Mount Baker’s Rachael Hatcher pulls away to win an NWC meet with Blaine, Lynden Christian and Nooksack Valley on Wednesday, Sept. 5, at Peace Arch Park in Blaine.
NICK GONZALES - THE BELLINGHAM HERALD
Mount Baker senior Rachael Hatcher had a good summer of training to prepare for the 2012 girls' cross country season.
Not only did she average about 50 miles per week, but she got in plenty of work running hills - something you wouldn't think would be all that hard to do in the Deming area, but Hatcher said her favorite places to train were Whatcom Falls Park and Galbraith Mountain.
"I ran Galbraith a whole bunch out there on the mountain bike trails," Hatcher said. "It was kind of interesting, because you'd think they (mountain bikers) would be faster than a runner, but going up hills, but I passed a lot of them."
Mountain bikers aren't the only people Hatcher hopes to pass on the hills this year, as she and her teammates drop down to Class 1A after last spring's reclassification and are seeking a strong season.
Hatcher did pretty good in the 2A ranks last year, placing 43rd at the state meet with a time of 20 minutes, 5 seconds on the 5-kilometer course in Pasco. For the record, that time would have earned her a top-20 finish in last year's 1A field.
"Last year in 2A, we were one of the smallest schools," Hatcher said. "But I heard from my coach that it was one of the most competitive districts in the state. That's why I got into training so much, because I needed to be competitive with the other girls. Now that we're 1A, I see that as an opportunity to step up even more and be the best that I can be. I have my same goals; it's just a different playing field."
And Hatcher's goals are pretty lofty, indeed.
"I want to go a sub 19 (minutes)," Hatcher said. "I always set goals that are out of whack, but that's all right. I definitely want to run sub-20s consistently later in the season. There is a 21-minute club, and I want to change my mind set and go for the 20-minute club and really hit that sweet spot."
If anybody is capable of hitting those types of goals, Hatcher certainly is.
It's obvious she's already put in the work to make a big drop.
"She's extremely motivated," Mount Baker co-coach Jay Sloane said in a phone interview. "She put in a great summer, and as always, she's set some very high goals for herself and set good workouts for herself. She's had some very good long runs. She has natural talent, but she's worked very hard to get to the point where she's at. Some girls don't run as hard as we'd like, but Rachael definitely isn't one of those."
Working out has never been a chore for Hatcher, though.
She says she's most at peace when she's running, whether it's in competition, practice or just training on her own.
In fact, it's been that way as long as she can remember.
"I've always known that I was a runner," Hatcher said. "Even in second grade when we had to do a reflective assignment, I didn't know a whole lot of things, but I knew I was a runner. ... I've been running as long as I can remember - probably since I started to walk. Even in elementary schools, I was always running around in the fields and setting up sprint races with some of my friends. I always wanted to run."
A captain for the Mountaineers this year, it's now Hatcher's job to get some of that love to rub off on her Mount Baker teammates to help the team have a good season. So far, she's been doing pretty good at doing just that.
"She's been the best this year," co-coach Kristen Hayes said in a phone interview. "The top five girls on the team have really bonded, and she's really a part of that. She's knowledgeable about running, and she likes to share that knowledge. They trust her, as far as running goes."
If possible, Hatcher would like to lead the Mountaineers, who enter the season just outside the top 10 in the 1A coaches' poll, into the state meet and possibly even a podium finish.
"The thing I really like about cross country and running is that, sure, you need some natural talent," Hatcher said. "But what it really comes down to is how bad do you want it? How bad do you want to train? I always ask that during the summer. 'How much do I want to train, and am I ready to work hard to get better?' and the answer is always, 'Yes.'"
"Well, I have those weaker days, but I try to stay away from them and learn from them," Hatcher said. "They don't give awards for wanting to. They give awards for wanting to enough to put the work in, even when you don't want to."
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286 .
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.