Haley Verbeke faces the realization that her races on the Browning Field track are numbered.|
"It's weird to think about," the Moline senior runner said earlier this week. "I'm looking at it in a positive way. I've had a really good four years."
Her run, though, still has a final chapter to be written.
Until then, Verbeke focuses solely on the next race.
A three-time state qualifier and two-time Western Big 6 Conference champion in the 3200-meter run, Verbeke's career is already decorated. All that is missing is the state hardware, something that has yet to enter her mind as she prepares for Saturday's season-opening Shipley Invitational.
What has her attention is what she can control.
"I just want to get good times," Verbeke said. "I can only do what I can do."
Rather than burden herself with the pressure of performing six weeks from now, Verbeke is taking each race as it comes and hoping it can take her where she wants to go. To get there, she wants to go quickly.
Hardware does not compare to faster times.
"I hope I can put down good times so I can boost my self-esteem," said Verbeke, who announced in January that she will continue her career at Illinois State. "I know I'll be running against good competition, so we'll see."
Moline has seen enough to know what Verbeke can do.
"She's very capable. She's shown already what she's capable of," Moline coach Joel Bohnsack said. "With her work ethic and determination, she has unlimited possibilities."
For now, Verbeke's focus is on slicing time in the 1600 and 3200. Before graduating, she wants to cut nine seconds off her personal best in the mile, down to 5:10. The two-mile run requires a 13-second shave to 11 minutes.
Can this be done? Verbeke believes so.
"I keep improving each year, at least a little bit," Verbeke said. "I'm looking forward to (a personal best in the 3200), especially since my times are dropping in the indoor season. I'll just keep trying to work hard in practice to reach those goals."
Using more energy working than on dwelling, Verbeke eyes the next workout and race with the goal to make it the best one she's had. That drive puts her at a level where she can compete against anyone and reach the numbers she wants to reach.
"That's what makes you better," Verbeke said.
In the last three years, she has done that.
The only thing she has not accomplished is earning Moline's first distance state medal since 2008.
"We want to see her end happy," Bohnsack said. "It doesn't have to be a medal, but if it is a medal, we'd be more ecstatic. That's a possibility. For us, it's more about her fulfilling goals."
Judging by a recent interview, those goals — mainly the times — can be reached.
"I have a lot of confidence," Verbeke said. "I've gained it over the years with experience. ... I work really hard, and I do what I can do in the meets. I hope for the best. You can't ask for anything else if you put forth your best effort."
Those words should make Verbeke's ending a good one.
"She makes every season good," Bohnsack said. "She works hard every day. She does a great job, wants to get better and does all the right things in between."
Gene Shipley Invitational
Where: Browning Field, Moline
Times: 9:30 a.m. (field events) and 10:30 a.m. (track events)
Boys' teams: Alleman, Moline, Rock Island, United Township, East Peoria, Galesburg, Machesney Park Harlem, Ottawa
Girls' teams: Alleman, Moline, Rock Island, United Township, Galesburg, Rockford Auburn, Sterling, Wheaton Warrenville South
Milan, IL Details
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