If there was any doubt remaining heading into her senior season, Brynne Sumner once again proved she was one of the top runners in Georgia with three more state championships.
Sumner captured her first cross country title in the fall, then defended her titles in the 800- and 1,600-meter runs during the spring to finish her high school career as one of the most decorated athletes in Cherokee County history, with five individual state titles.
“Obviously, you want to win everything you can,” Sumner said. “Once you do, you’re just working toward repeating.”
Sumner’s accomplishments earned her two Cherokee County Cross Country Runner of the Year awards, a pair of Track and Field Athlete of the Year recognitions and, now, her second straight Cherokee County Female Athlete of the Year honor.
Sumner's speed has also earned her a scholarship to run compete in track and cross country at Villanova.
Though both of Sumner's parents ran track at the university outside Philadelphia, she actually credited much of her success to a sport she stopped long ago.
“Before running, I was a gymnast for 10 years,” Sumner said. “I think that’s where I get who I am as an athlete -- my determination and how I approach my training. It’s such a tough sport. Having to overcome injuries and work all the time taught me a lot. I didn’t have much of a social life because I was always training. It just helped me become the runner I am today.”
While her schedule as a runner remains demanding, Sumner said she is sure to take at least some rest during the season when she is not training on the Woodstock campus or on the trails of Boling Park, Noonday Creek or Cochran Shoals.
Sumner also enjoys reading, working on school and studying the Bible, but the majority of her free time is still spent in activities that will still help her in her sport.
“I always take at least one day off a week,” she said. “I also try to implement some cross-training in there. I’ll bike or I’ll swim. You need the rest, but it’s important to make sure you’re staying in some kind of aerobic shape.”
Those activities become increasingly important as the season nears its end.
Sumner entered her senior season at the point where state titles were her only focus. To finish strong, she needed to make sure she was fresh at the end of both seasons.
“When I’m starting to end my season, I’ll taper,” Sumner said. “My mileage is pretty much cut in half. You have more energy and you’re ready to go for your race. That definitely helps to have some chill time before big races.”
The end of this high school season was far from the end of Sumner’s track season, though. She runs unattached in some of the country’s biggest meets, where she gets a chance to see just how fast other runners from around the country are.
“The competition is usually better,” Sumner said. “People come from multiple different states, so it’s not just Georgia girls. I kind of got my butt kicked in a couple races. It was good to see that I can do well in Georgia, but there are 49 other states. I definitely have a lot of work to do. I can keep improving.”
Not only does occasionally struggling in races provide motivation for Sumner to improve, but it also offers her a chance to do so.
Over the last two seasons, Sumner has been favored in nearly every high school race she has entered, so when she is no longer clearly the fastest, she is able to work out new strategies.
“You go in for the experience of not leading,” Sumner said. “Here in Georgia, I would feel pretty comfortable leading a bunch of races. When some of the girls in your race can run 5 seconds faster than you, you definitely don’t want to be leading them. It’s just fun to play with some strategy a little bit and get ready for the collegiate races.”
Sumner will continue to see improved competition when she begins her career at Villanova next month. She hopes it can be the next stop in a career that will eventually include the world’s top competitions, but, just like any race she runs, she is only focused on the next step.
“I try to take my goals one step at a time,” Sumner said. “I would really like to make a USA team, whether that’s for World Juniors or another team like that. There are a lot of opportunities for it. Down the road, if the Olympics present themselves, that would be pretty incredible. I’m just getting ready for college right now, though.”