Hill shows the will to go the distance

Advocate Staff Photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- St. Joseph's Academy's Annie Hill crosses the finish line of the girls 1600 meter run during the 2014 Grizzly Relays at Catholic High on April 18, 2014. Hill won the event with a time of 5:15.55.
Advocate Staff Photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- St. Joseph's Academy's Annie Hill crosses the finish line of the girls 1600 meter run during the 2014 Grizzly Relays at Catholic High on April 18, 2014. Hill won the event with a time of 5:15.55.

To fight through pain and maintain pace, runners need a strong will.

One of the top returning distance runners in the state, St. Joseph’s Academy sophomore Annie Hill, has the will.

Hill was undefeated in every cross country meet as a freshman before finishing fourth in Class 5A at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association State Cross Country meet last fall in Natchitoches.

As a seventh-grader at St. Aloysius, she ran under 12 minutes in the two miles. Her goal this season is to run under 18 minutes in three miles. Both feats are tremendous accomplishments for the respective age groups.

Hill covered the Highland Road three-mile course in 18:12.44 last season. She holds the SJA school records in the three-mile cross country and the outdoor 1,600 and 3,200 meters.

“It’s just a matter of time before she breaks 18 minutes in the three miles,” Episcopal girls coach Eddie Cole said. “I like the fact that she has continued to improve each year. She gives her all each race and is a great competitor.”

SJA coach Mark LaHaye said Hill had a tremendous freshman season and did not rest on any laurels. LaHaye said the sophomore worked harder than ever over the summer.

“Annie is a really strong runner with natural talent,” LaHaye said. “She really pushes herself and enjoys competing. She wants to win at everything she does. She’s a good teammate and one of our leaders.”

The 5-foot-1 Hill comes from a family of runners. Brother Pierce Hill is a senior runner for Catholic High and mother Louise Hill has completed 15 marathons.

“My freshman year was exciting,” said Annie Hill, who just turned 15 last month. “Going into it, I didn’t know what to expect. I trained hard and went into each race with a positive attitude. I was pretty happy about the outcome overall.”

Hill said when running she concentrates on quick turnover of her feet and pumping her arms as efficiently as possible.

“I just want to keep getting better over time and help my team,” Hill said. “I’m in better shape now than I was last summer. Weight training has helped me put on more muscle.”

Hill said LaHaye has helped her increase her mental toughness during races.

“I realize how big a part staying positive and being mentally tough plays a part in running,” Hill said. “I was nervous at the two state meets last year. I know the courses now and think that’ll help as well.”

Hill finished third in the 1,600 (5:09) and 3,200 (11:24.75) in Class 5A at the LHSAA State Outdoor Track meet at LSU.

SJA has a relatively young cross country team with seniors Annabelle Laville and Sarah Catherine LeBlanc, along with sophomores Hill, Claire Andres and Gabby Chauvin, and three freshmen in the mix to compete in the top seven each week.

“We’re cautiously optimistic about the season,” said LaHaye, who guided the Redstickers to a third-place finish at state last season. “We had a good four-day team-building camp at Lake Rosemond.”

Hill said the team camp helped the squad bond.

“We all trust coach Mark and his workouts,” Hill said. “He cares about us. We’re a close team and are looking forward to the season.”