HENDERSON — Kerr-Vance Academy eighth-grader Ella Cate Johnson has emerged as one of the top runners in cross country at her school by consistently being one of the 20 fastest female runners in the NCISAA Coastal Conference.
Currently ranked 11th among women in the conference, Johnson has worked to stay efficient against her competition, but she said she wouldn’t be there without the support of head coach Wendy Goodwin, her friends and teammates.
“The sport seemed very fun when I first considered trying out, but I had a couple of friends in the high school that took part in cross country and they seemed to enjoy it,” Johnson said. “I was eager to try it out and [Coach Goodwin] is amazing. She makes this sport very fun.”
Since joining KVA’s cross country program in the sixth grade, Johnson said that Goodwin has encouraged her to improve techniques that could help her run faster and maintain her stamina so she can contend for strong finishes.
Goodwin said that Johnson has been one of her most mature and enthusiastic runners during her tenure with KVA, adding that Johnson does everything she can to recruit students to the program while also going above and beyond to elevate herself and those around her.
“She’s very receptive to whatever I ask her to do,” Goodwin said. “During one of our recent meets, she had to make the top 20 to qualify for the conference meet and she was 16th. I told her that there were many other girls that wanted her spot, so she poured it on and recorded her best time yet.”
KVA athletic director George Hoyle Jr. said that the main factor contributing to Johnson being such a great runner as an eighth-grader while competing against high schoolers was her determination and work ethic.
“I’ve known [Ella Cate] all my life,” Hoyle said. “I remember when she was in daycare and I was a senior at KVA. She has some older siblings that I’ve known for a long time and it’s definitely been cool to follow her development and watch her have so much success.”
Hoyle is confident that Johnson will continue to be a valuable member of KVA’s cross country program as she prepares to start high school next year, but he believes that Johnson has many years of success in life in front of her regardless of what career route she chooses to take.
She “is very self-driven and motivated,” Hoyle said. “I don’t anticipate that changing, but I just hope she sticks with cross country because if she does, I have no doubt that she is going to put KVA on the map for cross country. The sky’s the limit with her.”
With a stellar eighth-grade year nearly completed, Johnson knows that there are still many aspects of her performance she can improve on, but she intends to do whatever she can to ensure that she finishes the season on a positive note.
“I’m looking to put together some quicker times,” Johnson said. “Hopefully I’ll be able to run at a good pace and run the best race I possibly can.”
With the NCISAA Coastal Conference championship having taken place yesterday, only one meet remains for Johnson in the 2020 season, which will be the NCISAA 1A Championship in Charlotte this coming Thursday.