E.A. Sports Today

Running for life

Jacksonville’s King has taken to running to help her overcome some difficult personal circumstances

Jacksonville sophomore Olivia King talks with family and friends after finishing third in the Class 4A girls championship race.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
OAKVILLE – Not all the winners in Saturday’s state cross country championship brought home a trophy.
Jacksonville sophomore Olivia King finished third in the Class 4A girls race, high enough to get an all-state medal but not a trophy. Her time of 19:58.71 beat a lot of people, she just couldn’t catch race winner Kathy Hammond of LAMP or West Morgan runnerup Yarahy Marcelino and for now she’s OK with that.
She beat a lot more than a bunch of runners with her finish. Third place on this day represented a big finish to a first season of running that had her beating a tougher opponent than anything she might find on the cross country course.
King comes from a line of runners, several of them surrounding her with love Saturday after the race; her dad is an ultra-marathoner. But she only started running this fall as a means of standing up to a crippling eating disorder she bravely disclosed after the race, actually speaking the term – anorexia – for the first time.
She fought back tears as she mustered the courage to discuss the disorder that consumed her young life and explain the importance running has to help her get past it.
“I found running was like a way to escape everything,” she said. “I had a hard time and it helped me through a lot.
“I’ve never shared this. I had an eating disorder and nobody really knows that; it was really hard. I had anorexia and I never thought that would happen to me, but I found running as an escape. I wish I would have joined it sooner.”
She’s good at it, too. She was sixth right out of the gate in the season-opening Wildcat Twilight Invite at White Plains. She finished 11thin the Jesse Owens Classic on this course in October, was second in the Wildcat Fall Classic, second in the county championship and won her sectional.
“I really don’t care if I win, I just do my best for whatever day I can do my best for,” she said.
King was running eighth once the pack settled into Saturday’s race, then over the next mile steadily moved up to fourth. She passed UMS-Wright’s Brenda Ellis and Karis Kelley of team champion American Christian in the final mile to finish third.
“I wasn’t expecting to break 20,” she said. “I figured I’d get around third place looking at the stats, but those girls are really fast.
“This is really big. It’s my first year, so it’s pretty cool.”

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