Nutrition, strength and core training. Those three factors are what sets Mandarin's Mary Kate Ponder apart from her peers. The senior says she is had her best summer yet and has transitioned right into cross country training following a successful track season in which she placed second in the 1600 and fourth in the 3200.
"I actually started out with lower mileage at the beginning of the summer and really focused on my form and my strength to build a strong foundation. I have been running between 40-50 miles per week more recently, in addition to continuing strength work."
Ponder has seen her performance increase over her high school career. Last year as a junior, she finished fifth in a new personal best time of 18:36.33. She believes she has done the extra things to take her talent to the next level for her senior season.
"I have really made what I eat a priority and I have seen a difference this summer by cutting out junk food. I never spent much time on strength training until this summer. I go through an injury prevention and core workout daily, as well as some weights, and medicine ball training. I have stopped heel striking and I am working on becoming more efficient with my form. My diet is cutting out sugar, salt, and red meat. It has really helped a lot."
This year she has learned to be more patient, trust in her coaches, and trust in her training. It's a training plan and a lifestyle that she is bought into and feels others should as well.
"To other athletes I would say mileage is important, but it's only part of becoming a good runner, to balance it with strength and nutrition is really important."