FISHERSVILLE – Natalie Prye has shown that perseverance pays off.
Friday on the Great Meadow course at the state Group 2A cross country meet, Prye finished in the top 15 for the first time in four tries to earn a medal and the all-state honor which goes with it.
For the Wilson Memorial senior, it has been an uphill climb. As a freshman she finished 59th, improving to 47th place as a sophomore. As a junior, she was 21st and last Friday, 11th.
Her state times have also steadily gotten better, from a 22:32 as a freshman to a 20:34 in her most recent race.
It is rather unusual that an athlete qualifies all four years for the big dance, but that is exactly what Prye has done.
For her athletic accomplishments as well as her strong academics, Wilson has selected her as its fall nominee for the City/County Student-Athlete of the Year Award, sponsored by The News Leader.
Prye not only runs cross country for the Green Hornets, but also indoor and outdoor track. By the time she graduates, she will have accumulated 12 varsity letters, four in each sport.
Prye leaves no doubt that cross country is her favorite sport.
“It’s more like a team,” she said.
Prye has been running for a long time. In middle school, she ran in the Hershey track meets and the Charlottesville Ten Miler.
That led to cross country for the first time in the ninth grade.
In Conference 36 competition, she finished second as a junior and first as a senior while in the regional, she was 13th last year and seventh this season, setting the stage for her state medal run.
When cross country is over, she takes her distance running to indoor track where she runs the 4×800 relay, the mile and the 1000. Then in outdoor track, it’s either the 4×800 or 4×400 relay plus the 800 and 1600.
Her favorites are the relays, while in the 800 her fastest time is a 2:21.
“I’m hoping to get faster,” she said. “I want to break the 800 school record in outdoor track which is a 2:21. I went to the state in the 800 as a junior, finished seventh and medaled to be all-state.”
Prye also has numerous other state medals. She has been all-state in both indoor and outdoor track as part of the 4×800 relay team both her sophomore and junior years and this season’s runs are yet to come.
Academically, Pry ranks around 30th in a senior class of 200. She carries a 3.6 overall grade point average with some of her most rigorous subjects being dual enrollment English and AP psychology.
Her favorite field of study is the sciences, and particularly biology. “That’s because I want to be a physical therapist,” she said.
The Wilson senior is involved in numerous extracurricular activities. She is president of the Future Business Leaders of America and has been in the National Honor Society where she has done 30 hours of volunteer work the last two years. She has also been a member of the sign language club.
Prye also has received the all-academic award each year since the ninth grade. It requires a 3.5 average.
Outside school, she does a lot of volunteer work, especially at the SPCA. And at Emmanuel Episcopal Church she is in the youth group.
Attending a four-year college is in her future.
“Christopher Newport is one of my top choices,” she said. “I am hoping to run cross country and track there.”
As for a field of study, she wants to be a physical therapist which will require a doctor’s degree. Prye said she first became interested in becoming a physical therapist during her sophomore year.
“I had a pain in my left Achilles and had to wear a big boot,” she said. “I went to a physical therapist. I did physical therapy to work it out and suddenly it got better.
“Next semester, I will mentor with the physical therapist who treated me. I could have torn the tendon but luckily I didn’t. It was a miracle going there and catching it right away.”
Prye might be unique among her classmates in that she is a vegetarian who eats all organic foods. “I try to eat as healthy as I can,” she said.
Prye also snowboards at Wintergreen, a sport she has done since middle school.
“She is one of the best student-athletes I’ve coached in my career,” Wilson cross country coach Gary Kessler said. “She’s in the top 5-10 percent. “I’ve known her since the eighth grade, and she is focused and dedicated. It’s better to be an A+ person rather than an A+ student, and she is both.”
Each public school from Augusta County, Staunton and Waynesboro selects fall, winter and spring nominees, then selects one finalist. One finalist will also be chosen from nominees made by area private schools.
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