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Hill Reflects on XC Career

Hill image Dominant.

That’s the only word appropriate to describe Madeline Hill’s illustrious four-year Cross Country career at Cuthbertson High. Madeline’s high school accomplishments consist of fifteen first place finishes, three NCHSAA 3A Midwest regional first place finishes, and two NCHSAA 3A State Championship individual titles. We talk about Madeline’s Cross Country career as a whole, her secrets to success, and what’s next after high school. 

Madeline showed signs of a star in the making, winning nine out of nine races in her eighth grade season. Madeline’s success quickly translated to the high school level, placing top five six times her Freshman year, including winning her first 3A Midwest Regional race. Her impressive Freshman campaign continued into year two, where she proceeded to win six races, and the 2018 3A State Championship. “That was my first individual state championship win and the first time our girls’ team won. Neither me nor the team were favored to win but we did. That was one of the most exciting days in Cuthbertson XC history.”  

All great athletes have their ups and downs. Until her Junior season, Madeline never hit any major speed bumps in her career. In 2019, Madeline finished first in only one race, and failed to score in the State Championship that season. So what happened? “I put way too much pressure on myself because of how well I did the previous year. I set unrealistic goals too early in the season and beat myself up when I didn’t hit them. I was so afraid to fail and was frustrated with myself that I wasn’t really enjoying running” Going into her Senior year, Madeline had a different perspective on how she would attack the season. “I completely changed my approach. I decided to just have fun with racing and not overthink what I was doing. I focused on trying to hype up my teammates before races and blasted music on my speaker to make us all less nervous.” 

Her different approach paid off. Madeline went on to win seven of her nine races on the year, including the Conference, Regional, and State Championship. Winning her second state championship last season was a little bit sweeter, considering the obstacles she overcame to get back to the top. “Making a comeback and winning the state championship this year after how hard my junior year was, and winning our third team state championship with such a young team has been one of the most memorable accomplishments. The team winning was especially memorable because we had to work extra hard this year to stay disciplined and healthy.”

Looking back on Madeline’s Cross Country career as a whole, one thing that sticks out is the year after year consistency of placing first/runner-up in big races. The way that happens is staying fresh for the entire season. So how does Madeline take care of herself outside of running? “In order to stay healthy I’ve created routines that I follow after practice ends. Training isn’t just running. Eating right is one of the most important things. Not just eating healthy but eating enough is particularly important. Nutrition has been a huge part of my success. I also have been very consistent with strength training and proper stretching. These have played a big part in injury prevention for me and have made me a stronger runner.” 

Another part of her success has been the guidance of her longtime coach, Kirk Walsh. “I’ve known Coach Walsh for 7 years and we’ve grown really close… He has created a family atmosphere in our team and has taught us how to be humble and the importance of lifting each other up... I know that he's always watching out for me as a person first and a runner second...  He has had a huge impact on my life and I wouldn’t be the person and runner I am today without him.” 

I spoke with Coach Walsh about the progression of Madeline’s career through the years of being her coach, and how she’s grown into the runner she is today. “When Madeline first joined us in 6th grade, she was brand new to competitive running, and it was hard to get 2 words out of her. You could see the natural talent, but she was all over the place with her pacing and lacked confidence… I don’t think she understood her own talent until she hit the trails for the first time in 7th grade cross country. That year, she started pushing up front in practice, and learned how to win races. Starting that year, Madeline would become one of the most prolific youth endurance athletes in NC…Now, don’t get me wrong, she’s had setbacks along the way like everyone else, but she’s learned to overcome and keep moving forward. I believe the “Senior Madeline” would look back on her journey and tell you that the struggles were absolutely necessary in creating the person she is today. She’s been refined from a scared kid to a calm and confident team leader, and her entire 7-year Cuthbertson experience has prepared her for an exceptional future.”

In the fall, Madeline will be heading to ECU to continue her Cross Country and academic career. When asked why Madeline chose to commit there, she said, “I made a really good connection with Coach Weaver and the girls on the team at ECU. The facilities are amazing and ECU treats their athletes very well. ECU travels a lot because they are in the American conference so I’m looking forward to running in some new places.”

Madeline is planning on majoring in Exercise Science, Nutrition or Biology.

Written by CHS Senior Michael Garrity
Posted February 25, 2021