Athlete of the Week: Youth movement trailing Shimer

socxc-shimeraowSocastee High freshman Crystal Shimer is doing more than setting fire to the school’s cross country records; she’s also blazing the trail for a youth movement within the Lady Braves’ program.

The Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Week led her young team to a fifth-place team finish in last week’s Class 3A state cross country championships, setting the school record of 19:30 around the Sandhills Research Center’s 5K course for a seventh-place individual finish.

“I was surprised,” Shimer admitted about her team and individual finish at states. “We have a good team but we are real young. We’re hoping to win states by the time we graduate.”

Shimer and her teammates have a few years to reach that lofty goal. Socastee’s top four finishers at most of their meets this season were clocked by four freshmen, although a sophomore and a pair of middle schoolers round out the roster. That’s good news for coach Robb Urbaniak and the future.

“Crystal has pretty much accomplished everything she set out to do at the beginning of the season,” he said. “She has been such a competitor, and that determination has poured over to the rest of our women’s team.”

Particularly with friend/classmate and teammate Jill Dudley, who has been neck-and-neck with Shimer throughout the season. Shimer finished fifth in the Horry County Championships for all-county honors, third in the region meet for all-region honors and fourth in the Lower State, and Dudley was right beside her almost every step of the way.

“All season she has battled with teammate Jill Dudley for the top spot for the Lady Braves,” Urbaniak said. “They trained together and ran just about every race together. … They really push each other to do their best.”

Shimer said the running-mate approach is more by habit than design. “We don’t start together, but we always seem to find each other and stick together for the rest of the race,” she said. “We race each other (down the final stretch) and the difference is always a few milliseconds.”

That was particularly true at the state meet, where the duo hooked up early and stayed on pace with the lead pack. Shimer’s time of 19:30.23 just edged Dudley’s 19:30.45, but they were more pleased with the team finish over individual bragging rights.

“Crystal and Jill just had this dynamic between them where they don’t have to say a word on the course, but they were always in sync,” Urbaniak recalled. “It was a combined effort for them to continue taking spots to finish as high as they did. …  It was all heart straight through the line.”

And with the season crossing the finish line too, Shimer and her teammates can turn their attention to track and field in the spring. Shimer, who began running with Myrtle Beach Track and Field Club in the third grade, is ready to shift gears to hard surface and keep the Lady Braves on the fast track.

“Crystal is a big part of the reason the running program at Socastee is on the return,” Urbaniak said.  “She’s fueling the fire to make this program successful year round, but through it all, I’m sure if you ask Crystal, she would say she just loves to run.”

He’s right: “I’ve been running since I was in the third grade and I love the competition,” she said. “Cross country or track, it doesn’t matter. I just love to run.”

Photo by Chris LeFever

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