Meet Quincey Hettinger, a freshman at BYU and the Guest Editor in the March-April edition of Youth Runner Magazine. This is the first of many weekly blog posts you can look forward to from Quincey. Since she started running at age five and ran in 12 USATF Junior Olympic XC Nationals she knows what goes through the mind of a Youth Runner.  She would like to hear your comments and questions so go ahead and leave them below for her.

Because I Run           

I was raised in Vista, CA, located in north San Diego County. When I was 5 years old, I competed in a local running race hosted by the Southern California Municipal Athletic Foundation, known as SCMAF. The race was held at Kit Carson Park in Escondido, CA and was a ½ mile flat course. Not having trained, I was surprised to have come in second place and received my very first medal. The following year, when I was 6 years old, my older brother became a member of the San Diego SoCal RoadRunners, a private competitive running club. As the little sister, my mom dragged me to practice. I was initially more interested in playing in the dirt pile, but later became fascinated with the cool yellow and black uniforms. Also, I liked hanging out with the other girls my age that were running on the team. After a few months of attending practice and gentle prodding by head coach Mike Mena, I joined the team. Within a short time, Coach Mena dubbed me the “Energizer Bunny.” I wasn’t that fast, but I could keep going on and on.

The San Diego SoCal RoadRunners was a highly competitive cross country team. Hailing top collegiate runners such as Darren Fahy of Georgetown; Parker Stinson, Emma Abrahamson and Chris Brewer of the University of Oregon; Collin Jarvis of UC Berkeley; and Steven Fahy of Stanford, the  RoadRunners had a solid youth running program. These runners and their siblings became my teammates and mentors. Together we traveled to Association, Regionals and National competitions. Together we warmed up on courses in Chicago, Rhode Island and Kansas. Together we carb-loaded at Italian restaurants in Nevada, Virginia and New Mexico. Together we cheered for our teammates as they stood on the podium, and hugged them when we experienced disappointment.

Quincey (pictured on the bottom right) with her team, the San Diego SoCal RoadRunners at the 2004 USATF Junior Olympic Cross Country National Championships in Schaumburg, Illinois where her team placed second in the bantam girls age division.

With the San Diego SoCal RoadRunners, I competed in my fourth USATF Junior Olympic Cross Country National Championships in Spokane, Washington at the age of 10. I realized that I could achieve a rare and solitary accomplishment: qualify and compete in 12 consecutive National Cross Country Championships. Eight years of training and dedication lay ahead.

I knew completing this goal would take an immense amount of dedication. To stay competitive, I would have to practice 4-6 days each week for 48 weeks per year. I would have to train when I did not feel well, during vacations and in inclement weather. I would have to endure pain and injury. In 2011, I suffered from a serious injury that prevented me from running for most of the cross-country season. After several months of cross training on a bike or in the pool, I competed at Nationals in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, despite the pain and my unconventional training program.

In addition to this rigorous training schedule, I would need to be successful in several highly competitive qualifying races each year. In the 2007 and 2008 seasons, my running club had 20 girls in my age division competing for 8 positions. In order to qualify for the races in Lawrence, Kansas and Mechanicsville, Virginia, I would have to be at peak performance and run my personal best. I ultimately was successful and earned one of the coveted positions for both years.

A further challenge would be encountering factors beyond my control during the races. In 2005, in Smithfield, Rhode Island, we ran in a foot of snow, at temperatures close to freezing. At the beginning of this race, I fell down in the snow and had to regain my position. Fortunately, I was not injured; I placed 53rd as an individual and 2nd as a team. In 2010, in Hoover, Alabama, my shoe came off and I ran the last half mile with only one shoe. My determination motivated me to finish every race, regardless of the unexpected circumstances.

These experiences were not without disappointment. In 2006 in Spokane, Washington, I had hoped to place in the top 25 in my age division and earn the title of “All-American.” Based on my training, I knew that the potential for success was within my grasp. I ultimately finished the race in 27th place, 2 places away from my goal. My disappointment turned into exhilaration when I learned my performance contributed to my team becoming National Champions.

I have now competed in 12 Junior Olympic Cross Country National Championships. Because I run, my discipline and determination to do my personal best in other aspects of my life has increased. Because I run, I have learned that success in sports, academia or music comes from consistent efforts. Because I run, I know the importance of maintaining a positive outlook through unexpected circumstances and disappointment.

Over the next several months, I hope to share my thoughts and experiences with you. Please join me on my blog - Because I Run.