BRADFORD – Feeling like a smarter and more prepared runner this year, Bradford sophomore Karmen Knepp thinks she’s ready to earn a spot on the podium at the Ohio High School Athletic Association state cross country meet.
For a second consecutive season Knepp has earned a trip to the state meet, having finished 35th in the Division III girls race with a time of 19:43.2 as a freshman. It feels awesome to be back, she said, and now she wants to do even better.
“I’m really happy with how I’m progressing this year,” Knepp said. “I didn’t think that I would be where I am now, especially with how I did at regionals. I didn’t think I would be second place when last year I came in at seventh.”
After a breakout freshman season Knepp has only gotten better as a sophomore. She won the Cross County Conference and OHSAA district championship meets, winning the district meet at Cedarville University in a personal-best time of 18:57.99. She then finished second to Springfield Catholic Central’s Addy Engel in the regional meet at Troy to earn a spot at state.
Knepp now wants to set another personal best at National Trail Raceway in Hebron and finish in the top 16 to earn a spot on the podium, goals she feels are well within reach.
“I’m much more confident about being there and less nervous,” Knepp said of competing at state again. “I kind of know what to expect now and what to prepare for.”
Along with the knowledge from last year’s state championship race, Knepp has experience running at National Trail Raceway from the OHSAA preseason meet in August. She’s raced against many of Ohio’s fastest runners throughout the season, as well, and now knows what she needs to do to compete with them.
“The start was fast,” Knepp said of last year’s state meet. “It was really fast, and I don’t think I was ready for that. I think that’s what slowed me down a lot. But this year I know that I have to pace myself a little bit more in the beginning and maybe not start out so fast.”
Bradford cross country coach Bob Daugherty has seen Knepp mature as a runner over the course of the last year. He’s also learned to be a better coach, he said, and is better prepared to help Knepp reach her potential.
“She’s a smarter runner this year than she was last year,” Daugherty said. “Last year it was her first year running cross country. She knows how to pace herself a little bit better. She knows how to race better. She’s a better racer than she was last year.”
Having experience running at state won’t necessarily make her a faster runner, Knepp said, but the knowledge will help her mental state.
“I think that will help me out a lot with mostly nerves and stuff, not as much times,” she said. “I think times is more or less just the weather and keeping myself healthy.”
Daugherty is confident that Knepp is prepared for Saturday’s state championship race, which is set to begin at 1:30 p.m. at National Trail Raceway in Hebron, because of her hard work. And the level of talent at the race should only make her a better runner, the Bradford coach said.
“She’s ran by herself in a lot of these races where she’ll be out in front of everybody,” Daugherty said. “It’s kind of hard to push yourself when you have no competition. I think with that competition she’ll see there I think she’ll probably run her best race.”
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.