish at state — the top four teams get a place on the championship podium at the state meet and get a trophy.

“That was a bigger accomplishment for her than anything else,” Drew said. “That was the main goal for our team.”

The success didn’t come without a lot of practice. Victoria estimates she runs anywhere from seven to 12 miles daily, and school trainers have also incorporated a weight-training program to her regimen.

She said the entire team trained with a different mindset this season.

“Last year, we trained for region in a way, because we needed our best race just to get to state,” said Victoria of the team’s third-place finish at region in 2009. “This year we had more confidence we could win region, our efforts were more geared toward state.

“We saved our best race for state.”

While the Lady Trojans had one of their best seasons in school history, next season could present more of a challenge.

With Lawson graduating, along with the Lady Trojans losing three of their top four runners, Rogers will be expected to help lead the 2011 Lady Trojans, who will feature just one senior.

Drew points to West Hall as the county team to beat next season.

Until then, Victoria said she’ll continue training during the offseason with one goal in mind.

“I want to run faster,” she said.

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