Great Bend High School cross country runner Erin Sullivan has a plan.
That plan went into effect Wednesday when Sullivan signed to run cross country for Barton Community College next season.
That plan coincides with Sullivan graduating from Kansas State University’s dietician and nutrition program.
“I’ve looked at some other places and I’ve had offers from other junior colleges and a couple of other places, but it just seemed like the smartest idea was to stay in Barton,” Sullivan said. “I plan to go to Barton for one year and then I am going to go to K-State.”
At Barton, Sullivan will be running for head coach Zack Vogel, who is starting his first year with the community college. Before Barton, Vogel was a coach at Ellinwood.
Sullivan said that Barton had the best program to prepare her for Kansas State.
“I am going to learn to be a dietician and nutritionist,” Sullivan said. “I am going to Barton because they have the pre-dietetics program, so they pretty much went together.
“Barton had the best program for it, so it made sense to come to Barton because it went hand-in-hand with K-State’s program for dietician and nutrition.”
According to her coaches at Great Bend, it is her drive and leadership that makes Sullivan a great addition to a cross country team.
“(Barton) is getting a consistent runner,” Lady Panthers assistant coach Josh Lee said. “They are getting a runner that will give them everything that she’s got every day at practice. They’re getting a leader, probably starting on her first day out there.”
Sullivan entered her senior season with a plan. She wanted to be an All-Western Athletic Conference runner all four years at Great Bend.
Sullivan injured her ankle prior to the Lady Panthers first meet last fall.
“She had a goal,” Lady Panthers head coach Todd Kaiser said. “She wanted to be all-conference all four years in high school and that badly sprained ankle kind of ruined that goal for her. But she still went out and battled for her team.”
Kaiser said that Sullivan’s perseverance through a tough injury-plagued senior year impressed him the most.
“That is probably the most proud I’ve been of her is this year,” Kaiser said. “Her mental toughness, battling through that injury this year, and how she showed tremendous leadership putting her team ahead of herself.
“That’s going to go a long way for in life.”
Despite missing her fourth year as an all-conference runner, Sullivan has still amassed an impressive resume.
Sullivan has been an All-WAC for three years. She has been a regional championship runner for two years, and has been part of a team that has finished third at the Class 5A state meet two of her four years.
Sullivan said that after Barton, she will not likely pursue running competitively at Kansas State, but that doesn’t mean that she will stop running.
“I will probably just do cross country at Barton and then go off to college,” Sullivan said. “I wanted to get started running half marathons and things like that, too, so I definitely won’t stop running after this year.
“I will definitely continue running for a long time.”