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HIDDEN GEM: Norcross' Yost shining in first year of cross country

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Earlier this spring, John Williams was getting the Norcross boys track and field team ready for the state meet.

Williams looked across the track and saw Katherine Yost breezing along the asphalt.

"(Williams) kind of attacked me," Yost joked. "I was running around the track after school for makeup and he was like 'You, come here. You need to do cross country.' I was like well, I do tennis and he was like 'No, no, you've got to do cross country.'"

And that's how Katherine Yost's cross country career began. In a school of 3,500 students like Norcross, sometimes it takes a twist of fate to find the next great athlete.

In her brief career as a cross country runner, Yost has emerged as one of the state's top runners. She has placed in the top five in three meets this season, including a second-place finish at the Gwinnett County championships.

"I didn't think I would do good at all. I did it because I did tennis and I did this as cross training," Yost said. "I've always ran. My whole life I've run for fun. I think it's fun. Everybody always told me I should do cross country."

Yost grew up playing the family sport of tennis. Her mother, father and older sister are avid tennis players and Yost reached a No. 43 ranking in the sport. She played No. 2 and No. 3 singles for Norcross in the spring, but has now found a new love in cross country.

"I did it and I guess I was a natural," Yost said.

The sophomore opened the season with a fifth-place finish at the Mercy Invitational and third place at the UGA XC Invitational. She had her coming out party at the county meet, leading three miles of the 3.1-mile race. However, her inexperience cost her at the end and Collins Hill's Vicky Winslow passed her for the victory.

"I was just so worn out. I tried," Yost said. "She's just too good. She was just sprinting and I had no energy at all."

Yost finished with a personal record of 18 minutes, 46 minutes at the race.

"I want to get 18:17 as my fastest time. That's my biggest goal right now," Yost said. "I would love to be No. 1 in the state eventually."

It turned out after the county race that Yost and Winslow already knew each other. The two attended the same 12-person lifeguard class this summer. But when it comes to recognizing the top runners in the state, Yost would rather remain blind.

"I don't want to know, it will psych me out," Yost said. "I don't want to know who's good."

Yost followed up her breakout performance with an 18th-place finish at a meet in Florida. She placed sixth at Saturday's Coach Wood Invitational where she was Gwinnett's top finisher.

"What she did at county, that didn't shock me. No, I knew she would be there," Williams said. "She had run against the kids at North, but not Collins Hill. I told her I want her to go out and do you and she went out and did her."

Yost's inexperience in the sport has helped and hurt her this season. She's still learning the tricks of the sport like when you go for a final kick and not to look behind her. But the fact that she's so new to the sport, she's not intimidated by traditional power Collins Hill or last year's state champion North Gwinnett.

"She loves to compete. Yost is a very competitive person," Williams said. "I remember when she first came out for the summer, she was like 'Can I run with the boys?' That's the kind of person she is. She doesn't back down from competition and she's not afraid of hard work. See, that's the difference. She didn't bat an eye between North and Collins Hill. She just did it."

Yost has given up tennis tournaments to focus on cross country. She plans to play for Norcross this spring unless Williams can talk her into running the mile and two mile in track.

Until then there is the rest of the cross country season. Yost will find out if her performance at county was just a fluke or if she has a real future in the sport. Norcross will race against Collins Hill and North Gwinnett at the Region 7-AAAAA meet in a little more than a week.

"I think she can do well. I think she can be in the top 10 (at state). We're trying to get out of region and think about state later," Williams said. "She's going to be good."