McKenzie Hogue is a cross country novice. But, the junior standout on the Thompson High girls’ cross country team is far from a novice when it comes to competition.
Hogue began competing in triathlons when she was 11 years old. By the time she decided to transition her competitive efforts into other sports, at the age of 15, Hogue was an accomplished triathlete.
“I learned how to train and I learned to love it,” Hogue said. “At first, it was just hard work, but, then I learned that if I worked hard, I was going to get good results and keep building on this. I thought, ‘Look at this talent that God has given me. I can do great things with this talent.’ I fell in love with it, I fell in love with bettering myself. That’s really what it’s been about me.”
Hogue didn’t venture into high school athletics into last spring when she joined the Warriors track and field team. The decision was made possible because the Tim Tebow Bill, which allows home school children to play high school sports, was passed by the state of Alabama. Hogue is home schooled.
“I was super excited for that,” Hogue said.
About the time she got going, though, she had to stop. Hogue had early success, including finishing second in the 800 meters and third in the 1,600 meters at the Vestavia Hills King of the Mountain Invitational. However, her first season nearly ended when she fell off a horse while at home.
“I’ve rode horses my whole life,” Hogue said. “It was just kind of a freak accident. I fell off, she stepped on my leg. Really, I was just panicked because I couldn’t feel my leg. It took a while to realize, ‘Oh my gosh, I might have broken my leg. I might not be able to run.’ It was pretty scary.”
The injury was diagnosed as a deep bruise, which kept her out of competition for several weeks but was not nearly bad as she feared. She couldn’t run most of that time but fell back on her triathlon training on the bicycle and in the water to stay in shape.
When she returned, Hogue, literally, hit the ground running. At the Shelby County Championships, she won the 1,600 meter race and set a personal record of 2:29.59 in the 800 meters. Her personal best of 5:18.83 in 1,600 meters came in the AHSAA Section 7 Sectionals and she qualified for the AHSAA 7A State Championships in the 1,600 and 3,200.
A touch of apprehension accompanied her into cross country.
“Coming in, for some reason, I thought I was not going to like cross country,” Hogue said. “I don’t know why. I’ve enjoyed it so much. The scenery is nice, you always have something different, it’s really fun. Before cross country, I would run on the grass and I was like, ‘It slows me down. I just don’t like this.’”
The love from her teammates is a big part of her newfound love for cross country.
“I was really shy coming in,” Hogue said. “The first practice I came to, everyone was just so welcoming. They just accepted me right in. They responded so lovingly to me. They just put me right in there little group. It’s like a big family, it really is.”
Hogue has been an important part of what has already been a promising season for the girls’ team. Hogue won the Shelby County Championship and ran a personal record 18:13.8 in the Daphne Invitational. She finished sixth last weekend in the Jesse Owens Cross Country Invitational at Oakville Indian Mounds Park, which is where the state championship will be held.
“The girls’ team has done very well this year,” Hogue said. “We have a lot of PRs recently at Daphne and Chickasaw. Everyone is just excited. We love what we’re doing. We’re just ready to strive for better.”