After coming off an All-State track season, it’s easy to think Bella Hodges might be tired; she’s not. Hodges placed 11th at last weekend’s Shelbyville semi state in a personal-best time of 18:53.4, notching her an individual spot at tomorrow’s girls cross country state meet.
“I think last week I went into the race with a different mental attitude,” Hodges said. “I told myself that I will get into the front pack and hold on as long as it takes. I trusted my body and what my coaches have told me all year- that I am strong enough to push during the first 3k and still have a strong kick at the end. Because of that, I put myself in a good position for the second half of the race, and I honestly gained confidence during it.
Hodges knows her track season aided her strong cross country season.
“Since I was successful in track like in the big meets like MIC, state and USATF Nationals, I was able to use the confidence I gained in that and put it into my cross country races. A time I felt confident would have to be MIC this year,” Hodges said.
Hodges ran the gamut, earning all conference honors and making the all-tournament team in the first three rounds of the postseason. Hodges felt like her hard work paid off with these accolades.
“Getting all-MIC and all-semi state this year just felt good. I had to trust the process a lot this season, and it was great to feel that my hard work and patience paid off when it mattered,” Hodges said.
Head Coach Wes Dodson hopes to see Hodges earn one more honor: All-State.
“Perfect would be if she made All-State, which is top 25, second best if she finished in the top 12 seniors, which would make her on the Senior All Star team. Those are our two goals for this weekend,” Dodson said.
That won’t be an easy task for Hodges but she knows that her race mentality will be important in aiding her efforts.
“For tomorrow, I’m going to go into the race with the same mentality. It’s my senior year and I’ve trained all season for this, so I have nothing to lose,” Hodges said. “The biggest challenge of the state race is going to be getting out strong and into a good position within the first mile.”
No matter what happens at this weekend’s state meet, Hodges has more races in front of her.
“My top three schools were Illinois State, Central Michigan, and Purdue Fort Wayne. PFW was my first visit, but I did my other ones just so I could explore all my options. In the end, PFW was the only school on the car ride home that I told my parents ‘I can’t wait to go to college now,’” Hodges said. “Even though my other visits were great, my brother goes to PFW so I feel like I have more of a connection there, and the coaches are so personable. They clearly care about making me a better individual as well as a runner. I know at Purdue, I will continue to improve as a runner while still having the opportunity to excel in academics.”