By Suzanne Floyd Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations
Out of all the people who graduate high school each year, a very small percentage have the talent level to play sports at the collegiate level. Possessing the ability to make not only one, but two varsity Division I teams is even more of a rarity.
For Ole Miss junior Katie Breathitt, the journey from lifetime soccer player to school record-breaking cross country and track and field standout has been anything but commonplace. A self-described "extreme competitor," Breathitt has taken little time to show that she has what it takes and more to succeed as a runner.
"After my freshman year playing soccer, I was approached by the track program to see if I was interested in running cross country in the fall. I ran in a few meets and realized how much I enjoyed it," Breathitt said.
Breathitt, a native of Lexington, Ky., never participated in cross country or track in high school. She was a member of Ole Miss' soccer team in 2008 and 2009 before making the switch.
"I never ran on a team in high school because I was always playing soccer," she said. "Soccer obviously involves a lot of running, but running in meets is completely different than in a soccer game."
After taking a chance at a sport in which she had never participated, she hit the ground running - literally - and hasn't looked back since.
"I just really love to run. People think it's crazy that I stopped playing one sport to go to practice to strictly run. That was like conditioning before, but now it's all I do."
Though her record on the track was nothing short of outstanding for the Rebels in her first season, Breathitt was very quick to admit that the transition from soccer to cross country and track was not as easy as one might think.
"The biggest change for me was waking up at five or six in the morning to run and then having practice later on in the day again. It's not easy some mornings getting out of bed to train, but I'm pretty used to it now," she said.
Her training has certainly paid off thus far in her short but impressive running career. Breathitt smashed the Ole Miss record in the 3,000 meter steeplechase with a time of 10:39.95 to place fifth at the 2011 SEC Track and Field Championships. Another record broken by Breathitt was in the 5,000 meters. She ran a time of 16:49.76 to finish eighth at the SEC Championships.
"It's cool that every time I get a personal record that it is also a school record," Breathitt said.
"Katie has been a great addition for us," cross country coach Doug Blackwell said. "She even started out last year with some health issues, so her cross country performance wasn't nearly as good as it could have been. After scoring in two events at the SEC Outdoors, it really ups our expectations for this cross country season."
For someone who has had so much success in a short time, Breathitt attributes her achievements to everyone but herself.
"I really enjoy training with my teammate (fellow distance runner) Logan Waites," she said. "She pushes me to try hard in all of our workouts and is extremely good to train with. Also, my twin sister is someone I've competed with and against my entire life, so she definitely has impacted me and made me want to stay on top of my game."
Breathitt's twin sister Kelsey is also an Ole Miss student-athlete. Kelsey, a member of the soccer team, is following in her sister's footsteps by becoming a cross country and track athlete.
"She has recently joined the track program as well, and I am excited to get to be on the same team with her again," Katie said.
If history repeats itself, the addition of another Breathitt sister to the team will prove to be positive for the Ole Miss cross country and track programs. Goals for the season are at an all-time high as far as Katie is concerned.
"My goal for the season is to keep getting better, especially at the 3,000 meter race and the steeplechase," Katie said. "I really love the steeplechase race because it is so different from the others with all of the hurdles and obstacles. I hope that I can improve in that area the most."
If her first season as a cross country and track athlete at Ole Miss is any indication for the next few years Katie Breathitt will have as a Rebel runner, more school records and championships are on the horizon.
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