Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Nova Recruit Michaela Wilkins Takes 400-800 MD State Double

Sky's the Limit for Michaela Wilkins
Mt. Hebron's Wilkins is girls Athlete of the Year again

Senior won two golds with record breaking performance at state meet

It was at the indoor state meet just over four months ago when Mt. Hebron senior Michaela Wilkins started envisioning the end of her high school running career.

She had just won a gold medal in the 800, but it was what happened in the 500 — when she was knocked to the track after colliding with another runner and rallied to place third — that had her looking ahead to a fresh start outdoors.

"I just look forward to better meets," she said at the time.

And better meets were exactly what was ahead for Wilkins.

Four years of hard work culminated this spring for Wilkins with four gold medals at the county championships (400, 800, 4x400 and 4x800 relays), four more at the 3A East regional meet, and two more gold medals in the 400 and 800 at the state meet in late May, including a record-breaking performance in the 800.

"It feels really good, because I accomplished my goals," said Wilkins, who also earned her second consecutive track Athlete of the Year award for her efforts.

This season was especially memorable for Wilkins because not only did she enjoy individual success, but also team success. Alongside fellow senior Karli Buescher, junior Rachel Yep and freshman Taylor Williams, among others, the Viking girls were one of the deepest and most dominant teams in the state. And it showed, as they easily won the county and regional meets, carrying over their success from the indoor season, and placed third at 3A states.

"There were three words that describe her: discipline, dedication and determination," coach Tee Carter said. "She's a good kid and I'm happy for her and the example that she set for the young girls on the team. ... She's left a remarkable (example) for those young ladies, and even throughout Howard County."

The Mt. Hebron girls last swept indoor and outdoor county and regional track titles in 2007.

"It was really exciting because it's been a long time since Mt. Hebron has won counties and regions two (seasons) in a row," Wilkins said. "We all had a really close bond because we ran together in so many (individual) events and relays."

Next up for Wilkins is the outdoor senior nationals this weekend in North Carolina, where she will be running the 400 and the 800. Her goal is to break 55 seconds in the 400 and 2:09 in the 800. To reach those marks, she would have to shave almost a half-second off of her best time in the 400 this spring, and more than three seconds off of her best 800 time. That personal best, 2:12.02, was set at the outdoor state meet. It gave Wilkins' the 3A state record in the event, breaking an 18-year-old mark by .45 of a second.

Hitting times like that would put Wilkins among the nation's elite track athletes.

So while those goals are lofty, one would be wise not to put anything past Wilkins.

"I feel like I've put the hard work in to achieve those goals. I feel like I'm prepared," she said.

Later this summer, Wilkins will get a little time off for some much deserved R&R during a vacation to Myrtle Beach, S.C. And then in the fall it's off to Villanova, where Wilkins has earned a full athletic scholarship. She plans to specialize in the 400 and 800, and says that the only difference from high school will be that she hopes to train a little more seriously and be a little more competitive with the fastest runners in the nation.

"I would not be surprised if in the next couple of years she is among those top athletes competing at the Olympic trials," Carter said. "I would say that the sky is the limit for her as far as the 800."

She also has academic goals. She plans to major in journalism, with designs on one day becoming a fashion journalist. And the fact that she gets to attend a school such as Villanova because of her athletic abilities is a privilege that she does not take for granted.

"It was a lot of hard work at the beginning, but it feels really good to be able to look back and see how it has all paid off," she said.

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