CROWN POINT | It was the fall of her sophomore year. That's when the hopes and dreams and flashes of brilliance finally broke through for Crown Point's Lauren McCarroll.
Then, running behind teammate Laicee Pierce who would later sign with Indiana University, McCarroll was just trying to find her place on the Bulldogs' team.
Crown Point coach Patty Begley saw McCarroll step into her own two years ago at the invitational meet in Lansing.
"Lauren took the lead in that race, and Laicee had always been our No. 1," Begley said. "But Lauren took off and led for much of that race, which is what I always thought she could do. I tried very hard to get Lauren to believe she was in that league.
"Everyone always thought Lauren was running in Laicee's shadow. I don't look at it that way at all. Lauren is very talented, and she is her own runner."
At last year's state cross country meet, McCarroll finished 35th with a time of 19:19.3.
This year, with Pierce in Bloomington, it will be McCarroll leading the Bulldogs again.
"I am my own runner, and I always try to do my best," McCarroll said. "Laicee gave me something to shoot for. But I beat her sometimes. I wasn't always behind her.
"There is a certain amount of pressure this year. I just have to keep working as hard as I can."
Begley doesn't believe work ethic is an issue with McCarroll, who has run over 4,000 miles at Crown Point in training and meets for cross country and track.
A lunch bucket and a hard hat has always been a part of McCarroll's running style.
"Lauren is a kid who has worked for everything she's achieved," Begley said. "She's an old-school athlete. She is not afraid of hard work. Lauren has a lot of talent but most of her success has come from hard work."
The fact that McCarroll is even running now makes her laugh a bit. As a 3-year-old, in her first race, she finished dead last. She doesn't remember how many other runners were in the race or where it was at, but she does recall one thing.
"I finished last," she said with a laugh. "And I tried every single sport out there and wasn't very good. In middle school, I started running every day, and I kept getting better, and it became my own sport."
Lauren's father, Chuck, was a standout runner at Griffith back in the day and continues to compete in all kinds of road races. It's not like his daughter hasn't noticed the effort he puts in.
"He has been a big inspiration to me," Lauren said.
The 3.8 honors student would like to run in college. But there are a lot of things on her plate. She also plays the cello in the orchestra. Her goal is to get a degree in sports marketing.
"I want to keep progressing (as a runner) as far as I can," McCarroll said. "I want our team to be the best it can be, and I want to be running my best when the postseason gets here."