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Hereford's Emily Konkus is North County News Female co-Athlete of the Year

Hereford's Emily Konkus approaches the finish line with no other competitors in sight, winning the girls varsity race during the Baltimore County cross country championships at the Baltimore County Center for Maryland Agriculture and Farm Park on Saturday, Oct. 20.
Hereford's Emily Konkus approaches the finish line with no other competitors in sight, winning the girls varsity race during the Baltimore County cross country championships at the Baltimore County Center for Maryland Agriculture and Farm Park on Saturday, Oct. 20. (Brian Krista / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

It’s safe to say that distance runners have a long road ahead of them. And, in the case of Hereford’s Emily Konkus, that road has been paved through hard work, determination and consistency.

In 12 consecutive seasons, Konkus participated in varsity cross country, indoor and outdoor track.

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She captured the individual Class 2A cross country state title last fall in a time of 19:38.1, after winning the same race at Hereford High the previous year in 19:40.5.

Her accomplishments earned her selection as the 2019 North County News Female co-Athlete of the Year, an honor she shares with Hereford senior Rachel Saunders.

“Fairly successful is an understatement, she’s been phenomenal,” Hereford cross country coach Adam Hittner said. “The two individual cross country state championships that she won, but she ran in the varsity lineup among seven girls all four years and won four state [team] titles.”

“There’s only 12 seasons that an athlete has in high school and she won eight team championships – eight state team championships in 12 seasons, it’s absolutely remarkable. She’s someone who leaves no stone un-turned,” Hittner said.

There were times throughout Konkus’ cross country career where she’d rally her teammates to push through tough practices and workouts.

When she put in the hard work with her team, she expected to win state championships.

To perform at the biggest stage was her and the team’s ultimate goal.

Her tenacity didn’t just begin in her later years at high school. It began on JV in her first race at Hereford, but she impressed the coaches so much that she got a bump up to varsity in the following meet.

The quality that each of her coaches mention is her consistency.

“She’s always been a talented kid. She was already talented when she got here [Hereford] for sure,” indoor and outdoor coach Brad Duvall said. “But, she also works extremely hard. So, I’ve seen growth in her, both in a physical manner, in terms of her speed and endurance and all of that, but beyond that her race strategy, her ability to think through a race, plan it out to execute it.”

During the indoor track season, Konkus finished second at the state meet in the 1600 with a personal-record time of 5:17.86 and she was third in the 800 (2:23.04) with another PR.

Konkus was on Hereford’s first-place state championship 4x800 relay team (9:36.44), along with Lizzie Lopez, Shannon Francis and Jen Barranco.

Despite having success that many athletes envy, Konkus felt that her indoor seasons were her toughest.

“Indoor has never been my best season,” Konkus said. “I come off of cross country and then get back into it, but this year it went really well. We switched up the training and I took a little more time off and we did a lot of build-up workouts. So, me being able to compete in mid-distance. I’m still in the distance group and I do these really long runs and there are tons of trails up in Hereford, but we definitely get the speed work in as well.

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The added rest helped her stay strong for the indoor and outdoor seasons.

“Towards the end, it’s also about timing your peak right. I feel like this year, doing the speed workouts just really helped to time that peak and workout for indoor and outdoor,” she said. “I feel like this was my best year of training that I’ve had – it was awesome because it was my senior year. It was a high note to end on.”

She finished on that high note during her senior outdoor season, capturing the individual state championship with a PR in the 3200 (11:17.30) and that helped lead the Bulls to the state championship.

After winning the Baltimore County and regional titles in the 1600, she was third in the state with a personal-best time of 5:09.57.

Konkus, Lopez, Francis and Barranco also won the 4x800 relay state title (9:36.44).

Ironically enough, the 3200 was a race that she initially didn’t even want to run because she felt unprepared.

She struggled in the race during her first three years in track, but was talked into running it by Duvall.

It clearly paid off and was a perfect way to finish her illustrious high school career as a runner.

Konkus will run in the fall for Washington University, in St. Louis, for a women’s cross country team that won the Division III national championship.

She initially didn’t know much about the school until she came across a table set up at Yale University at a college fair.

“I called the coach and he seemed so excited,” Konkus said. “His name is coach [Jeff] Stiles, he wanted to fly me out, I got to meet all of the team members and then they were just DIII cross country national champions. That didn’t put a damper on anything. So, that was also exciting – coming to a team that was already so successful.”

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