The junior has shown a lot of promise through her first two seasons as a member of the Lady Warriors’ cross country team. Entering the 2012 season, she was projected as North Cobb’s top runner, and she showed considerable improvement over the summer.
When it came time for Holloway to compete among runners from across the nation at last month’s Great American Cross Country Festival in Cary, N.C., Stephenson knew her time had come.
“I knew she had the potential to break the school record,” Stephenson said. “So, coming into the season, that race was the one we focused on.
“She’s our top runner. She ran that race well last year, and for some of our other runners, it’s been a breakthrough race for us in previous years. It runs fast, and the conditions were cool and damp with drizzle throughout the day. The conditions were just right.”
Despite the pressure, Holloway didn’t disappoint. She finished her race sixth of 178 runners with a 5K time of 19 minutes, 2.3 seconds, shattering the previous North Cobb girls record mark of 19:11, set by Haley Conger in 2004.
“When the race got going, she eventually moved into the top 10,” Stephenson said. “When she realized how fast she was going, and how close she was to the record, she just pushed even harder. I’m really very proud of her.”
Holloway is proud of herself as well.
“Around the second mile, I really started picking people off,” she said. “Going up one of the final hills, I heard the time of one of the girls in front of me, and I sped up. The sound of the crowd, and everybody cheering, got me pumped up.”
To help Holloway on her record-breaking quest, her friends and teammates had one of her favorite songs — “Hall of Fame” from Irish rock group The Script and hip-hop star will.i.am — playing at the finish line.
“I saw that the clock said ‘18:58,’ and I was really surprised,” Holloway said. “I was like, ‘Wow!’ I couldn’t believe how fast I was going.
“When the race was over, I just cried. It has been my goal since freshman year to break the school record. I raced with some of the best runners back then, and just made it my goal.”
Stephenson understands the journey Holloway’s been through. One of the more personable and fun-loving members of the cross country team, Holloway’s attitude seemed to eclipse her talent in past years.
However, when Stephenson got Holloway to focus on her craft, she started to blossom.
“She’s demonstrated this ability and has shown such upside each year,” Stephenson said. “It was a matter of seeing where this could take her if she committed to herself.
“She’s just a bundle of energy. She talks all of the time — darts around a lot, never stops and has a ton of fun. Her dad will talk about telling her to run around the block in the morning, just to get her to calm down, when she was little.”
Holloway is now learning to channel her energy to take on a new role as a team leader.
“Being the top runner, I have to be a little more serious,” she said. “I’m usually loud and energetic, but when I race, I have to be serious. Coach and I think that running cross country could help me get a college scholarship, and being more focused could help with that.”
Holloway acknowledged that she enjoys the competitive nature of running, and it’s a way for her to ease the stress of school. She’s also confident that her improved focus can produce even better results.
“I want to get my time down to the mid-18s by the end of the season,” she said. “That’s my new goal.”