After qualifying for the state track meet in May, Decatur’s Haley Dennard reignited her running career, and decided to take her success to the storied Lady Eagle cross country program. She was welcomed with open arms.
Dennard has helped lead Decatur to a No. 2 ranking in the latest Cross-Country Coaches Association of Texas poll, and this weekend will try to lift the Lady Eagles to a team title at the annual Reunion Run at Joe Wheeler Park.
“When she decided to come out it was like hand-in-glove,” Decatur coach David Park said. “Her teammates and I have tremendous respect for her.
“She brings a work ethic of what we like and what we try to model here.”
Dennard advanced to state in the 800-meter run last May, and although cross country is a much different race, her success has carried over. She is surpassing her own expectations once again.
“Track last year went way better than I expected, so I thought, ‘Why not?'” Dennard said. “Now cross country has turned out better than I thought it would, because I didn’t know what to expect coming in. I’m really happy, and it’s been a great decision.”
It didn’t take long for Dennard to emerge as one of the top runners on the team. Halfway through the season she has been Decatur’s first finisher in one race, second in another and third twice – one of those the difficult Assault on Eagle Summit.
“Aside from her obvious athletic ability, Haley is like glue,” Park said. “She holds people together. She is such a positive influence on our team, being a senior and through all her accomplishments in other sports – she has demanded the respect from the rest of the team.”
Dennard has been a star athlete in everything she has participated in since her freshman year. She has played volleyball, basketball, swam, ran track and now cross country.
In her final year she plans on concentrating on cross country, basketball and track.
Park feels Dennard’s role is vital down the stretch of the season. The Lady Eagles finished third at state last year and have all their runners back.
“With this set of ingredients, we have one shot at it,” Park said. “We want to make the most of this shot. If we can have a good day we can run with about anybody.”
Dennard is improving every race and knows she has a chance of being a part of something pretty special come November.
“I just enjoy running. It’s something I like to do,” Dennard said. “The whole goal is to get that championship. We all work hard every single day for it.”
Saturday Dennard gets to run the course she will see at the district meet later this month. The annual Reunion Run is entering its 14th year, and has become a great tradition for many schools.
This year is expected to possibly be the biggest yet, with more than 1,600 runners expected to compete.
“The race started with Joe Berry and Chuck Greever,” Park said. “When I came here in 2004 that was just one of the traditions to carry on. I’m just carrying the torch, and it’s an awesome tradition.
“It’s turned into such a big event. It’s one of those meets people put on the schedule before they know what else is out there.”
Park hopes success at the home meet is just a prelude for great things for both his cross country teams and Dennard.
“Her best races are still ahead of her,” Park said. “She’s one of those people who is going to come up big in big situations. I don’t know what ‘it’ is – but she’s got ‘it’.”