A matter of priorities

Tithof balances athletic stardom with band, academics

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By Valerie Spence
For Blount Today

Kristen Tithof has a schedule that might send some running for the hills, but the William Blount junior takes it all in stride.
The 2005 Region 2-AAA cross country champion plays in the William Blount marching band and is ranked academically within the top 10 in her class.

"My average week usually consists of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning practices, regular cross country practice after school until about 5:30, and then homework and chores at home," the reigning Blount County champion said. "Most Friday nights, I have football games to go to with being in the band. It can be rough sometimes if I have a meet the next morning."

Tithof points out she has a strong network of support to help keep up her busy pace. William Blount coach Chris Frary is a source of motivation and inspiration, she said.

"He’s an amazing coach and I’m convinced he knows everything there is to know about running," Tithof said. "My mother is also a major influence in my life. She comes to every one of my meets and has always been very supportive of me.
"My band director is (also) very understanding,"

To manage the overlapping schedules of band and cross country, Tithof occasionally has to make special arrangements for rehearsals and performances. Even with the help of those around her, it’s has a hefty load to juggle, but balancing her activities is not as difficult as one might think, she said.

"It basically just comes down to deciding what my priorities are," Tithof said. "My grades are first and foremost the most important thing, but cross country has never interfered with that. In fact, if anything, it has improved my grades. Cross country taught me a sense of responsibility and discipline that I’ve basically applied to my life in general."

When Tithof describes her mental strategies during a race, it’s easy to see how the same tactics, when applied to day-to-day life, lead to the success that she exhibits across the board.

"Running is definitely more a mental sport than it is a physical one," she said. "For me, I try to think about how happy I’ll be with myself if I perform to the best of my ability each time I step out on the course. I always try to focus on the person ahead of me during to the race, and, prior to the race, I try to relax and have positive thoughts."

Tithof started running after seeing how much her older brother enjoyed competing for the Governors and now counts it as one of her own favorite things.

"I do it to stay in shape, but, more than anything else, I love my team and my coach," she said. "Running is hard work, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything."

Tithof said she plans to continue her pursuit of a balance between the athletic and the academic after high school.

"I definitely want to run in college, so I’m hoping to go on both a running and academic scholarship," Tithof said.

Looking to the immediate future, Tithof will need her love of her sport and her positive-thinking strategy as she defends her regional title at Victor Ashe Park this morning. The course is one of her favorites.

"I feel that it plays to William Blount’s strengths," she said. "We do a lot of hill work and Victor Ashe definitely has plenty of hills on it."

Today’s race determines both regional rankings and eligibility for the state championships in Nashville on Nov. 4.

Tithof said she is hoping for the chance to improve on her performance at the state meet last year, where a scheduling mix up cost her a peak performance and landed her in the medical tent after the race. The results of today’s race will determine whether she gets that chance, but, regardless, Tithof said she knows she’s found a life-long love.

"I’m sure that I will never stop running," she said. "Running really is addictive. Once you start, it’s hard to stop."

Barnes runs to second at middle school state

Knoxville - Heritage Middle School seventh-grader Lauren Barnes ran to a second-place finish at the Tennessee Middle School Cross Country Championships last weekend at Victor Ashe Park. The Lady Mustang ace, a Volunteer Cross Country Invitational and AAU regional track and field champion, finished the 2-mile course in 14 minutes, 32 seconds. A field of 101 runners took part in the meet.

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