Prep Signing: Gray Stone’s Goodnight running to UNC-Wilmington
By Ronnie Gallagher
MISENHEIMER — When Gray Stone’s Sarah Goodnight injured her ankle during her junior year, she figured her gymnastics career, which had been going strong since the age of three, was over.
The pounding, vaulting and tumbling were simply too stressful on it.
“I took up running as a backup, and ended up loving it,” Goodnight said.
So much so that she has turned herself into a Division I cross country recruit in just a year and a half.
Goodnight, who lives in the Carson district, is running all the way to the beach to continue her career at UNC-Wilmington.
“It’s very amazing,” Gray Stone coach Michael Furr said. “She has a high pain tolerence. Pushing through the pain helps tremendously when you’re trying to drop times in the 5K. I think she has more of an advantage coming from something that is so mentally intense as gymnastics. ”
Goodnight’s senior year was her first full season and she didn’t waste time proving she belonged. She won the Yadkin Valley Conference cross country championship with a time of 22:25. Her personal best is 20:58.
Early on, Furr knew a title was possible, and he told another of his better runners, Caroline McLeod, to beware.
“I made the comment at one of our first meets to Caroline that she was going to be pushed. Sarah was new and was learning her legs, and when she got it, Caroline better watch out. She better start working hard.”
Goodnight and McLeod pushed each other and shared in a third-place finish in the 4x800 relay in the 1A state meet.
That’s a long way from when she hurt her ankle as a junior.
“I made myself run five miles a day,” she said. “I forced myself. It was a struggle.”
A year later?
“I’m up to eight miles a day,” she smiled.
Goodnight was on top of gymnastics at one point, making the N.C. team at Level 8 and becoming a state all-around champion.
But it should be no surprise that Goodnight has mastered her second sport due to good genes. Her grandfather, Bob Howard, is in the Lafeyette College Sports Hall of Fame. Her grandmother, Margie, is still a competitive tennis player in her 70s. Dad Paris played basketball at A.L. Brown and mom Nancy played softball at South Mecklenburg.
“I guess they kind of inspired me to keep up the athletic thing after gymnastics,” Sarah said.
Furr, who has sent other runners to UNC-W, thinks Goodnight has found her sport.
“She’s a natural athlete but where it translates is toughness,” he said. “It’s not as easy as you think to drop times. Your body has to do a lot of changing. To have her winning with these times already have some coaches excited about what she can do down the road.”
Goodnight said she was considering Clemson or North Carolina but when Furr and Seahawks coach Jim Sprecher began talking, things changed.
“Since there was a little interest,” Goodnight said, “I thought it would definitely be worth it if I could be a collegiate athlete.”
Goodnight is now totally focused on what’s next. Furr thinks perhaps the mile and the 800 for his star runner
Maybe even the 10,000 meters?
“I don’t know how many they have running that at UNC-W,” Furr said, “but she’d be really good at it because of her toughness.”
That toughness made her one of North Carolina’s best gymnasts at her level.
Now, it’s time for another challenge and you can bet Sarah Goodnight is going to run with the opportunity.