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Howell North senior pushes for big spring finish

Francis Howell North senior 800-meter runner Mackenzie Pugh is making her mark as one of the top middle distance runners in the area this spring.

Mackenzie Pugh is an athlete that can and will do whatever it takes to succeed in any track season even she participates in. The Howell North senior’s “whatever it takes to succeed” attitude has helped turn her into one of the area’s top 800 meter runners this spring.

Pugh has been running as one of the 4 x 800 relay legs for the Knights’ team this spring and has been putting up strong times with virtually every meet. She is currently the fourth best 800-meter runner in the area, but her strong performances have been no surprise to Howell North coach Kimberly Martin.

“… I keep data on all [team members’] workouts and I can see how their tracking from last year to this year, and she’s already made a huge jump [in performance] from last year to this year,” Martin said.

Getting a productive start early in the season has been crucial for Pugh. She’s also been pleased to see her times drop, from 3:28.21 at the Lindenwood Invitational in March down to her season low of 2:21.56, recently set at the Northwest Cedar Hill Invitational on April 6.

“I feel like it’s been pretty good and I’ve dropped time pretty early in the season, so it’s something I’m definitely happy about but I haven’t met goals yet, so we’ll see how the rest of the season plays out,” Pugh said.

A very strong mindset focused on success in each race, be it the 800 or a relay leg, has helped Pugh excel in her career at Howell North.

Pugh, who is headed to Southeast Missouri State University to run track next year, feels that mental toughness has been the driving force in helping her not just compete, but excel against some of the area top runners consistently.

“Having a lot of experience being mentally tough, it’s definitely something that helps me compete well,” Pugh said. “I know that I rely on my teammates, they rely on me, and we are all just doing it for each other [on the track].”

Martin noted that Pugh’s dedication to training and improving year round has also helped her career.

“Just her training throughout the years – she plays basketball in the offseason and she’ll still go on runs throughout the winter – and again her confidence every year,  it’s stepped up another level from last year, and she’s confident in starting races,” Martin said.

On April 12, Pugh had another strong performance at the Henle Holmes Invitational at Parkway Central, where she ran a solid 2:24 to place third in the 800 meter. While not totally thrilled with the performance, Pugh still was glad to have run in the meet because it gave her a chance to see what her competitors were doing in the 800.

“It was really [about] seeing everyone and seeing what pace they were running at because there were a lot of girls there that are going to be in our district and sectional that I’ll be racing against, so it was good to see that,” Pugh said.

There is still one big goal left for Pugh to achieve this season. After finishing in 11th place in the 800 at the Class 4 state meet last spring, she is now looking to finish in the top eight of the 800-meter run at state with a time of 2:18 or better.

“I got 11th place at state last year and so I would really like to place top eight at state and get a medal,” Pugh said. “That would be awesome.”

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