A nagging foot injury isn’t about to keep Kirsten Ballard from the final race of her high school cross-country career.
The Columbus North senior has been in a boot all week and has done some aqua-jogging, but little running. But she plans to compete with her team Saturday afternoon in the state finals at Terre Haute’s LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course.
“I just want to get through it and race again one more time before I have to take some time off,” Ballard said. “But the pain hasn’t been that bad, so I don’t think it’s putting me out at all. I just wanted to make sure it doesn’t get any worse for state.”
Ballard has been the Bull Dogs’ No. 4 runner for most of the season. She was the team’s No. 3 runner and finished eighth overall in the Brown County Regional.
But then last week, Ballard started experiencing soreness in her right foot. She was North’s No. 7 runner in the Brown County Semistate.
“It just kind of started hurting, and it’s unfortunate that it had to happen now,” Ballard said. “But better now than at the beginning of my season.”
Ballard also runs track for North and ran on the Bull Dogs’ state-qualifying 4×800-meter relay team as a sophomore. She was the team’s No. 5 runner most of last cross-country season, when it won sectional and regional titles and finished 12th at state.
This season, Ballard has been one of North’s most consistent runners. She again helped the Bull Dogs win sectional and regional championships.
“She’s been a solid runner for us for a couple of years, and she’s had a season where she’s been able to show it,” North coach Bethany Scruton said.
Scruton said she has been pleased with Ballard both on and off the course.
“Her work ethic is unbelievable,” Scruton said. “Her leadership shows every day in practice in things that they do. She’s been really good to the incoming freshmen and those sophomore runners, which is good because it kind of gives them something to aim for.”
Ballard, whose brother Chase currently is running cross-country at Belmont University, isn’t planning on running competitively in college. She plans to attend Ball State and may join its running club.
Saturday, she will look to end her high school cross-country career on a high note.
“I feel like I’ve improved a lot this year, and just the atmosphere with the team has been really good,” Ballard said. “I’m really excited about Saturday, and everyone is ready to race.”
What: Boys and Girls Cross Country State Finals
When: 1 p.m. Saturday (boys); 1:45 p.m. Saturday (girls)
Where: LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course at Wabash Valley Sports Center, 599 S. Tabortown Rd., Terre Haute
Who: 24 boys teams, including Columbus North and Jennings County; 24 girls teams, including North