There is genuinely no way for Emma Curry to describe her thoughts after a cross-country race. The Waxahachie sophomore sometimes cannot even recall large portions of the several-thousand meters of terrain she travels, often doing so in well under 19 minutes.
Instead, Curry cuts the race into segments, always on the lookout for the next tree, turn or hilltop in which to gauge her split. There are, after all, no leaderboards or scoreboards on the cross-country course. Runners are left to their personal thoughts and inner motivations.
She does not sing tune, either; that much is for sure. She also does not consider the history she could be closing in on with each and every step. She doesn't even think about homework that might be due in order to maintain her No. 2 ranking in the class of 2021.
“The [regional] race happened so fast for me that I don’t remember anything from the race. I have no idea what happened,” Curry laughed. “I remember certain little points; like I remember certain little things I did to catch a person but, other than that, I have no real memory of what I did.
“During the race, I try not to think because, if you think too much, it will affect you mentally and it will slow you down. I try not to think about anything other than where I need to be. If I think too much, it’s just not good.
She will soon test that blissfully calm mindset and work ethic on the state’s biggest stage. When Curry toes the line Saturday, Nov. 3 at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock, it will be as the first Lady Indian to ever do so at the state-championship level, regardless of the classification. She is also the first-ever student from Waxahachie High School to qualify for a 6A state championship.
“I didn’t ever really even think about it before the [regional] race, I was just kind of like, ‘If I go to state then I know it’s because I’ve worked hard for this all year,’” Curry recalled on Thursday.
“But then, after I made it to state, everyone started telling me that and it’s pretty cool. I never really thought of it that way, but after everyone started saying things, I realized that I will be the first, like, forever,” she humbly added with a laugh.
Curry qualified for the 6A state championships after her 15th-place finish Monday at the 6A Region I championship meet held at Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock.
The Lady Indians finished in sixth place as a team with 191 points, just two spots behind fourth-place Coppell (107 points) for the final team berth into the state championships.
Perennial powerhouses Flower Mound (77), Southlake Carroll (89) and Keller (91) also qualified for the 6A state meet.
According to head coach Edward De La Cruz, the race organizers can choose to make the course a three-mile race or 5k at the regional meet. The terrain in Lubbock featured several uncommonly steep hills, which ultimately resulted in the organizers to choose the three-mile option. It was the first time Curry and the Lady Indians had raced at that distance — ever.
“The day before the race, we walked the course and ran it to make sure that we knew where we needed to be and what we needed to do. But I was mainly just trying to prepare mentally because it is basically a 5k, just a little shorter," Curry explained. "Since it was shorter, I knew that I would be able to go faster and get out faster. I tried to treat it like all of my other races but I also knew where I had to be to go to state.”
So, with her 18:08.89, Curry now holds the program record in the three-mile. She also holds the fastest times on the track in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races and as a member of the distance medley relay. She only lacks the 5k record — which she has already set twice but had bested by Emily Mackel earlier this season — and the two-mile owned by Alyson Moore from owning all of the Lady Indians cross-country and long-distance records.
She’ll have one more opportunity to reclaim the 5k mark in a few short days in Round Rock.
Her sophomore season has not been without challenges though. Curry actually battled through an inflamed hip tendon and minor knee injury during the middle portion of the season. The injury hampered her training schedule a little but she “got better pretty fast" and has continued to knock seconds, even a full minute, off of her time since the midway point of the season.
“After a few weeks of taking it kind of easy, I got back into it and into full training and started to improve more," she said.
However, the big question that has been left unanswered as Curry has continued to set record after record and become one of the most decorated female long-distance runners in school history all before ever legally driving a vehicle still remains: Why on earth did she choose to excel in an sport that is typically used as a punishment for high school athletes?
It happened by accident, of course.
Curry explained her involvement in cross country began as a way to stay in shape for soccer and volleyball over the summer. To do so, she started to attend the annual cross-country camp held at Getzendaner Park on most mornings ahead of her freshman year.
“And a lot of my friends did it and kept telling me to come out,” Curry said. “I ended up going almost every day and being one of the best ones there. I just ended up running and made varsity, so…”
Until that time, the only experience Curry had with competitive races was in junior high, where she ran the 110- and 300-meter hurdles, as well as the 4x400-meter relay. “I didn’t ever do anything long distance,” she added.
Though she is still just a handful of races removed from those junior high hurdling days, Curry assures she is ready to test her newfound prowess at the state championships later this week. She has already begun to mentally prepare, recalling images from the course and crowds that she witnessed last season while watching 2018 Waxahachie graduate Brandon Gilliland compete for the 5A boys' title.
Curry will make the trip to Round Rock on Thursday, which allows her two days to walk the course and identify those landmarks that will ultimately aid her in cutting the race into more manageable segments.
Her bottom-line goal is to finish inside the top-20 and feels she is peaking at just the right time. If she has one of her best starts, Curry is confident that she can run somewhere close to 18:30.
"If I can just get out like I did at regionals and just stay there, I think I’ll be OK. Obviously, I want to break the school record and just run my best time all season," Curry explained.
She added, “I think once I get closer to it, I will be a little bit more nervous because right now I am just kind of excited to have made it there. It was my goal to make it to state and I didn’t ever really think past that point. Now that I am actually there I am going to be a little more nervous when the day finally comes. I am excited to get to race there.”