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Self-motivation letter pushes Eagles' Whitworth

Collins Hill’s Chloe Whitworth continued the Eagles’ tradition of individual cross country state championships by winning a title in her junior season. 

Collins Hill’s Chloe Whitworth continued the Eagles’ tradition of individual cross country state championships by winning a title in her junior season. 

Chloe Whitworth remembers the exact moment her cross country season changed and it had nothing to do with how fast or how far she ran.

It was Oct. 20 and the Collins Hill runner was in seventh period language arts class. She was supposed to be doing busy work, but all she could think about was running.

All County Cross Country

BOYS

Runner of the Year: Runner of the year: Josh Brickell, Peachtree Ridge, Soph.

Won Class AAAAA state championship and Region 7-AAAAA title

Coach of the year: Ben Dehnke, Brookwood

Led Broncos to second straight Class AAAAA state championship

FIRST TEAM

• Alec Klassen, Parkview, Sr.

Placed second at state, won county, won region

• Jackson Wearn, Brookwood, Sr.

Fourth at county, second at region, seventh at state

• Austin Boetje, Mill Creek, Sr.

Placed third at state, ninth at county, second at region

• Steven Spevacek, Parkview, Sr.

Fifth at county, third at region, sixth at state

• Michael Giuliano, Brookwood, Sr.

Sixth at county, sixth at region, fifth at state

• Morgan Malanoski, Brookwood, Jr.

Seventh at county, seventh at region, fourth at state

• Joseph Weiler, Parkview, Sr.

Eighth at county, fourth at region, 11th at state

SECOND TEAM

• Andy Gonzalez, Collins Hill, Sr.

Third at county, fourth at region, 16th at state

• Matt Weickert, Peachtree Ridge, Sr.

23rd at county, fifth at region, eighth at state

• Louie Roger, Parkview, Sr.

12th at county, fifth at region, 19th at state

• Matt Barudin, Brookwood, Jr.

11th at county, 10th at region, 17th at state

• Cory Cown, Grayson, Sr.

18th at county, ninth at region, 15th at state

• Zac Brooks, Brookwood, Sr.

14th at county, 11th at region, 18th at state

• Gabe Gomez, Brookwood, Jr.

15th at county, 14th at region, 21st at state

GIRLS

Runner of the year: Chloe Whitworth, Collins Hill, Jr.

Won Class AAAAA state title, placed fourth at county, won region

Coach of the year: Chris Carter, Brookwood

Led Broncos to state runner-up finish in Class AAAAA

FIRST TEAM

• Jordan Humphrey, North Gwinnett, Jr.

Third at county, third at region, fifth at state

• Katherine Yost, Norcross, Soph.

second at county, second at region, seventh at state

• Lauren Kelly, Peachtree Ridge, Fr.

Ninth at county, fifth at region, fourth at state

• Sydney Williams, Collins Hill, Sr.

Seventh at county, fourth at region, eighth at state

• Caroline Kissel, Brookwood, Jr.

10th at county, region champ, 15th at state

• Rose Howell, North Gwinnett, Sr.

Sixth at county, seventh at region, 16th at state

• Maya Dillard, Buford, Soph.

Placed fourth at state in Class AA

SECOND TEAM

• Anakaren Lopez, Brookwood, Sr.

Eighth at county, second at region, 20th at state

• Payton Wilson, Brookwood, Soph.

15th at county, fifth at region, 23rd at state

• Vicky Winslow, Collins Hill, Sr.

won county, ninth at region, 35th at state

• Tasheanna Blair, South Gwinnett, Soph.

21st at county, fourth at region, 29th at state

• Valerie Ward, Parkview, Soph.

39th at county, third at region, 24th at state

• Kelly Arsenault, Peachtree Ridge, Sr.

28th at county, 16th at region, 34th at state

• Erika Ramsey, Wesleyan, Sr.

Placed 13th at state in Class A, 11th at county

That’s when she began to write herself a letter. It was intended to be something simple like “I will win state,” but it morphed into a much longer letter.

“It started out that I was going to write I can do it 20 times,” said Whitworth, the Daily Post’s Runner of the Year. “Then it turned into this long, detailed kind of musing letter. I kept it and I’ll keep it forever.”

Whitworth read that letter every night before she went to bed for the next two and a half weeks. The constant motivation pounded into her head was the final push she needed to win the Class AAAAA state championship.

“It was just positive self talk, telling myself no matter what happened I’ve got to be positive about it,” Whitworth said. “I could do it and remind myself I had put in all the work necessary and willing myself to not let my lack of confidence get in the way.”

Whitworth became the seventh consecutive Collins Hill runner to win the individual AAAAA state championship, joining three-time winner Jackie Drouin, two-time champ Amanda Winslow and Nicky Akande. However, many didn’t expect Whitworth to be the person to continue that legacy. At least this season.

“I think it’s a testimony to the kind of person Chloe is,” Collins Hill coach Andrew Hudson said. “When Vicky suffered her injury at some point along the way, when it became clear Vicky wasn’t going to get better quickly, we talked to Chloe and said you’re running well enough to make this a possibility.”

Vicky Winslow was the Collins Hill’s top runner over the summer and was nearly a full minute ahead of Whitworth before the season started. An injury during the regular season derailed Winslow after she won the county championship, pushing Whitworth to the front.

“Vicky was a shoo-in. If it hadn’t been for her injury then I know it would have been her. It’s bittersweet,” Whitworth said. “My goal the beginning of the season was just to get as close to Vicky as possible. When she got hurt it took awhile to dawn on me that I would have step up. I never expected to be where I ended up.”

Whitworth was nearly 30 seconds behind the top competition at the county meet. She cut the deficit to nine seconds at the Coach Wood Invitational, three weeks before the state meet.

“That was kind of the make or break point in terms of her confidence,” Hudson said. “We knew what she could do as an individual.”

The idea of being a state champion started to become a reality when she won the Region 7-AAAAA championship, ahead of some top contenders for the state title. Her time of 18 minutes, 47 seconds was a personal record.

“Winning region was a big deal for me because it again helped my confidence and I think it solidified the idea that I could do it,” said Whitworth, who finished in the top 10 in all six meets this year. “It gave me a little bit of energy going into state meet of knowing that I wasn’t necessarily an underdog going into it.”

Whitworth needed one final push at the state meet, taking the lead in the final 150 meters to win the state title by six seconds over Centennial’s Brooke Koblitz.

The state championship has garnered the interest of major college coaches, but Whitworth knows she has to get faster if she wants to run at a high level in college.

It might just take another letter to get her there.

“I think the positive self talk is big part of achieving big things you might not think are possible,” Whitworth.

“I’ll probably write myself some more letters before it’s all over.”