Green Hope sophomore Elly Henes used to wince at her cross country meets when her mother was recognized.
Laurie Henes is the N.C. State women’s cross country coach, a former NCAA champion in the 5,000 meters and a multiple All-American for the Wolfpack.
To Elly Henes, who was new to competitive running, it was a little more attention than she wanted.
“It’s not nearly as bad now,” Elly Henes said, “but back when Mom had to carry me to everything we were always getting, ‘Oh, your daughter runs. How nice.’ ”
Henes has the genetics to be an outstanding distance runner – her father Robert also was a cross country All-America selection at N.C. State – but running has been fun for her only in the past year or so.
She remembers being told how much fun competitive running is, but really not believing it. She enjoyed jogging with her mom, and still does, but there were things she enjoyed more than training runs.
“It would have been hard for her to enjoy running any less,” Laurie Henes said. “She is pretty typical of young distance runners. She is competitive. She’d run at school and win the mile and enjoy that, but not really enjoy the training.”
That changed when she joined the Green Hope team. Coach Mike Miragliuolo’s Falcons have a national reputation for excellence and for embracing anyone at any level of competence who wants to run.
The cross country program has more than 200 runners and annually fields outstanding distance teams. The Falcons have won the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A girls’ championship the past five years and won the boys’ title in 2010.
But the social aspects of being part of a team were as important to Elly Henes. Training with friends has become fun.
“We were worried that because she was our daughter there would be the expectations that she’d be this big star,” Laurie Henes said. “But at Green Hope they do a lot of pack running (running in groups) so she never felt like she was being singled out.
“And everyone had the same goal – winning the state championship. This year’s girls didn’t want to be the ones that stopped the (state championship) streak.”
Miragliuolo is the Green Hope coach, but Roger Collins works with the girls. Laurie Henes said Collins has the ideal temperament for coaching teenage girls.
“There is never any drama,” she said.
And Elly Henes is quick to say that Collins is her coach, not her mom.
“Mom tries to tell me things at times, but my coach is coach Collins,” she said.
Henes lowered her times steadily last year and made a huge drop in the closing weeks. She was solid throughout the year, but ran a career-best 17 minutes, 42.88 seconds to finish third in the NCHSAA championships. Her time was the best ever by a Green Hope girl.
A few weeks later, she was third in the Nike Cross Southeast Regional, where she competed with the best girls’ high school runners in the Southeastern United States. Her finish qualified her for the national championships in Portland, Ore.
The championship meet sounded torturous – snow, frozen grounds and a demanding course – but to Henes the trip was wonderful, even though she finished 84th.
“I didn’t place as well as I would have liked, but it was all amazing,” she said. “The whole experience was incredible – the people, the course, just everything about it.”
Looking back, she believes her mindset wasn’t the best.
It was her first race in snow, and the frozen course was a distraction, as were the activities associated with the trip.
“My mental approach is something I’ll be working on for next year,” she said.
Her mother said Henes was so overwhelmed by the event that she didn’t focus on the race.
“Weeks later, she referred to it as going to camp,” Laurie Henes said.
Henes plans to compete in the 1,600 in the NCHSAA indoor championships on Feb. 8 in Winston-Salem. She also is excited about the Falcons’ 4x800 relay of sophomores Katie Tomasi and Kayla Hall and senior Brantley Belk.
The relay team is ranked No. 3 in the state behind Cary and West Forsyth, according to ncpreptrack.net, and already is qualified to compete in the national championships in New York.
The top runners in New York will know who she is, but Henes is fine with that now. She is still her mother’s daughter, but she is also a Green Hope girl.