KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL)- In our new digital series ‘High School Standouts,’ Digital Sports Reporter Michael Epps features local athletes with incredible talent, hoping to take that talent to the next level.
These are athletes that stand out both on and off the field.
This week’s High School Standout is Sasha Neglia, a senior runner on the Dobyns-Bennett High School cross country team.
Some say cross country is the most difficult sport out there
“Yeah I think it is the toughest, just the grit and work ethic of everyone, you have to put in hard work and be not just physically tough but mentally tough as well,” Neglia said.
For Dobyns-Bennett senior runner Sasha Neglia, it’s all about having the proper mindset.
“Sometimes I’ll try to have a little mantra in my head and just think of something to keep me going,” Neglia said.
So when she went out there for the state cross country championships earlier this month, she was confident.
“At states I told myself I have nothing to lose from this, and I kept that in my head and I think that really helped,” Neglia said.
“She always goes into races pretty confidently and some people get really nervous before races, I had that problem when I was younger but Sasha has never been like that, she always comes in pretty confident for the race and that runs throughout the whole team,” fellow senior runner Emma Russum said.
Of course, she knew what to expect; she’s qualified for this race all four years of high school.
“Coming out of the region she just had a mindset and you had the feeling, like she was in a zone, as the week went on you had more of a feel that she was gonna get it done and she did,” Dobyns-Bennett head cross country coach Bob Bingham said.
Sasha won the race, beating out local rival Jenna Hutchins. There were 188 total runners that qualified for the Division 1 Large School Girls Race.
“She’s a very dedicated athlete, does everything the right way and I’m sure she gets nervous but she doesn’t show a lot of emotion, that last 100 meters with that gigantic smile on her face I’ll always remember that,” Bingham said.
But for her, the individual title was just part of what made that chilly fall afternoon a special one.
“Of her three state championships I think she would probably tell you this was the sweetest of the three, and made it even more special because they won the team state championship,” Bingham said.
“It was super exciting, the team win was super exciting because we’ve come so close in previous years,” Neglia said.
The Dobyns-Bennett girls cross country team hadn’t won a state championship since 1997, but it was this group of seniors that placed inside the top 30.
“It was an amazing experience, it was really cold and a little bit muddy so it was kinda fun to embrace the toughness and stuff,” Neglia said.
“Ever since freshman year we thought we had a shot at winning the title but we came up short every year, and this year it feels like everything came together,” Russum said
For the seniors, it’s a fitting end to a career filled with excitement both on and off the course.
“It’s really special its something we’ve been working for all four years of high school and it was really nice for it to end that way on a high note,” Russum said.
“They’re pretty close knit they’re kinda best buds they hangout you know hangout buds,” Bingham said.
“I love running with my teammates we have a good time, push each other,” Neglia said.
Follow this series throughout the year as WJHL’s Michael Epps finds the High School Standout every week on WJHL.com.