November 1, 2012

ATHLETE OF THE WEEK: Cass standout XC runner Carney also wrestles

by Beau Wicker

— Cass junior Gabi Carney showed how tough of a runner she is this fall, reaching the girls cross country semistate and getting within 11 seconds of the school record in the sport.

She’s also showing how tough she is as an individual, as she’s going out for the boys wrestling team this year.

Carney said her decision to go out for the wrestling team started out as a joke.

“I was a manager for the team last year and we always joked about it with the coaches when some of the boys weren’t doing that good that we could do better,” she said. “I decided to try it out.”

When asked about the experience of wrestling against bigger, stronger boys, the 93-pound Carney gave a one-word answer: “Painful.”

But Carney is the only member of the team under the 106-pound weight barrier, which means she’s in line for a varsity spot.

She said she thinks she can win some matches this year by points but doubts she’ll be able to pin anyone in her first year in the sport. She feels she has strong lower-body strength but is well behind the boys in upper-body strength.

“I’m enjoying it. It’s a new experience,” she said. “It works different muscles. It’s making me more well rounded.”

She said she has been inspired by Culver Academies’ Kayla Miracle, who became the first girl to reach the IHSAA wrestling state finals last year as a sophomore.

Carney is a talented distance runner. She finished in seventh at the Logansport Sectional with a career-best time of 20:24. She then finished 15th at the Culver Academies Regional in 20:33 to advance to the New Prairie Semistate for the first time in her career.

Carney made big strides her junior season. She credits that in part to a running camp she attended at Culver Academies this summer.

Her time of 20:24 at the sectional was close to the school record time of 20:13 set by Ashley Baber, who was a four-time semistate qualifier at Cass and is now a sophomore cross country runner at Bethel College.

Carney finished in 116th place at the semistate with a time of 22:09.

“I had a bad finish at semistate. Hopefully I’ll do better next year,” she said. “It was a really big meet and different from anything I’ve ever run in. It was a lot to take in for the first time.”

Overall Carney said her junior season exceeded expectations.

“I think it went really well. My goals were making semistate and breaking 21:00, and I got close to the school record instead,” she said.

The following is a question-and-answer session with Carney.

Q. Of the sports you play, which is your favorite? Why?

A. Cross is my favorite because we are such a small group of girls and we have so many opportunities to bond and have fun.

Q. How did you first get started in sports? At what age?

A. I started playing soccer at about age 4 but I don’t play anymore. I started running the fun run at school as a kindergartner.

Q. Do you have any family members who played sports?

A. My dad [Steve] and brother [Madison] were both cross country runners. My dad still runs street races.

Q. Have you ever played a sport that you were not successful at?

A. Yes, I was not a very good basketball or softball player.

Q. How do you feel you’ve improved as an athlete since you first started playing?

A. I have a greater commitment towards workouts and practices, especially when it comes to conditioning.

Q. Who do you consider your biggest role model? Why?

A. My biggest role model is probably my late band director, Mr. Mike Clark. He gave so much even at such hard times.

Q. What experiences have you had in sports have made you the athlete you are today?

A. I had a great opportunity to go to a distance camp at CMA and that really helped my outlook on running. It just showed me new techniques and how to look forward to the season and not give up.

Q. What is something that not everyone knows about you?

A. I injured my back and tailbone riding a mechanical bull last New Year’s Eve.

Q. What is your favorite memory of playing sports at your school?

A. My favorite memory was probably when our team won the Caston Invite and one of our coaches, Joyce Bower, freaked out.

Q. What’s your favorite music, movie, TV show, etc.?

A. Musical artist: Jason Aldean. Sports team: Cubs. Book: The Lovely Bones. TV show: The Big Bang Theory. Movie: Rocketman.

Q. Who is the best athlete in your respective sport you’ve ever gone up against?

A. Ashley Erba from Warsaw is the best athlete I ran against.

Q. What are your goals for your future? Do you plan on attending college?

A. My goals for my future are to go to college for psychology or some type of social work.

Each week during the school year the Pharos-Tribune recognizes an athlete from one of five area high schools. The recipients are selected by each school’s athletic department.