Published: Jun 10, 2008 10:36 AM
Modified: Jun 10, 2008 10:36 AM
Haul of a champion
Beichner graduates Cardinal Gibbons a 16-time state title winner
It was no surprise last month when recent Cardinal Gibbons graduate Heather Beichner won her third straight outdoor NCHSAA 2-A state title in the 1,600-meter run. Even her winning time of 4:57.05, a 2-A state record and the 10th fastest 1,600 ever run by a North Carolina prep runner, was only a mild surprise given Beichners dominance as a senior.However, when the Crusaders were looking for an anchor leg in the 1,600-meter relay, a race that is just one 400-meter lap around the track for each runner, coaches called on Beichner, the states top distance runner, to take the baton in the days final sprint race. With the usual anchor leg not running, Beichner accepted the offer to run her fourth race of the day.Beichner, 18, didnt disappoint. She passed two runners to lead the Crusaders to first place, securing her fourth gold medal of the day and ending her high school career with 16 state titles (seven individual, four relay, five team). Beichner also won the 800 (in 2:18.61, another personal best) and anchored Gibbons to victory in the 3,200 relay at this years 2-A state championships.After having run a 1,600 and two 800s, Beichner said running the 400 anchor leg was almost easy.Beichner, who has accepted a scholarship to run at distance powerhouse The College of William & Mary, said winning four gold medals in the final meet of her prep career was definitely the most exciting race day of high school.Beichners role in the four wins helped the Crusaders to a second-place team finish.Beichner ended her prep career as one of the all-time top middle and long distance runners in state history. She finished her senior campaign undefeated in major races against in-state competition. In addition to her three state titles in the 1,600, Beichner also won state individual cross country titles in 2006 and 2007, and she led the Crusaders to four straight cross country team titles. As a senior, Beichner ran the fastest time and set a state 2-A record of 18:48.58 over the 5,000-meter (3.1-mile) course at Tanglewood Park in Clemmons.As a younger athlete, Beichner was active in Cary rec basketball and soccer leagues. Her running career began as a freshman at Gibbons when she won her first varsity cross country race.She never looked back.Beichner, who is Roman Catholic, credits God with her athletic prowess.God obviously blessed me with some natural talent, she said, but its a talent she does not take for granted. I honestly work as hard as I can to make it better.Although racing was fun during her senior season, it wasnt always that way, Beichner said. In the past. there were times when I dreaded it, she said. This year I started looking forward to racing more than I had.As a senior, Beichner said she started to look at each race as a chance to get better and to run faster.I saw each race as an opportunity, she said. I worked hard and got faster, thankfully.Beichner said the most difficult part of her prep career was the fact that her coaches at Gibbons changed several times, beginning in her junior year, making it hard for her to maintain a stable mindset.For help coping, Beichner said she turned to her parents for support. Heather is the eldest of Nancy and Kevin Beichners three daughters. Jennifer Beichner, 16, is a rising junior who also runs for Cardinal Gibbons. Youngest daughter Lauren, 11, is a rising sixth-grader at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic School.I really admire my parents for being so supportive, Beichner said. They were always a steady support base for me. They definitely helped me when things were unstable.After her season ended, Beichners new coach at William & Mary told her to take three weeks off from running, a time of active rest, said Beichner, who only did a little bicycle riding during that time. In June, she started back running, and she will eventually build her training up to weekly mileage approaching 60 miles toward the end of the summer in preparation for her first collegiate cross country season.Much of her training will be early-morning runs with other local runners at Umstead Park. I prefer not to train alone, she said.As meet director of Nike Outdoor Nationals, Jim Spier of Chapel Hill is one of the top high school meet promoters in the nation. Girls who run distance often peak as freshmen or sophomores, Spier said, but Beichner just kept getting better and better as she got older.Shes really been very, very good for a long time, Spier said. On the girls side to be consistent the way shes been, thats very commendable.Beichner, also a top student, chose William & Mary over N.C. State and UNC-Chapel Hill. After visiting the Williamsburg, Va., campus, Beichner was impressed, and she liked the other women runners.It reminded me a lot of my high school team and I really fit in with them, she said.Title tallyHeather Beichner was a part of 16 state championships in cross country and track during her high school career at Cardinal Gibbons. Heres the breakdown:2004-05: Cardinal Gibbons won NCISAA 3-A state championships in cross country and track and field.2005-06: Cardinal Gibbons won the NCHSAA 2-A cross country state championship. In outdoor track, Beichner won the 1,600-meter title (5:08.50) and anchored the winning 4x800 relay, which ran a 2-A state record time of 9:39.46.2006-07: Beichner placed first in the state cross country meet (18:51.54) and Cardinal Gibbons won the 2-A state championship for the second straight year. In indoor track, she won the 1-A/2-A/3-A title in the 1,000 (3:10.26). In outdoor track, she won the 1,600 (5:09.05) and anchored the winning 4x800 relay (10:06.39).2007-08: Beichner won the 2-A cross country state championship in 18:48.58, the fastest time of all four classifications, and Cardinal Gibbons won its third straight state championship. In outdoor track, she won the 800 (2:18.61) and 1,600 (4:57.05) and anchored the winning relays in the 4x800 (9:55.84) and the 4x400 (4.11.97).
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