REYNOLDS – San Diego is beckoning.
But for now, enhancing her connection to Raleigh will suffice for Reynolds senior Anna Vess.
The two-time defending NCHSAA 3-A cross country champion signed to do her distance running for N.C. State during a ceremony Tuesday afternoon in the Rockets’ media center.
Family, friends and coaches all warmly applauded Vess before she put pen to paper. Vess will fly out next week for the Dec. 12 Foot Locker Cross Country National Championships meet in San Diego.
Vess is the first Western North Carolina runner, boys or girls, to qualify for the Super Bowl of high school cross country since Carolina Day’s Laura Stanley in 2002. Foot Locker covers all her expenses for the meet, which has been held for decades at Southern California’s Balboa Park, and televised on ESPN’s family of networks.
“Everyone showing up for my signing was really exciting,” Vess said.
“Everyone here and (at N.C. State) has been really supportive.”
Last Saturday’s regional qualifier for the Foot Locker meet in Charlotte featured athletes from 15 different states. Vess logged a personal-record time of 17 minutes, 40 seconds to grab the 10th and final qualifying spot for San Diego.
Vess is a rare four-time NCHSAA 3-A all-state runner in cross country and won the 3-A Western Regional meet each of the past three years. She was also the Buncombe County and Mountain Athletic Conference champ this autumn.
As far as track goes, Vess was the NCHSAA 3-A champion in the 800-meter run and 1,600-meter run with the area’s fastest times in both — (2 minutes, 17.41 seconds) and (5:03.49), respectively, last spring.
Her personal best for the 1,600-meter run is 4:58.22.
Vess has balanced swimming and distance running throughout her four years at Reynolds. She wakes most mornings for a 5:30 a.m. practice with the YMCA of Western North Carolina Piranhas.
“Anna shows up every morning and is as dedicated as anyone around,” Piranhas coach Kirk Hampleman said.
“She never misses anything.”
Vess will have to give up her swimming career, competitively-speaking, at N.C. State. But she said she still plans to incorporate pool training into her routine.
As of Friday, there are 51 athletes from Western North Carolina who have committed or signed to play college sports.