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2017 TELEGRAM ALL-AREA GIRLS' CROSS COUNTRY: Knights' Proctor runs line of team and individual success

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Northern Nash's Mackenzie Proctor is the 2017 Telegram All-Area Girls' Cross Country Runner of the Year.

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BY JESSIE H. NUNERY
Sports Editor

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Mackenzie Proctor is a rarity for cross country, a sport where an athlete usually obsesses about times down to precious seconds.

Proctor doesn’t overthink anything while on the course. While running, the opponent isn’t on her mind, instead dinner plans, homework and weekend activities fill those spaces in her brain.

Proctor was the best runner in the Big East Conference this fall, earning the individual title as well as being named the Telegram’s 2017 All-Area Girls’ Cross Country Runner of the Year.

Those accolades or what it takes to achieve them isn’t Proctor’s driving force. Proctor instead is more focused on anyone wearing a Knights jersey. 

“My main goal this year was to work on our team bonding, so I did pretty well,” Proctor said. “I have a lot of good friends on the guys’ team, and when I was a freshman, the guys and girls were way closer than they were last year. I wanted that back.”

One of Proctor’s favorite parts of the season didn’t occur on any course. It was when both the boys’ and girls’ teams met up to attend a haunted house for Halloween. 

A year ago, she was concerned that she might qualify for the state championship meet without her teammates. Thankfully, the Knights earned the final spot and Proctor did not have to go to Greensboro alone.

“She has done a lot of things to bring the team together,” Knights coach Jeff Dodrill said. “She’s all about the team and staying out of the spotlight. She’s very humble and doesn’t want the attention.”

Dodrill also happens to be Proctor’s stepfather. Prior to marrying Jeff, Proctor’s mother, Tracy, was the one to encourage her daughter to run cross country. Mackenzie has improved each year, and her personal best (20:36) is the 12th fastest time in the girls’ program’s history.

The Dodrill-Proctor marriage has its own family-running arrangement, where the group will run various 5Ks together. Both parents coach at the school, so family and friends always are around for Proctor.

“We try to keep the cross country part at the meets, but we’ve always run together,” Tracy said. “We’ve just enjoyed doing that. Sometimes it’s harder to coach because she’s your child, but she’s a natural leader whether she likes it or not. She’s very humble. To her, she measures her success to the team as a whole.”

This year can be considered a success. Proctor was the lead runner of a relatively tight pack of Knights. Northern Nash won the Big East Conference championship with five of the top six runners. They could count on Proctor’s consistency and ability to run her intervals within seconds of each other.

Dodrill said Proctor didn’t need to be pushed this season toward any goals. She came up with her own race strategies and trained how she felt would best benefit her.

She knows her limits, and speed is not one of them.

Proctor’s only thought process was do to better than last year with no specific times attached.

Not overthinking things seems to work.

Proctor has shown that she can be trusted with her individual performances and with team-building activities. She doesn’t have any goals written for next season, but has her thoughts set on incorporating a new group of freshmen and replacing a good senior class.

“I’m not thinking about any times for next year,” Proctor said. “I’ll try my best. I only have one more year to do it.”

FIRST TEAM

MACKENZIE PROCTOR, JR., NORTHERN NASH: Procter finished as the Big East Conference champion (20:36) and helped pace the Knights to a league title and a berth in the NCHSAA 3-A state championship meet.

NEVEAH FORTIER, FR., NORTHERN NASH: Fortier asserted herself during a freshman season that included a third-place finish at the Big East Conference championships (21:14) and a team-best 15th-place finish in the 3-A Eastern Regional.

CAITLYN COOKE, SR., NORTHERN NASH: Cooke, who began her first two high school seasons at Rocky Mount Academy, had a strong senior campaign that included a fourth-place finish in the Big East (21:31).

SOPHIA ATKINS, JR., NORTHERN NASH: Atkins will be a part of a strong senior class next season. She placed fifth in the BIg East (21:45).

KELSEY HUTCHISON, JR., NORTHERN NASH: Hutchison rounded out a dominant Big East finish for the Knights. She was sixth (21:56) in the league as the Knights finished with five of the top six runners.

TANIYA EVERETTE, FR., TARBORO: The Vikings freshman was third overall (22:48) in the 1-A East regional.

HONORABLE MENTION

TATUM JANKE, SO., ROCKY MOUNT HIGH; MADELINE DALSIMER, JR., ROCKY MOUNT HIGH; ALEXIS LUCAS, JR., NORTHERN NASH; STEPHANIE SCHRIMPER, JR., ROCKY MOUNT HIGH; MIRANDA GRIFFIN, SR., NORTHERN NASH; ZAHNETTA WILKINS, FR., ROCKY MOUNT HIGH; CLARA LORD, FR., ROCKY MOUNT HIGH; MONTANA WILLIAMS, SR., NASH CENTRAL; 

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