Belton junior Brooke Gilmore is the Killeen Daily Herald’s 2015 Most Outstanding Runner.

Brooke Gilmore is a junior and cross country runner at Belton High School. When she was just a freshman, Gilmore had this big dream.

“The state meet,” she said. “That had always been my goal. I wanted to make the state meet.”

To qualify as an individual for the UIL Class 6A Cross Country State Meet, a runner must finish in the top 10 of their regional meet.

“Well,” said Belton head coach Holly Lamberte, “as a sophomore, Brooke missed qualifying for the state meet by only two runners. That was disappointing for Brooke.

“She decided that wasn’t gonna happen this year. Not making it to state was not an option for her. This year, she was fully determined to finish in the top 10 at regionals so she could make it to state.”

Gilmore was the runaway winner of the 2015 District 12-6A Meet. No surprise there. She’d won the district meet as a sophomore, too.

On Oct. 26, the 2015 Region II-6A Meet was held at Lynn Creek Park in Grand Prairie.

Gilmore was ready.

A top-10 finish meant the fulfillment of a three-year dream — a spot in the state meet.

“Of course I had thought about what happened last year,” Gilmore said. “Missing the state meet last year by just two spots really lit a fire in me.”

After the first mile of the 3.1-mile 2015 regional race was complete, Gilmore was in 15th place. Of course 15th place is no shame when there are over 200 runners competing in a race. But this is Brooke Gilmore we’re talking about.

“I needed to get going,” Gilmore said. “I was just thinking at that point, ‘I must get in the top 10’ and I couldn’t give up. I just needed to start running faster.”

And so she did.

“The second mile went a lot better for me,” Gilmore said. “I had caught up to another girl and she seemed to be running at a good pace so we started running together. She was from Kingwood.”

The two were pushing each other in a profitable way for both, although they didn’t talk. They couldn’t get too chummy. After all, at some point, they’d have to compete against each other for a finishing spot.

By the end of the second mile, Gilmore was in seventh place.

“At that point, I was feeling pretty good with my pace,” Gilmore said. “I was happy with how I was doing — but you can’t ever get too happy until you finish the race.”

Lamberte was fully confident Gilmore would finish in the top 10 — and qualify for the state meet.

“By the end of the second mile, Brooke was cutting down her competition,” Lamberte said. “She went from 15th down to 12th and finally seventh. She was in control.”

With a half-mile to go, Gilmore and the Kingwood runner were still running together.

“So, at that point, I was in sixth or seventh place, depending on how you want to look at it,” Gilmore said.

With 200 yards to go, it was time for Gilmore to say goodbye to her running mate.

“The state meet was on the line and I knew that I needed to leave it all on the course and go as fast as I could,” Gilmore said.

Was she tired?

“Yes, I was pretty tired but you can always find a little bit extra when you need it,” Gilmore said.

With 100 yards to go, Gilmore was firmly in sixth place, the runner from Kingwood falling back into seventh.

“At that point, I was thinking of catching the fifth-place runner,” Gilmore said. “She was only a few seconds ahead of me. I always know that if I’m running as hard as I can in the final stretch, at the end of the race I will be in some pain. But let me tell you this: The pain after you’ve done well always hurts a lot less than the pain you feel if you don’t do well.”

Gilmore was doing well — and Lamberte was excited.

“Brooke was showing us that usual final kick that we see all the time,” Lamberte said. “In the last 100 yards of a race, Brooke does what Brooke does — guts it out. She puts it all on the line.”

Gilmore crossed the line in sixth place, almost catching the fifth-place runner.

She’d done it. She was on her way to the state meet.

“I was happy, that’s for sure,” Gilmore said. “I made state. I gave my parents and my coaches a big hug.”

Two weeks later, Gilmore enjoyed her experience at the state meet, finishing 44th out of 152 runners.

And so Gilmore is the winner of the 2015 KDH All-Area Cross Country Most Outstanding Runner award.

And, by the way, at that regional meet in Grand Prairie, Gilmore had run her best 3.1 mile ever: 17 minutes, 58 seconds.

“And the conditions were absolutely horrible,” Lamberte said. “It was raining very, very heavily.”

But that didn’t matter. No amount of rain can dampen the competitive fire that fuels Brooke Gilmore.

Contact Allan Mandell at amandell@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7566 and read his column at KDHPressbox.com

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