Bishop LeBlond graduate Sommer Herner finished her freshman year at the University of Missouri-Kansas City with a successful track season.

After competing in less than six track meets in her high school career, Herner was offered a scholarship to compete in cross country, as well as track and field, for the Kangaroos.

“I’m very tenacious. Whatever it’s going to take, I’m willing to do because I’m so competitive and I want to be the best,” Herner said.

The UMKC distance runner finished her freshman campaign at the U20’s National Championship, where she placed sixth in the 1,500-meter run with a time of 4 minutes, 43.07 seconds.

“Once I got into the meet it felt so surreal” Herner said. “It was so awesome and it was such a cool experience.”

Herner recorded a UMKC top-five all-time performance in the 1,000-meter run this indoor season at the Jayhawk Classic. She ranked fifth in the record book with a time of 3:00.74.

The former Golden Eagle is still fairly new to distance running. She didn’t join LeBlond’s track and field team until her senior year of high school. Herner became a dual-sport athlete that season so she could play soccer and run track.

“Two days before my very first meet, the coaches told me I had a lot of potential for the mile. I went to that first meet and ended up winning first place with a time of 6:11,” Herner said. “It was super long and painful, but I just began to run more and I just kept progressing.”

The distance runner claimed a gold medal at the Class 2 District 8 meet when she ran the mile in 5:44.04. Herner became one of seven LeBlond athletes to earn a spot at sectionals. She finished her high school career with a state championship appearance.

“Sommer was always naturally a good runner,” LeBlond track and volleyball coach Kim Huss said. “When Sommer ran at the state track meet, that was about her fifth track meet ever.”

Herner finished fourth in the 1,600-meter run, but it was enough to grab the attention of UMKC track & field and cross country coach Brett Guemmer.

UMKC offered Herner a Division I scholarship, which she quickly accepted.

The student-athlete had never ran cross country until this past season.

“I came out of high school and had never ran more than a mile,” Herner said. “I would be lying if I said I didn’t struggle a lot in cross country because I was thrown in with such talented teammates.”

Herner said she began to doubt herself during cross country season and thought that she wasn’t good enough. However, with the help from her coaches, she became stronger and faster.

“My coach just kept reminding me, ‘You’re still new to this. Just keep working hard and it will come along,’” Herner said.

The 19-year-old, who was also an all-state volleyball and soccer player, has already begun training for her second season of cross country and looks to beat her personal record of 22:47.4 in the 6K.

Kristen Carver can be reached

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