Girls Runner of the Year: Winslow up for new challenges

As Amanda Winslow crossed the finish line at the state meet, there was not a single competitor around.

It was a common situation for the Collins Hill distance runner.

The Daily Post's Runner of the Year easily won county and region titles in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races this season. At the state championships in Albany she set new records with little competition around her.

It's that kind of dominance that has Winslow excited about the summer. As much as she loves to win she loves to be pushed in a race. When your toughest competition is 10-15 seconds behind, it gets a little boring running around the track by yourself.

So later this month Winslow will race in the Nike Outdoor Nationals against some of the top runners in the country, giving her the competition she craves.

"That's what's really exciting," Winslow said. "I'm looking forward to that whether I'm the fastest person or not. I'll be in a race and not be all alone."

Just a little over a year after moving from Ohio, Winslow has established herself as one of the top distance runners in the state. The junior set a new state record in the 1,600 and has one of the top times of 10 minutes, 45.22 seconds in the 3,200. Which is why it will be interesting to see how she stacks up against the best in the country.

"I think she has a shot to be in the top six and be an All-American," Collins Hill coach Andrew Hudson said.

Last year's 1,600 champion at Nike ran 4:46.31 and Winslow's record at state was 4:48.35. So placing among the best in the country is not out of the question and neither is winning the whole race.

"I'm really excited to be going to nationals," Winslow said. "Last year I wasn't even thinking about where I would be right now. It's going to be different not racing people from around here."

This time last season Winslow was arguably Collins Hill's third- or fourth-best distance runner. After her family moved to Georgia in January 2007, Winslow was still trying to get adjusted to a new state, a new school and new teammates. She took second at the state meet in 1,600 behind teammate Jackie Drouin and was third in the 800 despite battling a stress fracture most of the season.

Winslow took it easy over the summer to heal her stress fracture and dominated the cross country season by winning the Class AAAAA state title.

This year's track season was just a continuation from the fall as she won county, region and state titles.

"I didn't have any interruptions and major problems from cross country to track," Winslow said. "I think that is what made it a breakout season. All of those things coming together."

Winslow's individual success has translated into championships for the Eagles' running programs. Her cross country title propelled Collins Hill to the team championship and her 1,600 and 3,200 wins helped clinch the track crown. That's a lot of success in such a short period of time in Georgia.

"I think every time Amanda lines up she always does something special," Hudson said. "I don't think she's had a bad race, her or her sister (Vicky). It's hard to comprehend how incredibly rare that is. I don't know if I've ever had a runner like that. Those kinds of kids don't come around very often."

So what's next for Winslow? She already has five state championships - three individual and two team titles. Well there's defending those titles, which if she does would put her up there with Gwinnett County's greats like Brookwood's Marny Westphal and Drouin.

She also has to decide on a college and the way she's been running there are plenty that are interested in her. Schools like Georgetown, Columbia, Harvard, Georgia, South Carolina and N.C. State have shown interest.

"When you run 4:48 you pretty much can write your ticket to anywhere," Hudson said.

There are also records to be broken. She already holds the 1,600 record, but is only seven seconds off the 3,200 mark. Relay teams are also in the future. Collins Hill's 3,200 relay, which is not run at region or state, broke a 16-year-old state record this season.

"The records come along with running my own races," Winslow said. "As long as I keep trying to improve myself I think there are many records for me to break."

So there are still plenty of things to challenge her on the track, even if she can't get it from opposing runners.

"I still want to have a season that I work completely hard and if I can get through the next two seasons, cross country and track, and train to the fullest I hope I can get to another level I haven't seen before," Winslow said.

SideBar: Girls All County Track and Field

Runner of the Year: Amanda Winslow, Collins Hill, Jr.

Class AAAAA state champ in 1,600 and 3,200

Field Performer of the Year: Eve Machovec, Dacula, Sr.

Discus state champion and shot put runner-up in Class AAAA

Coaches of the year: Andrew Hudson and James Ramsey, Collins Hill

Led Eagles to county, region and state championships

100: Taren White, Grayson, Soph.

Third at state, region and county champ

200: Taren White, Grayson, Soph.

Fifth at state, region and county champ

400: Symone Glover, Collins Hill, Jr.

Fifth at state, region and county champ

800: Nicky Akande, Collins Hill, Soph.

AAAAA state champ, first at county and region

1,600: Nicole Dimercurio, North Gwinnett, Jr.

County champion, third at region

3,200: Allyson McGinty, Collins Hill, Sr.

Second at state, region and county

100 hurdles: Imani Ellis, Collins Hill, Sr.

Second at state, region and county champ

300 hurdles: Imani Ellis, Collins Hill, Sr.

Second at state, region and county champ

Long jump: Jessica Tuggle, GAC, Soph.

Second at state

Triple jump: Tiffany Clarke, Norcross, Jr.

AAAAA state champ, first at region and county

High jump: Anne Marie Armstrong, Wesleyan, Jr.

AA state champ, first at region and county

Discus: Creeann Perkins, Shiloh, Soph.

Eighth at state, Region 8-AAAAA champ, second at county

Shot put: Ashley Razey, Buford, Sr.

AA state champ

Pole vault: Kara Ashley Dobbs, Grayson, Sr.

Third at state, first at region and county