When Lynden Christian junior Sarah Ball’s career comes to an end, she has the opportunity to become the best distance runner in school history.
Already she owns the top three track and field times, ranking third in both the 1,600 and 3,200. Ball’s cross country runs also are among the best in Lynden Christian history.
The LC runner finished seventh in the Westside Classic 1A Tri-District Meet last fall before taking 28th at the state meet.
To Lyncs coach Darren Postma, Ball’s success is a microcosm of both her consistency and confidence level.
“She is not one to have a good then bad race,” Postma said in a phone interview. “She has been really consistent over the last year. Most of it comes from her confidence. She doesn’t get freaked out about racing. It’s a high school race, and she’s able to put that in perspective.”
Part of Ball’s poise under pressure comes from the fact she’s been racing for several years. She started running in middle school and quickly realized her potential.
“At first it was just something I wanted to try,” Ball said in a phone interview. “I knew I was decently fast in sixth grade, so I decided to try it. I tried it and got hooked.”
Ball’s middle school success carried over to her freshman year, when she earned a state berth and finished 69th overall, and each season Postma has seen steady improvement from his junior runner.
He believes Ball’s consistent improvement stems from her mental strength.
“It really takes a lot, just to be able to go out strong, run consistently at the beginning, have the mental strength to push through the middle and also at the end of the race not to fold,” Postma said. “She has been steadily improving. She doesn’t have any peaks and valleys.”
Consistency comes from repetition, but while undoubtedly many athletes have to convince themselves to get out and train, running for Ball is more therapeutic, she said.
“Running is like an emotional event for me as well,” Ball said. “When I run, I feel better. ... Recently, it’s been a really good way to vent emotions. It gives you a lot of time to think, and when I’m running with friends, it’s much more easy to communicate while running.”
Ball’s calm demeanor also has had a welcoming effect on her team. Starting last year, she’s been called upon to serve as a team leader.
Top runner Marissa Heilkema went down with an injury, and Ball was forced to take over her team-leading role.
“She leads by example and is a really neat kid,” Postma said. “She works hard and leads the other girls as far as when races get started, she will be a nice, calming influence on the other girls who haven’t run before.”
Lynden Christian placed eighth during the Class 1A State Meet last fall, and with a number of returners back, the Lyncs have the chance to make state again and work their way onto the podium.
Ball was hoping for a better finish than 28th during state — one of the few races she said she’s felt nervous for — but she has high goals for 2014.
“One of my personal goals is to get higher placing at state, maybe top 10,” she said. “That’s what I’m striving for, and as a team, (I want us) to make state and do well, not just make it.”