Athlete of Week: Spickler runs full circle for Chiefs

It’s only fitting that senior Breeauna Spickler is leading the North Myrtle Beach High girls cross country team to an undefeated season. After making a bit of a cross-country move of her own, Spickler’s course has come full circle for a dramatic finish to her high school career.

Spickler, who was named the Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Week for leading a strong North Myrtle Beach squad, began running at an early age at local 5Ks and fun runs. She moved away to Pennsylvania and became an elite cross-country runner before she got the chance to compete for her hometown team, but now she is back and leading the Lady Chiefs’ pack.

“My dad (Shawn) put me in a 5K when I was like 10, and midway through the race I was like, ‘This sucks’,” Spickler recalled. “But at the end I heard my dad saying, ‘She’s really good. She can run.’ He was so excited and as a kid I was excited about winning. He kept entering me in races and I kept winning and really fell in love with it.”

Spickler continued to improve after her move to the Midwest, becoming the top runner in Midland County high school history as a sophomore before returning to the Grand Strand as a junior. The difficulty of switching schools in the final two years of high school was tempered by her teammates, old friends and new classmates for helping her find her stride.

“Everyone was so nice and welcoming, and my teammates love running together, practicing together, and winning together. We love each other even when we lose,” said Spickler, who posted her personal-best time of 19:51 earlier this season at Conway. “Last year all my teammates stayed at my house for Huuricane Matthew and we had a blast. The day after the storm we went for a run on the beach together. We’re like family.”

Literally in the case of sister and seventh-grader Isabella Spickler. Her kid sister is following in her big sister’s footsteps, regularly joining teammate Wilson Jenerette across the finish line for a 1-2-3 sweep at recent meets. The two often run together, along with the rest of the Lady Chiefs, and they hope to make their only season together at the high school level a memorable one.

“At school in Pennsylvania she wasn’t allowed to run with me, but in South Carolina she can in my senior year and it’s been really cool,” Spickler said. “She is a great runner and I want the best for her. I don’t want her to beat me, of course, but I know one day she’s going to break all my records. I just want this season to be special for all of us.”

Spickler helped the Lady Chiefs captured a third-place finish in the Class 4A State Championships, and she has them shooting for a region, Lower State and state title in 2017. She hopes to continue her cross country career in college at a not-so-distant program at Coastal Carolina, but for now she is focusing on a strong finish down the home stretch.

Photo by Jennifer Livingston Mishler

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