The Union Recorder

May 17, 2013

UR ATHLETE OF THE WEEK: Distance runner Mitchell a natural learner

Steven Cary
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Coming off strong performances at the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) Class-A Public School Division State track meet, Lila Mitchell earns this week’s Athlete of the Week honor for her performances in the both the 3,200- and 1,600-meter runs.

Mitchell, of Georgia Military Prep School, ran her way to a runner-up spot in the 3,200 meters last Thursday with a time of 14:23, only to come back the next day and break her own school record in the 1,600 meters with a time of 6:18 to finish third overall.

“She’s a natural learner,” Shawn Dennis, GMC Prep head coach, said. “She just goes out there and it’s easy for her. She’s a great runner.”

While running has come naturally to Mitchell over the years, it has not always been her first love.

“I guess you could call it a love-hate relationship. I just love to compete though,” she said. “I think I kind of like it a lot more than I did when I first started, especially since I’m doing well in it. Doing well is always a good thing.”

Heading into the finals in both events, Mitchell admits she was nervous and had to focus on the competition aspect of running to get her through the races.

“I was thinking, I’ve just got to get this over with,” Mitchell said. “Running really isn’t my favorite thing to do, but if Coach D asks me to do it, I want to do it right.”

Mitchell’s strategy worked as she lowered her school record in the 1,600 meters and scored 14 points for the Lady Bulldogs.

“It feels good, and I’m really honored to break that time and run it again. I’m just really proud of everything our team has done as a whole; it feels good to be up there in the state,” she said. “I never thought I would make it that far in track because it wasn’t my favorite thing to do, but now I can say that. It’s pretty cool.”

Leading her team as one of the high team scorers, Mitchell’s performances on Thursday and Friday helped GMC Prep earn third place overall in the state.

“It was huge for us,” Dennis said. “It put us in a good position going into the final day.”

Dennis believes Mitchell was destined to break the school record in the 1,600 meters, as he considers the event one of her strengths.

“I figured she would,” he said. “She’s been running pretty close to it all season.”

The confidence of her coaches helped Mitchell last weekend, as she credits her success at the state meet to them.

“They’ve been really great and really encouraging,” Mitchell said. “I just don’t think I’d be where I am without them.”

Wrapping up the spring sports, Mitchell is pleased to have ended the season on a high note and be able to represent her school in a positive way.

“I think it’s a great honor. I’m really happy that I got it and that I can represent GMC,” she said. “We work really hard in our athletics, so I think we deserve it.”

According to Dennis, the Lady Bulldogs have a bright future with Mitchell in it.

“I’m proud of her,” he said. “She deserves it, and we expect big things from her the next couple years in track.”