Glencoe’s Giles named Bryant-Jordan regional winner

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Photo: Glencoe High senior Katie Giles (pictured front row center) and the GHS cross country team gather for a photo following the 2022 AHSAA state meet last November in Oakville.(Submitted photo) 

By Josh Bean/For AHSAA

When COVID-19 shut down schools in the spring of 2020, the pandemic also cancelled the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s spring sports season, which included baseball, softball, track and field, soccer, golf and tennis.
In addition, teams were prohibited from gathering for practice or group training sessions, leaving many athletes with no direction.
Not so for Glencoe senior Katie Giles, whose distance running career was supercharged by the pandemic.
“That was the highlight of my day every day,” she said. “I didn’t have anything else to do. I started running every day and started getting a lot faster. That just motivated me to keep going.
“That’s really when I fell in love with running. I started increasing what I had been doing in the past and saw myself improving. I started just having a lot of fun with it.”
After Alabama Governor Kay Ivey closed schools in the spring of 2020, there were no guarantees the fall season would begin.
That uncertainly did not stop Giles, who continued to log miles and refine her training regimen – what she called “the science of running” – in preparation for the 2020 cross country season.
The hard work paid off. State schools re-opened later that summer and the AHSAA sports schedule returned to normal. Giles won the Class 3A cross country title that fall, having logged approximately 700 training miles from March 2020 when the pandemic began to the state meet in early November.
Those who know Giles are not surprised at how she responded to the initial uncertainty caused by the pandemic. Her devotion to running and excellence showcased her driven and determined personality.
“I think of the word ‘grit,” said Sherry Firestone, one of Giles’ teachers at Glencoe. “There’s something inherent in certain people, and Katie has that. People are born with it. You can’t teach it. The kid has that quality that doesn’t come along often.”
Giles also showcases her drive in the classroom. She carries a 4.46 GPA and scored a perfect 36 on the ACT. Although an official determination has not been made, she is on track to be Glencoe’s valedictorian or salutatorian while enrolled in dual-enrollment and Advanced Placement classes. She is also a National Merit Finalist.
Giles recently signed to run cross country and track at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, where she plans to study biomedical sciences with the goal of attending medical school. She hopes to eventually specialize in orthopedics or sports medicine.
The blend of academic and athletic success explains why Giles was honored as one of 52 regional winners in the Bryant-Jordan Program’s Scholar-Athlete category. All regional winners receive a $3,000 scholarship and could win more when statewide winners are announced at the annual Bryant-Jordan banquet April 10 in Birmingham. More than $10 million dollars in scholarship aid has been presented by the Bryant-Jordan program since its inception in 1986.
“Katie is one of the most driven individuals I have ever known,” said her mom Donna, a teacher at Etowah High School. “For her teachers and such, I hope they don’t think we constantly push push her, because she doesn’t require pushing. It’s all motivation from within. She just strives for excellence in everything she puts her hands on. She wants to do her very best in academics and athletics.”
Glencoe High School girls’ track and field coach Adrian Payne shared a story to illustrate Giles’ drive. On the day before the 2023 indoor state track meet, Giles planned a three-mile training run as her final race prep. Knowing Giles prefers to run outdoors, Payne worried about her senior running in a driving rainstorm with temperatures in the mid-40s. Katie would not be deterred.
“She was like, ‘I don’t care. I have got my hat and rain jacket and I’m good to go,’” Payne said. “She literally ran her three miles in freezing temperatures and pouring down rain. And that was by herself. Nobody else. When she has a task that she has to complete, she does whatever it takes to get it completed. She’s a very hard worker. That is in the classroom and in sports. She works harder than any athlete I’ve ever had. One of the things I like to say is that you will not outwork Katie Giles.”
Giles showcased her determination in other ways throughout her high school career. She battled a series of injuries, including a nagging hip injury during her junior season that slowed her progress. Even when she could not clock elite times, she paced younger teammates in an effort to help them log personal bests. She also works a part-time job as a local soccer official, attended Girls State, served as president of the school’s Junior Civitan Club and volunteered her time in numerous community service projects. She played soccer and basketball before giving up both to focus on her running career.
“Katie is just the total package,” said Glencoe High School Principal Wendy Tinker said. “She’s just the real deal. We’re proud to be part of her high school journey, and we hope she takes a little piece with her wherever she goes. She’s one of the most determined kids I’ve ever met. If she can’t do it the first time, she’s going to work and work and work until it’s perfect. You hate to say a perfect kid, but Katie is as close to perfect as I’ve ever seen.”

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