In her final toeing of the line at the Lavern Gibson State Course in Terre Haute, Oak Hill senior Mollie Gamble went out like a champion.
Running alongside over 200 of the state’s best runners, Gamble recorded her best ever finish in Terre Haute, finishing in 18th place with a time of 18:39.5.
“With Mollie…[it was] just Mollie being Mollie, and [Saturday] was another example,” Oak Hill Cross Country Head Coach Paige Brunner said. “She is, by far, the most consistent athlete I’ve had in terms of racing. You always know what you are going to get. Her strategy sets up perfectly for the first 4K at Terre Haute – it’s a very tough course. The first 1,000 meters is pretty much a straightaway, and some of it is downhill so it was very, very fast. She was able to control the pace, like she always does in the first 1K.
“Then, from the 1K to the 4K is where she races. In the last two years, we’ve had the goal of when she makes the last turn [to] give herself a chance. We were thrilled that she got another medal. She is one of eight girls in the entire meet that have been all-state more than once. She was one of five girls who medaled this year that also medaled last year.”
Furthermore, Gamble recorded the second-fastest time ever for an Oak Hill Lady Golden Eagle, and in four trips to the state race, Gamble has recorded the second, third, and fourth fastest times in school history.
“It’s not an easy feat,” Brunner said. “It’s a gauntlet down there. Everybody is pretty equal, and for her in the last two years to drop time and still get a medal was pretty special.”
Every year she has been at Terre Haute, Gamble has run a better race than the one before. She finished 67th as a freshman and 32nd as a sophomore, but has put it all together in the past two seasons. After placing 19th last year, she shaved 14 seconds off her time and won her second consecutive medal.
Within the last two years, Gamble won two top-20 podium medals, was named 1st team All-State twice, was named the Class 2A runner of the year, and finished as an Indiana All-Star.
“It’s definitely a younger girls sport,” Brunner said. “Freshmen and sophomores tend to dominate the state events. So when you are a senior, if you are able to still be dropping time and maintaining and take a medal, that is something to be proud of. Great for her to go out that way, and we will enjoy the all-star experience as well.”
Oak Hill has been blessed with some fabulous runners in recent memory, including Cameron Balser and Margo Hornocker.
Now, after an incredible four years, Gamble will go down as one of the greatest runners in the illustrious history of Grant County cross country.
“You just know what Mollie is going to bring to the table,” Brunner said. “She’s pretty cool and collected. She [is special], and it was an honor to coach her – just because she made my job easy. There were super-duper highs, and there were definitely no lows. As a result, she has been as good as anybody in the area ever.”
Along with all of her other accolades, Gamble was only runner to finish in the top 20 from a small school. Running with girls from powerhouse programs like Carroll, Carmel, Fishers, and Homestead, and finishing as well as she did not only speaks of her dedication, but the strength of the Oak Hill program as a whole
“Cross country is like track and some of the other individual sports,” Brunner said. “They are not highly respected, and you try to get kids to buy into what it’s like to be in a one class sport and have to battle with those [big time programs.] Our kids are highly respected and touted on a state level. It’s a good feeling for me to have coaches from Penn, Hamilton Southeastern, and Valpo to come up and congratulate Mollie because they know that it helps put Oak Hill on the map.
“We are beyond appreciative of that opportunity. The older I’ve gotten, the less I’ve taken it for granted, because I know that it’s not a guarantee. Mollie was a top-20 medalist [and from] the smallest school. She’ll be the smallest school representative on the All-Star team, and those are things we take pride in.”
And to top it all off, Gamble had the best season of her career in the midst of tragedy. Earlier this year, her father, Rich Gamble, was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It’s a progressive, neurodegenerative condition, and as of now, there is no cure.
Throughout the year, in each and every race, Gamble ran for her father. She used running as a positive way to cope with a heartbreaking situation.
And through it all, she persisted – shining on the biggest stage.
And her dad was there, cheering her on all the way.
“It’s just another example of how tough she is,” Brunner said. “She doesn’t give off a tough persona, but I think she is a very tough girl. She’s a very well-rounded individual, and we have tried to use running as a vice. We’ve tried to use running as an escape for her. We tried to allow it to be somewhere that she can go and not necessarily deal with the questions. When she goes home, it’s in her face. She is well aware of the situation that her dad is in, and the struggle and the battle he is going through.
“We’ve tried to make running that avenue where for a short period of time every day, she has an outlet. She has used it for a positive instead of a negative.”
Gamble will next compete in the annual Mideast Meet of Champions in Kettering, Ohio on Saturday, November 16. The meet consists of the top 12 seniors from the states of Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and Indiana.