Athlete of Week: Pieterse putting distance on field

Track and field fans were a bit surprised to see Carolina Forest sophomore Lisa Pieterse win the Class 4A state championship in the girls 3200 meters.

They might be floored to find out that she did so despite not having a home track to run and train on this season.

Pieterse attends the Scholars Academy program through Carolina Forest, which closed its track this spring to re-sod the football field. The Lady Panthers had to practice in the school parking lot.

“It was really tough because you didn’t know where you stood time-wise,” said Pieterse, “and that’s how you gain confidence.”

Pieterse and the Lady Panthers were able to train a couple of times at Coastal Carolina University, where her mother, former Olympic distance runner Zola Budd-Pieterse, currently serves as an assistant track coach.

When she did, Pieterse realized she was running at a personal-best pace. She set it again at the Lower State meet in around 11:28, then she knocked more than 10 seconds off that time by breaking the tape at states in 11:17.53.

“I ran my best race of all year,” Pieterse said. “I knew it was going to be good because I still had enough left to sprint at the end, but I really didn’t expect to win.”

Pieterse credits her rigid training schedule and mom and coaches for her rapid rise up the high school track and field charts. She helped the Lady Panthers’ 4×800 relay team to a state title last season, then won the state cross country title last fall.

“My coaches have been extremely supportive and positive the whole time, and that got me through the season,” Pieterse said. “In the offseason I train with my mom, and that’s the hardest part of the year, the summers and the winters.”

Pieterse rises before the sun to run more than 6 kilometers in the humid summer months, and runs the same distance twice a day during the chilly winter months. The schedule makes the cross-country and track seasons seem like a relative break.

“I don’t have as much time to train during the school year because of academics, so the offseason is when I train the hardest and focus the most on running,” Pieterse said.

That’s bad news for her closest rivals on the cross-country and track-and-field circuits in South Carolina. As good as she is right now, she’s only going to get better over the next two years.

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