This Virginia No. 2 Runner From Forest Park Has No. 1 Story

* Forest Park's Kennedy Korzen spoke with MileSplit after her "red race" victory at GAXC

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Sometimes, a cross country team's No. 2 athlete has the No. 1 story of the week. 

That was the case this weekend with the Woodbridge Forest Park (VA) Bruins.

Competing down at the Great American Festival in Cary, North Carolina, the girls team from Virginia had its athletes spread over two races. In the Race of Champions was the Bruins' No. 1 runner, Elizabeth Gregory, who finished ninth in17:50 -- a VA No. 3 performance -- and in the red race was the rest of the team. 

It was in that race where the junior Kennedy Korzen shined. Though Korzen was new to cross country and just in her third race, she focused on running a fast time.

After all, that is what you go to Great American for. 

"I wasn't super focused on [a] PR and just really wanted to run my race."  - Kennedy Korzen

Attacking the race was something that Forest Park coach Doug Gilbert had in mind for Korzen and that is exactly what she did as she quickly found herself leading the race and then again at the 2K mark with a time of 7:22 as she crossed the split's timing mat. 

"We had talked about the possibility of her being near the front and that it would be a great learning experience and she executed perfectly and ran to her strengths. " - Coach Gilbert

It was what she did after that set her apart.

She began to pull away and ultimately put a 10-second gap on the field to run away with the race.

But what caught our attention afterward was one tweet and photo from the meet. 

Our first thought after seeing it was not the time itself but the story behind it, and the celebration for it. There is always going to be someone who is faster at all levels of the sport, but the most important thing is chasing your own perfection.

That is what that tweet and Kennedy exemplified. 

"Crossing the finish line first felt unreal. I was overjoyed and so excited!  I just kept thinking about how my nail polish was painted perfectly for that picture and how excited I was to go see my teammates and call my parents to tell them what I did."

    Her quote further shows how every runner is chasing their own goals and how achieving them means something different to all athletes. Ultimately, Korzen's time of 19:00.90 was a 46-second PR and just the start of something special.

    But to get her there, Forest Park coach Doug Gilbert has been working hard to balance the workload of his entire team. Leading the way for the Bruins was Elizabeth Gregorywho now sits at VA No. 3 on the season and who just took down an 18-year-old school record with her 17:50 clocking at GAXC. 

      For most coaches, it is nearly impossible to get one athlete to that point, let alone have two standout athletes. But Coach Gilbert actually has prior experience doing this and might even hold some sort of record for the best 1-2 in the state history. 

      Prior to being at Forest Park, Gilbert was at Leesburg Heritage, where he coached the incredible one-two punch of Weini Kelati and Georgie Mackenzie.

      He had there a 16:20, Foot Locker National Champion in Kelati, who ran nearly 80 miles a week; and then he had Mackenzie running a best of 18:20, with half the mileage. 

        Mackenzie ultimately finished fourth in the entire state that year. While her time and Kelati's performances were impressive, the super impressive thing is having both happen at the same time.

        It is a near impossible task to balance a superstar and to train good runners into great runners. 

        "I always try to get to know my runners so that training plans can be tailored to fit each kid's needs. I think our focus [this year is ] on not just training but enjoying our time together has been vital to the kids' success thus far. - Coach Gilbert" 

        But yet again, Coach Gilbert had a banner day down at GAXC, with great performances on both sides. You had a school record, a huge PR, quite a few other superb performances and some great stories.

        It just goes to show: Sometimes digging a little deeper shows you something you didn't think about and makes you realize that cross country isn't all about the clock; it's about personal success and the stories behind it. 

        Related Links: 

        Great American Festival meet page