2013-11-20 / Sports

Born to run

Siblings become cross-country champs
By Jim McConnell

Tomahawk Creek Middle School siblings Rachel (left) and Grant Northcutt swept the individual titles at the county middle school cross-country meet Nov. 7. 
Karen Northcutt Tomahawk Creek Middle School siblings Rachel (left) and Grant Northcutt swept the individual titles at the county middle school cross-country meet Nov. 7. Karen Northcutt At first, cross-country running didn’t interest Grant Northcutt.

As a fifth-grader at Woolridge Elementary School, he’d broken the school record in the 1-mile run. He was fast, of course, but more interested in basketball when he moved on to Tomahawk Creek Middle School in 2011.

Then Northcutt learned that several of his friends had joined the team, and thought it would be a fun way to stay in shape for basketball season.

Once he started running on a regular basis, Northcutt recalled, “I figured out that I was pretty good at it.”

So is his younger sister, Rachel.

As a young child, Rachel Northcutt always wanted to do what her brother was doing. She started walking at 10 months so she could go everywhere he went.

“She’s always been Grant’s shadow,” says their mother, Karen.

Like her brother, Rachel broke the school record in the mile at Woolridge. So it was hardly surprising when she joined the cross-country team at Tomahawk Creek last year and immediately started running up front with the boys in practice.

“I like running with the boys because it gives me confidence – I know I can do it in a race,” she said.

Led by the Northcutts, Tomahawk Creek dominated middle school cross-country in Chesterfield this season.

The Timberwolves’ boys and girls teams both went undefeated, then swept the team championships at the Chesterfield County middle school meet Nov. 7 at Rockwood Park.

Grant Northcutt, now an eighth-grader, won his first individual boys title and broke the course record by covering the 2.3-mile course at Rockwood in 13 minutes, 14 seconds.

Rachel Northcutt, who won the girls individual title last year as a sixth-grader, repeated that feat and shattered the girls course record with a time of 14 minutes, 54 seconds.

It would be easy to suggest that the Northcutts’ success as distance runners is simply a matter of genetics. Their father, Gregg, once held the Nebraska state record in the mile as a sixth-grader.

But Karen Northcutt insisted that neither she nor her husband anticipated that their children would follow in his footsteps.

“When we first saw them run, it was kind of amazing,” she said. “We had no idea they could run like that.”

Grant, who finished third in the county as a sixth-grader and was runner-up last year, said the individual title was proof that hard work eventually pays off.

“I achieved my goal: to be the best,” he said. “I’ve worked for it and it feels good.”

Tomahawk Creek’s cross-country team runs between 2- and 3½-miles most days after school. Grant also runs on the weekends, covering about 3 miles each day in the family’s Foxcreek neighborhood.

Likewise, Rachel puts in plenty of legwork in addition to her school’s cross-country practices. She plays soccer throughout the fall, switches to basketball during the winter months, then goes back to soccer in the spring.

Soccer is her favorite sport, but she likes running, too.

“Running is a good independent sport; it really shows what you can do,” she said.

Distance running is an ideal sport for determined, motivated kids like the Northcutts, both of whom work as hard in the classroom as they do in their athletic endeavors.

Grant acknowledged that some of his fellow students at Tomahawk Creek don’t understand the physical challenges of crosscountry.

“They think it’s just jogging, but you have to push yourself as hard as you can,” he said. “You feel like you’re sprinting the entire course.”

For Rachel, the challenge of cross-country is more often psychological than physical.

“Sometimes it’s kind of hard when you have a big lead and there’s nobody else around, and your body wants to slow down,” she said. “It’s definitely not easy. I just try to do my best and see what happens.”

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