Sarah Madebach is having quite a senior year at the University of Georgia.
The former Augusta Christian Schools runner who, along with her twin sister, Rebekah, helped lead ACS to back-to-back state track and field titles, has become one of the premier cross country runners in the nation.
As a Lady Lion, Sarah Madebach won two state crowns in both the 1600-meter and 3200-meter events. She also was the overall state meet champion as a sophomore and a junior.
During Sarah's prep career, Augusta Christian won four region titles. Despite all of her success in high school, she entered Georgia in 2004 as basically a highly regarded walk-on.
Sarah did not settle for simply having a spot on the team at UGA. Through hard work and dedication, she transformed herself into one of the team's top cross country runners.
This season she has shifted into an extra gear. Early on this year she showed a flash of brilliance when she won Georgia's 3,000-meter steeplechase. She also was Georgia's top finisher at this year's NCAA Preliminaries. In that event she finished 18th overall and was named the Southeastern Conference Female Athlete of the Week for her efforts.
Brimming with confidence and determined to put her past SEC Championship results behind her, Sarah stepped to the starting line of last week's SEC Cross Country Championships in Lexington, Ky. What happened that day is something she will never forget.
Sarah dominated the second half of the race to garner top honors with a time of 20:49.11, nearly four seconds better than the second-place finisher.
The title was UGA's first conference crown in cross country. A few days after the race, Sarah was named the SEC Female Cross Country Athlete of the Year.
"Winning the title and now this award is an incredible feeling. There is something special about running cross country, and this is something that I have always hoped would happen," Sarah said in a news release posted on GeorgiaDogs.com. "In the past, I feel like I have always had rough conference championships, where I am so excited that I go out too hard and then die near the finish. But this was the first SEC meet that I raced smarter. I believe that I am a different runner than I used to be, and I think that helped me stay controlled in the race. It was a very exciting experience, and I have had a perpetual smile on my face the past two or three days."
Not too bad for someone who entered her freshman season as an afterthought. Her coach thought so, too.
"Sarah has evolved from being a virtual walk-on to an SEC champion," cross country coach Dave Hartman said in the news release. "I am extremely proud of how she executed a perfect race plan to capture the SEC title. Now, we are looking forward to her trying to capture an All-American certificate."
Next up for Sarah and the Lady Bulldogs is the NCAA South Regional Championships in Gainsville, Fla., which begin Nov. 10.
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