Top runner Nancy Ford shines on and off the field
One such person is Nancy Ford, the daughter of Dr. Wendy and Tom Ford of Sylva, North Carolina. She is the granddaughter of Pleasanton Express staffer Leon Zabava.
A 2012 graduate of Smoky Mountain High School, Ford was ranked seventh out of 183 students, making her among the top five percent.
Initially, her primary sport in high school was soccer. In her sophomore year Ford joined the cross-country team in the fall (soccer’s “offseason”) and began to truly enjoy running. Although soccer was still her primary sport in the spring, the track coach convinced her to compete for the high school in the hurdles at a few meets, even though she wouldn’t be able to practice with the team. Nevertheless, Ford was a regional qualifier in the 100m hurdles and 300m hurdles.
In the summer before her junior year, cross-country had become a primary focus, although she was still also participating in a soccer travel team. Ford attended a summer distance camp, trained hard and became more competitive her junior year. She placed fifth in the Appalachian Athletic Conference and ninth in the Western 2-A Region, with a personal best time of 20:43 in the 5K and a sub-21:00 in her last three meets of the season (Regional, State, and Foot Locker South Regional).
During the spring Ford was once again a dual-sport athlete. She played varsity soccer and ran track. Although she had limited track practices, she truly found more of a passion for track. She ran the open 800m and the anchor leg of the 4 x 800m relay team. In the open 800m she started the season with a 2:39 but progressed through the season, winning the conference meet, placing second in the region, and ultimately, making the All-State Team, placing sixth in the state with a 2:24.32. At the state meet, the relay team was also ranked All-State and placed fourth.
“Throughout my junior year I found increasing joy and excitement in my crosscountry and track teams,” said Ford. “I love running! So for my senior year I decided to quit soccer altogether and focus solely on cross-country and track. This not only improved my progression as an individual athlete, but also allowed me to contribute even more to my team. Without soccer or other sports’ interference I found myself totally immersed in my running and my team. As I focused on them more and more I found that I became a true leader, mentor, encourager and friend to each one of my girls and spent individual time with each of them so that I could do my best to bring out the best in them each meet. I found myself very invested in and committed to the running programs at Smoky Mountain and found it to be one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done!”
Ford said she loves running because she loves athletics and she has a high need for exercise and movement. She also loves it because by nature, she is a very competitive person and this provides her with a great outlet. Another reason is because she loves her team and knows that through running, she can influence and impact other people around her, and she thinks that that is a very special gift and opportunity!
“Lastly, my favorite quote ever by Eric Liddel, ‘I believe that God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.’ This says it all. I feel that God gave me my talent/ability to enjoy and to use in whatever way to glorify Him, so I am not about to let that go to waste!”
Ford plans to attend Wofford College for the next four years and study psychology and Spanish for sure, but she would also really like to look into an exercise science double major or potentially religion or mathematics. Ultimately, she would like to pursue a career in sports psychology, as a sports psychologist on staff with a professional team.
Ford’s love of running also extends to caring for others. On June 27, she left on a 10-day trip to Nicaragua. She went with a small mission team from her church (all adults and college age). On this trip down, the group led evangelism programs and planned many fun games, activities and lessons for the little children, as well as feeding programs for the village.
They were involved in two “small-group” settings, one among the women of the community and some of the women on the trip. Ford and another college girl on the trip met with the college age girls there, too. Ford said she was thrilled about it and could not wait for it! The other small group was going to be for the men.
“I enjoy these trips so much because when I am there something about me just feels right. I feel like it was what I was made to do. I have very strong relationships with many of the people there and feel a very strong pull toward them. I have a great desire to see them and help them in any and every way possible.”
She added, “I can definitely see myself pursuing a career in the mission field as well. These trips are mostly humbling and they teach me more and more how to love with depth. I feel like when I am there also I am opened up to new dimensions of the Lord, and I can see and understand Him better in different ways I normally wouldn’t. I also learn a lot about different cultures and core elements that are important and I have to realize what is truly important.
While these trips are physically, emotionally and mentally exhausting, they are very spiritually rejuvenating for me and I can be confident that I am contributing to something bigger with more meaning.”
Ford has a list of prestigious academic and sports awards and achievements. Some of them are: Wendy’s Heisman Award Winner in 2011, National Society of High School Scholars, 2009- 2010, All State (NC 2A) Open 800 meters, Track & Field, 2011, All State (NC 2A) 4x800 meters, Track & Field, 2011, All Conference (WNCAC) Track & Field, 2011, All Region (Western) Cross Country, 2010, All Conference (WNCAC) Cross Country, 2010, Mustang Award (“Most Valuable Player Award”), Track & Field, 2011, Mustang Award (“Most Valuable Player Award”), Cross Country. She has also set numerous team, school and personal records in track and field and cross country.