Joy Gill placed seventh at the 2021 Hoka One McNeil Invitational
Joy Gill was all set to compete this past weekend in the 2021 McNeil Invitational presented by Hoka One. Not a big deal for a Texas state champion, right?
A state champion would be a fan favorite and one expected to compete for a top spot at a high profile and an ultra competitive meet like McNeil.
Well, not so fast; Gill isn't a UIL state champion. She also isn't a SPC or TAPPS state champ. What she is, is the defending Homeschool cross country state champion and not all Texas cross country fans are aware of Gill's talent and abilities. Not many fans are even aware that the Homeschools in Texas have a state championship meet. Well, they do and the San Antonio Homeschool Spartans runner won last year by pulling away in the last mile and a half as a junior.
However, not even Gill was confident or sure how Saturday's race would go. It was only her second 5,000m race of the season, she said, "I've only done one other 5K other than this one this season, I really just wanted to see what I was capable of with this race."
"I've been training really well all summer," Gill said. Maybe this performance shouldn't be as big of a surprise considering last spring she ran a blazing 18:03.04 at the Texas Distance Festival. That talent along with the work Gill put in over the summer all came together at McNeil.
Not only did it come down to fitness and ability, but it came down to racing. In the meet preview, we said that she is seldom challenged in races and asked how would she respond on this stage. Her ability to race was a huge determining factor aside from her fitness level as she was able to get out fast and into position to compete. Gill then was able to keep pace as the race moved and was able to pass and be ok with getting passed.
She said, "the first mile, I came across way faster than I thought I was going to and I felt real strong, around the 2K mark, I was able to pass some kids." Gill stayed consistent in her placing throughout the race and when passed, she didn't get razzle dazzled and was able to pass athletes throughout the race answering our question and establishing herself as competitive enough to be on this stage. "I tried to head out there with the top pack and if I find myself in an open area with nobody with me, just try to keep the pace as best I can," she said.
This was just the second 5,000m of Gill's season, but there will be more of her running soon to come. She will compete this upcoming weekend at the Nike South Invitational in The Woodlands, Texas. "Time wise, that was a big PR for me. I'm very excited about going into the next races, I feel pretty confident."