Barbara Lee Ball has run — quite fast, actually — almost her entire life.
“I can remember watching her run on this track since she was five years old,” Lipscomb Academy track and field boys coach Tim Taylor said. “She loves to run. In fact, I could punish her by telling her that she couldn’t run. She would hate that.”
Near the finish of a spectacular five-year high school career she hopes for a chance to three-peat. She wants to win the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs at the TSSAA BlueCross state track and field championships in Murfreesboro just as she did a year ago.
“That is my goal,” she said Tuesday just before running the 3,200 in the Class A/AA Sectionals on her Lipscomb home track.
Ball easily won that race in 11:36.24.
“There will be some stiff competition in state for sure,” she said. “I hope to be at my best, and that would a great way to finish my high school career.”
Next, she will try to win the 800 and 1,600 Thursday when the Class A/AA Sectional meet at Lipscomb concludes with the running event finals. Races start at 5:30 p.m.
She must finish in the top three to qualify for the state meet, but she is favored in both races.
No matter what the wispy 5-foot-2, 106-pound senior already is one of the most decorated distance runners in recent Nashville track history.
She won the Class A/AA state cross country meet three straight years. She was second as a freshman and third as an eighth grader.
Last May at the state meet, Ball won the 3,200 in 11:22, a huge 11 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher. In the 1,600, she won in 5:16.72, a hefty six and half seconds in front. In the 800, she won by a second and a half in 2:19.32.
She holds Lipscomb Academy records in all three, the 5K steeplechase and the 4x800 relay, on which she ran the anchor leg. This week she will focus on the individual races and skip the relay.
She has won countless other races along the way.
“Running is something I’ve always loved to do,” she said. “I started running because I watched my older brother Robert, a junior at Lipscomb University, run in high school, and I just followed his footsteps.”
Ball achieved most of her personal bests last year as a junior.
“The 3,200 is my favorite race,’’ she said. “The 800 is the toughest, because there are so many fast runners in that race.”
She lost in the 800 at least year’s sectional meet to Christ Presbyterian Academy’s Meghan Roach but came back won that event at state.
“Barbara Lee has had a great five-year career, starting in eighth grade,” girls coach Todd Cunningham said. “She has an unbelievable work ethic. She puts so much time and effort into training. But even more important, she is a phenomenal young lady and a great senior leader.
“She will give helpful tips and advice to her teammates and even to other runners she is competing against.”
Ball has signed a track and cross country scholarship with Lipscomb University, which means she once again will follow in her brother’s footsteps.
“The girls on the team just made me feel so at home and so welcome,” she said. “And they have a great coach in Bill Taylor. I just felt like Lipscomb was the place God was calling for me to go.”
First, though, is the quest to win three — twice.