Of all the lessons Anne Underwood has learned during her track career at Valley, this is the most important: Don’t run to the finish line, run through it.
The senior distance specialist learned the hard way that she must run the 800 meters as if it’s 810, not 775 or even 790.
“My sophomore year at regionals, I slowed down a little bit before the finish,” she said. “The girl passed me and I missed going to state by one spot. That killed me because I really wanted to go to state.”
Last spring Underwood put that lesson to productive use at the Class 4A state meet, winning the 800 by less than a second. She didn’t let up this time.
“My coach told me a great quote: ‘Usually when it’s the last 50, the person who comes in second gave up that little bit more.’ I don’t want to be the one who gave up,” Underwood said.
“I remember what my coach told me. It keeps me going.”
Underwood’s state championship time of 2:18.89 was fastest by seven-tenths of a second, but she prevailed in an even closer finish in the Las Vegas Track Classic on March 26. She finished in 2:21.62 — the fastest girls time in Nevada this spring — to win by seven-hundredths of a second over Miranda Menzies of Coquitlam, Canada.
That performance put Underwood ahead of the pace her distance coach, Sue Elwell, set for her at this point in the season.
“She surprised me,” Elwell said. “We missed a whole season of cross country and then she was in soccer. She’s at a different place than where she was last year.”
Head coach Roger Hansen has taken note of Underwood’s development as a runner.
“Her confidence is way different from two years ago,” Hansen said. “She has matured as a runner. She has learned how to run.”
Underwood said she prefers the 800 to the 1,600. But she placed fifth at state in the 1,600 last year before winning the 800 the following day.
The petite redhead is a four-year letterwinner and one of two girls from Valley who went to state last year. Hansen depends on Underwood to be a leader as well as a scorer.
“She leads by example,” Hansen said. “She knows when it’s time to work and time to play. She does what she needs to do in practice. I look forward to seeing what she will do in a college program, when she is running all year round. She’s going to shoot up. She’s got the tools.”
Underwood has accepted a scholarship to run at UNR, where she will concentrate on cross country and track.
Underwood recently was honored by the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association as one of the top 10 Southern Nevada Student-Athletes of the Year. She was cited for 10 varsity letters in soccer, track and cross country, and with a weighted grade-point average of 4.506, her class standing is 22nd in a class of 611.
She lettered in soccer for three years, but it cost Underwood her senior season of cross country. She severely injured her ankle playing soccer last summer and was unable to run for six months.
“During cross country (season), it was hard for me to get over the fact that I couldn’t run. My coaches helped me through that,” Underwood said. “They have been through the same injuries. They showed me that I can get past that and that running isn’t just high school. They have helped me set goals.”
Now she looks forward to improving her times at UNR.
“My goal is to work on getting my mile down to the low fives, maybe below five, if possible,” Underwood said. “I want to make sure that in every race I give it all I have. I want to be able to look back on my races and be happy about it.”