The Perfect End to a Record Setting Year

The Perfect End to a Record Setting Year

by Susan Neuhalfen

To say that Liberty Christian Cross Country runner Elizabeth Reneau has had a good year would be an understatement. Monumental, extraordinary or life-changing might be better adjectives.

Following a great season, Elizabeth qualified for the Nike South Regional race in November along with seven of her teammates. Coach Tyler Curbo, a graduate of Liberty Christian, has taken his cross country runners to this race in The Woodlands for the past six years. This year’s meet brought in 1,600 runners from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. In order to qualify for the nationals, the top 200 runners at the regional meet enter the championship race, which qualifies the top five individuals for the Nike Cross Nationals.

“She had had a season where we knew she would be close,” said Coach Curbo who has been the head distance coach for seven years. “We knew that she was capable, it was just based on what she ran.”

Elizabeth won fourth place. She was the first student in the history of Liberty Christian to qualify for nationals. This meant she was one of the top five fastest individuals in a five state area.

“I started counting the other runners in the last 600 meters and I knew I could make it,” said Elizabeth. “It was really exciting.”

Elizabeth won an all-expense paid weekend to Portland, Oregon, to train and race at the Nike Headquarters, and the chance to compete against the best runners in the country at nationals. The coach was invited as well.

“This was the experience of a lifetime,” said Elizabeth. “You can’t imagine that you’re
really there.”

To hear Coach Curbo describe the facilities and the track at the Nike Headquarters, it was like a paradise for athletes. Knowing that you’re stepping in the same footsteps as some of the greatest runners was exhilarating.

“I got to go to the coaches’ clinics and came away very inspired,” said Coach Curbo. “Being around people at this level, who are as passionate about the sport as I am, was a really cool experience.”

Elizabeth stayed in a dorm-like atmosphere with the other runners and enjoyed training as well as playing pingpong and getting to know the other athletes. She really enjoyed spending time with such a diverse group of girls coming from all over the country, all walks of life and all were very honored to be there.

In addition to the other runners and coaches were Olympic athletes that mingled among them. They came to the dinners, signed autographs and spoke to the crowd, but it was casualness they displayed that impressed both Coach Curbo and Elizabeth the most.

“We see them in Rio and then here they are normal people hanging out and talking about their favorite coffee shops,” laughed Elizabeth. “It’s really encouraging to see that you could be a real person and still be really fast.”

In addition to the experience of a lifetime, Elizabeth got a lot of great gear from Nike and placed 44th overall. When asked what she would do differently over 2016, she said she had no regrets from the past year.

“This experience has made me love running even more than I thought it would,” said Elizabeth. “It has made all the work and accomplishments worth it.”

She’s been running for a long time but in the 9th grade she committed completely to the sport, dropping soccer, so that she could get really competitive.

“I knew this was going to be the sport for me,” said Elizabeth. “I definitely want to run in college.”

College is still over a year away for this Junior, but does plan to run next year and hopefully again qualify for the Nike Cross Nationals. She does believe that training is actually more mental than physical, but she keeps her priorities in line.

“Glorifying the Lord through your running is the ultimate thing,” she reminds us. “It’s not all
about you.”

Coach Curbo agrees.

“To run fast isn’t our goal,” said Coach Curbo. “Our goal is for the kids to grow up and mature and grow qualities and characteristics that glorify God.”

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