This past Saturday, both the Hilliard Davidson girls and boys won the Pickerington Regional. Once again, both programs are headed to the state XC championships. To outside observers, that doesn't come as a surprise. It seems as though the Davidson teams magically find their way to the top every year. To those within the program, they know that there's no magic to it. The Wildcats reach the top through a program that stresses hard work, team unity, and a growth mindset. Runners at Davidson don't settle. They improve. A lot.
We caught up with Ellie Tighe and Sophie Lewis, two senior leaders on the Davidson girl's team, ahead of this weekend's state meet. Learn what makes central Ohio's Regional champs tick, and get ready to cheer for them at the state meet this weekend.
(UPDATE: Due to extreme flooding, the state meet has been postponed one week. Ellie, Sophie, and the Davidson team will now be racing on Saturday, November 10.)
CRC: The Davidson girls won yet another big meet, taking the Regional title. We have to start by asking you, what is it like to run for such a strong, storied program? What makes Davidson XC the consistent powerhouse in the region?
Ellie Tighe: It is super fun to run for a program as strong as Davidson. I love knowing that I am part of a team that has a strong legacy to not only live up to but hopefully add to. Both the training we do and the team culture we have play a big role in Davidson’s consistent success. We pride ourselves on working hard both in and out of practice and put a lot of emphasis on doing “the little things” that the best teams and individuals do. We also have a big focus on running for each other and contributing to something bigger than ourselves which makes the hard training and racing a little easier because your best friends are by your side doing it too.
Sophie Lewis: It’s an honor and a privilege to run for a team that has created such amazing athletes and has such inspiring girls. We have an amazing community that has supported us over the years and that has helped contribute to our success. I think that the girls on the team are all very committed to everyone. Our coach, Nate King, has also kept the tradition alive from when he was on the Davidson team himself.
CRC: As a team, you all just won your 9th straight District title. The freshmen on the Davidson team were in 1st grade when that streak began. How important is it to the current team to live up to that tradition?
Sophie: This is very important because it shows how our team has been able to continue to improve and continue the legacy. We want to prove that we can continue what previous teams have started.
Ellie: It is super important to our team to live up to that tradition. The district streak serves as a good reminder of all the work those before us did to get the program to where it is. Looking back through the years, it’s really cool to be able to see what past Davidson teams have done and to aim to exceed the levels that our program has been able to reach in the past. Our current team hopes to raise the bar for future teams to shoot for just as past Davidson teams have done for us.
CRC: Stepping back, how did you two get started as runners?
Ellie: I decided to run cross country in seventh grade because I wanted to be in better shape for club soccer, my main sport at the time. My middle school running career started off pretty rough because at our first practice I tried to keep up with my former teammate Meghan Sculli and it was so hard that I threw up. I was pretty embarrassed and didn’t really want to go back but luckily Meghan and my brother Andrew convinced me that it was not the end of the world so I decided to keep coming to practice. I enjoyed middle school cross country and track so much that I decided to quit soccer and run full time when I got to high school.
Sophie: Actually Ellie was kind of the reason I started running. Ellie ran Cross Country our 7th grade year, while I tried cheerleading for the first time. It wasn’t quite my thing so I thought I would try something new, so I ran track that spring. With Ellie there helping me along, I fell in love with it.
CRC: Since your freshman years, you both have improved a ton. What kind of training does it take to drop from 20 minute 5ks down to your current 18 and 19 minute times?
Sophie: None of our improvement would be possible without the help of Coach King. His knowledge about running and training has brought our entire team to a new level, but more importantly his dedication to us has set us above the rest. The team culture that he has developed has propelled us to a level where the sky's the limit. He has taught us to run for each other and put the team above yourself.
Ellie: We do all kinds of training, from long runs (my favorite) to speed workouts (not my favorite) and everything in between. We also do a lot of cross training, or minute eating as we like to call it, as well as strength and mobility training. This year I’ve spent a lot of time in the pool as I was unable to run for a large chunk of the summer and now even though I’m able to run I’ve kept swimming as a way to build fitness and train more without the stress that running puts on your body. Luckily for us, Coach King takes care of planning all of our training so we just have to show up and run (or bike or swim).
CRC: Looking further ahead, Ellie, how excited are you to be running for Dayton next year? Sophie, tell us about your choice of Colorado State.
Ellie: I am super excited to run for Dayton next year! After going on visits this fall I really think Dayton is a great fit for me both athletically and academically. I really liked the girls on the team and the coaching staff and am looking forward to joining them and getting to be a part of the Dayton XC program since they have had a lot of success over the last couple of years. My brother Andrew also runs for Dayton so if you follow up in about a year I’ll let you know if that’s a good thing or not. Go Flyers!
Sophie: I am very excited about becoming a Ram and running for Colorado State! Coach Siemers has built a great team over the last couple of years and I am looking forward to joining the girls and being able to contribute to their program. I have always loved Colorado and the mountains, so I am very excited for this next adventure in my life!
CRC: As we head into championship season, what are your hopes for your final cross country state meet?
Sophie: My hope for my last state meet is to leave with no regrets. I want to finish on empty, knowing I did my absolute best and gave everything I had for the team. I want to know that all the work I put in over the years has payed off and I can walk off the course with a smile on my face!
Ellie: As a team we have some pretty big goals for this state meet. We are hoping to walk away with the best outcome our program has had in a long time. We know that there are many good teams in the state but believe that on a great day we can be among the top. No matter the outcome, we’re hoping to leave the state meet knowing that there is nothing more any of us could have done and that we truly gave the best team performance we are capable of. Individually, I just want to contribute the best I can to the team goal and help the team place as high as possible.
CRC: Do you have any advice for aspiring young XC athletes?
Sophie: My advice would be to stick with it. Whether you are first or last on the team, there is no better place to be. Cross country runners are the kindest and hardest working people I know, just being around them has made me a better person. I have met my absolute best friends here on the team and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
Ellie: I’d say the biggest thing would be finding a good group of other runners that support each other. I’m lucky that I have some of the best teammates ever but even if you’re not as fortunate the running community as a whole is pretty supportive and having the support of other runners is huge! In addition I’d say don’t compare yourself to others, everyone improves at their own rate and running is a lot less fun if you are focused solely on other people. Lastly don’t take high school cross country for granted. As the end of my senior season approaches I’m already pretty sad at the thought that in a couple of weeks I’ll run my last cross country race with my teammates in a Davidson jersey. It goes fast, enjoy every moment!
THE FINAL WORD with COACH NATE KING, DAVIDSON GIRL'S XC COACH:
CRC: Coach King, Ellie and Sophie have been amazing runners and leaders on the team the past couple of years. We've been watching them both since their middle school days, and it's incredible to see how much they've improved and evolved as runners and racers. What can you tell us about your senior duo?
Coach Nate King: Ellie and Sophie have led HDGXC through the most significant obstacle in program history. At the end of the 2016 season (Ellie and Sophie’s sophomore year) we graduated 5-time state champion India Johnson and in her wake did not return any individual state qualifiers. On top of that, the returners we had struggled immensely at the state meet that year, placing 16th despite having the individual champion. The team embarked on a long journey to sharpen their mental skills toward training and racing and fill the chasm India left. Two years have gone by since that 2016 season and the team is in a completely different place mentally and physically, thanks in large part to Ellie and Sophie’s vision for this team. Along the way they’ve won the indoor state 4x800 with a US#1 9:03, placed third in the nation in the 4x1600 at New Balance Indoor, twice on the podium at outdoor state 4x8, and in cross country a Regional Championship (2018), runner-up (2017), and a sixth place finish at State last year. Ellie and Sophie have been the primary drivers of this renaissance in our program through their growth-mindset, dreaming big, putting team over self, and focusing on the little things that influence training and racing. We would not be where we are without them.
GOOD LUCK TO ELLIE, SOPHIE, AND EVERYONE RACING AT THE OHSAA STATE XC CHAMPIONSHIPS THIS WEEKEND!