Tigers' Yost is at the head of the class
Haley Yost proved time and time again this season that she had the answers.
A league, district and state cross country medalist, Yost aced one test after another.
But even when your achievements make you the valedictorian of the area cross country class, there are times when you need some help.
For those occasions, Yost has the ultimate phone-a-friend 2009 PIAA Class AA State Champion and former Tiger teammate Lindsay Kerr.
Yost's talent and hard work, along with Northwestern's unmatched network of mentors, proved to be a powerful combination.
All of those factors helped Yost earn the 2012 TIMES NEWS Girls Cross Country Athlete of the Year award.
It also continued Northwestern's decade-long domination of the sport. Not only was this Yost's second straight award, but it was the fifth consecutive time and the seventh time in the last 11 years that a Northwestern girl has received the Player of the Year honor.
"I was happy with my season and I'm thrilled to receive this award," said Yost. "There were some ups and downs, but overall I think things turned out pretty well."
For Yost, transitioning from a talented middle school runner to an eventual PIAA medalist was a process that was made easier by those around her.
"Northwestern has such a great cross country tradition that you can't help but benefit from it," said Yost. "When I was in eighth grade, Lindsay Kerr was a senior. The middle school team got to run with the varsity for some workouts and it was an incredible help to be able to see how hard Lindsay worked and trained, and to see what it took to be successful.
"Since that season, Lindsay been a mentor to me. She's going to school and running at Wake Forest now, but I still call her when I do something good or when I'm struggling with something. Lindsay is like a big sister to me."
Veteran coach Chris Stitzel, who is now in his 14th season in charge of the Tiger program, said It's that type of connection that has made the Northwestern program so successful.
"We have a great tradition here of our upperclassmen taking the younger kids under their wings," he said. "Haley had a number of outstanding runners to look up to when she was young and now she is stepping into that leadership position.
"I think that was part of a maturing process for her. I think she realized that now it was her turn to be a leader and she did a great job of handling that role."
Yost said she made the decision when her sophomore cross country season ended to become more dedicated to the sport.
"I've played club soccer since I was in elementary school," said Yost. "I played on a number of elite and select teams in the region so I put a lot of time into soccer. My first two years in high school, I was actually playing tournaments during the cross country season.
"But this year, I gave up soccer and put a lot more time into training for cross country. This summer I trained harder and was more prepared than ever."
Unfortunately for Yost, an injury just prior to the season threw a wrench into her plans.
"I was diagnosed with IT Band Syndrome and I missed the first two weeks of the season," explained Yost. "IT Band Syndrome is an extremely painful condition of the knees that mostly affects runners and bikers. It takes rest and therapy and when I started running again I was far behind where I wanted to be."
Yost didn't stay down for long, however.
"I finally started getting my times to where I wanted when we ran against Palisades (nearly four weeks into the season)," said Yost. "That's the first race where I felt I was back to 100 percent."
With postseason events just around the corner, it couldn't have come at a better time.
Yost went on to finish third in both the Colonial League and District 11 Class AA meet and finished 25th at the PIAA state championships to earn a medal there as well.
"I set three goals for myself before the season started and I was able to achieve all of them," said Yost. "I wanted to to run under 19 minutes and I did that at Saucon Valley, I wanted to finish in the top three at districts, and I wanted to medal at states.
"As an athlete, there are always things you look at and think that you could have done a little different or wished you had done a little better. But for the most part, I was pleased with what I accomplished."
Yost is another example of how success breeds success when it comes to the Northwestern cross country program.
She is also looking forward to more success.
"I'm going to be setting even higher goals for next season," said Yost. "I want to challenge myself to be the best I can be."
With that kind of attitude, it's no wonder that Yost is at the head of the class when it comes to local cross country runners.