While most kids slept through summer vacation, Kat Howard spent her off-season striding toward the top of Ironwood Ridge’s cross-country roster.

Howard took seventh in last weekend’s Doug Conley Invitational in Tempe, with a 19:26 time that helped the Nighthawks win the event.

Fast times are the senior’s new trend, after she didn’t even qualify last year for Ironwood Ridge‘s state champion team. Her motive to finish by battling for the team’s top position is quite simple.

“I like (cross-country) a lot,” Howard said. “It’s about as fun as running can be.”

Judging from the clock, Howard is having a ball. She turned the fastest 12th grade time (second overall among 455 runners) at the Sept. 13 Chandler Invitational.

Howard also won the Sept. 6 Marana Invitational, but she’s more than a pair of fast shoes, said Nighthawks coach Rob Clouse.

A quick learner in Clouse’s physics class last year, Howard carries a 4.67 GPA and hopes the total package might land her a college ride, preferably to the University of Arizona.

“She’s a really funny kid, an all-around good kid,” Clouse said. “We’ll miss her next year.”

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