Don’t be fooled by the fact that Lawrence Free State High School cross country runner Emily Venters is just a sophomore. She’s already a two-time state champion and has potential that should worry opponents.
Venters, a club swimmer turned runner, is the reigning Gatorade Kansas cross country girls runner of the year. She has two Class 6A state titles to her name and her coach, Steve Heffernan, sees few obstacles in her path.
“She is still young, as far as training age goes, and you don’t want to guess, but she has all the skills to run really fast in the next couple years,” Heffernan said. “We’ve had some really good girls runners come through here and I think she can be as good as they are, or even go quite a bit beyond.”
The only barrier Venters has encountered is a lower leg injury that lightened her training schedule, but even then she battled through and continued to excel.
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“We had to help her figure out that she doesn’t have to do everything as fast as she could every single day, which was a learning curve,” Heffernan said. “She is very determined at the end of a race, but it doesn’t stop at racing. She is very determined at other things, too.”
Venters won her most recent cross country state title with a time of 14 minutes, 52.20 seconds.
ALL-METRO GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY
Ann Campbell, St. Teresa’s Academy, senior. She finished first at the KC Metro Championships and captured victories at her district and sectional races. She recorded a second straight top-10 finish at the Missouri Class 4 state meet.
Emily Downey, St. Thomas Aquinas, senior. Downey, the Eastern Kansas League champion, led the Saints to a third consecutive Kansas Class 5A team state title with her first-place finish at the state meet. She won with a time of 15 minutes, 6.20 seconds.
Tori Findley, Blue Springs South, freshman. Findley was the top freshman place-winner at the Missouri Class 4 state meet, where she placed sixth after completing the run in 18 minutes, 20.67 seconds. She also finished sixth at the Rim Rock Classic.
Ashton Henson, Blue Springs South, senior. After winning the Missouri Class 4, District 7 meet, Henson — a Pittsburg State signee — placed 11th at the Missouri Class 4 state meet, finishing in 18 minutes, 45.15 seconds.
Grace Klausen, Blue Springs South, senior. The Arkansas signee was the Kanas City area’s top female performer in any of the Missouri state meets when she placed fourth in Class 4. She completed the course in 18 minutes, 15.45 seconds.
Emily Venters, Lawrence Free State, sophomore. Venters, the reigning Kansas Gatorade girls cross country runner of the year, won the platinum division race at Rim Rock, won a Sunflower League title, finished first at her regional and repeated as Kansas Class 6A state champion.