In the moments before a big race, it doesn’t feel like butterflies in a runner’s belly.
It’s more like a hornet’s nest.
Allyson Peterson has learned not to fear that feeling.
“You learn to connect that feeling to being excited for the race instead of being nervous about that feeling,” Peterson said.
Perhaps that’s why Peterson ran her best race in the season’s biggest event.
The Hockinson junior placed third in the Class 2A race at the WIAA State Cross Country Championships Nov. 9 in Pasco. She ran a 5,000 meter personal best of 18 minutes, 26 seconds on a course that doesn’t usually produce PRs.
Her state meet time was the best of any runner in Southwest Washington. That race capped a stellar season that saw Peterson win six of 11 races she ran, including the 2A district championship.
For her accomplishments, Peterson is The Columbian’s All-Region girls cross country runner of the year.
Though Peterson was district runner-up during a successful sophomore season, she felt that pre-race nerves were almost too much to handle.
“This year, my coach was like ‘we are not going through another season of this,'” Peterson said.
So Hockinson coach Chantalle Schultz-Rathbun gave Peterson a summer reading assignment. It included books such as “In Pursuit of Excellence” and “It’s a Mental Thing! Five Keys to Improving Performance and Enjoying Sport.” Both are written by sports psychologists who have worked with athletes on how to maximize performance in high-pressure situations.
“They were really helpful,” Peterson said. “They gave me strategies on how to deal with nervousness. I’d look around at everyone and realize, this is just another 5K. Yeah, there are more people here, but there’s nothing special about it.”
Peterson’s calmer approach, combined with a work ethic Schultz-Rathbun raved about, were a perfect recipe for success.
Last summer, she specifically focused on running hills and doing exercises to strengthen her core muscles. That work paid off in the season-opening Steve Maas Run-a-Ree, where she won against a field that included three other top-10 finishers in this year’s state meet (Samantha Williams of Skyview, Lara Carrion of Seton Catholic and Sara Cordova of Seton Catholic).
Peterson also led Hockinson to its second consecutive 2A district team title despite having only two returners and three freshmen.
Peterson enjoyed taking on a leadership role.
“I loved all the freshmen,” she said. “I want them to take from me that they can learn to be confident. This is a fun sport. You should help your teammates. It’s not the end of the world if you have a bad race.”
The rest of the All-Region team
Lara Carrion, Seton Catholic
The sophomore was the 1A district champion and placed third in state. Personal best of 18:36.
Meri Dunford, Prairie
The senior won her second 3A district title, then won the bi-district Westside Classic. Personal best of 18:05.
Katelyn Flolo, Camas
The sophomore placed third at 4A district meet and seventh at Westside Classic, where she ran a PR of 19:07.
Halle Jenkins, Camas
Senior was 4A district champion, runner up at Westside Classic and 12 at state. Had a season best of 18:20.
Natasha Lewis, La Center
A four-time state qualifier, she placed 7th in the 1A race to help La Center place third. Season best of 19:05.
Samantha Williams, Skyview
The sophomore went from 98th in state as freshman to 5th in 4A this year. Ran at personal best of 18:29 at state.