Kim Nemergut isn't sweating just yet.
The South Range High senior and defending Division III state champion in the 1600-meter run has a plan -- chop her time in the next three weeks, when the district, regional and state track and field meets are held.
"She tends to step it up at the big meets, which we really haven't had a whole lot of at this point," said her father and coach, Jack Nemergut.
Rankings: Nemergut's best time in the 1600 this season is 5 minutes, 20.7 seconds, just behind the area's best in Brittany Durkin (5:19.6) of Division I Boardman.
"I haven't run a mile fresh yet," Nemergut said. "Usually, I'll do the 2-mile and the 4x800 [relay] and that takes a little bit out of you."
By the time the state meet is held June 1-2 at Dayton's Welcome Stadium, Nemergut hopes to have cut at least 10 seconds off her 1600 time. She won her title in 5:08.25.
Although Nemergut has felt the anxiety of meeting high expectations, her confidence always seems to be the overriding factor.
That tends to happen when you are the state's best.
"It was awesome. It was the best feeling in the world," said Nemergut, recalling the euphoria of winning the title. "I got done and my coach [Sandy Toy] was crying."
Nemergut remembers how the 1600 unfolded, how she didn't want to get boxed in, how she snuck up on two girls, Kinsy Miller of Pandora-Gilboa (5:08.74) and Angela Homan of Spencerville (5:09.18), running in the lead.
"I wanted it so bad, I got them right at the end," said Nemergut, who also finished seventh in the 3200 (11:31) at state. "I felt I couldn't go anymore, but I knew I could."
Eyeing the future: Nemergut's resilience, which helped her place third at the 2000 state cross country meet, has earned her a scholarship to run at Coastal Carolina University, a Division I school in Conway, S.C.
Coastal Carolina was among 40 schools interested in Nemergut. She received six to seven telephone calls per night from recruiters through the fall and winter.
"It's a good problem to have," said Nemergut, who admitted the constant calls became frustrating. "It's exciting to have so many options."
Nemergut chose Coastal Carolina for its warm climate, its coaching staff and friend Kara Kopple of McDonald, who is already in the program there.
"I was glad [the state title] happened last year, because being a senior, there are so many things going on," Jack said. "We spent a lot of time shopping for the right school; that took up a lot of energy."
Now that those decisions are in the past, Nemergut, whose sister Julie is a junior standout for the Raiders, can focus on the future and the final weeks of her high school track career.
She speaks of defending her title and how the 2000 race gave her that added confidence going into the postseason meets.
"It gives me a lot of encouragement," Nemergut said. "I believe in myself a lot more now."
Moving on: The nerves will always be there. That comes naturally, especially at this critical time of the track and field season. It's how one deals with them that matters.
"It's tough to repeat as state champion," Jack admits. "There's going to be a lot of pressure."
But, it's pressure that Nemergut has already felt and conquered.
"I think I'm right there," she said. "At districts and regionals I'm going to push a lot harder."
If all that work returns Nemergut to the state meet, so be it. That's what she expects.
Just don't fault her if she happens to break a sweat along the way.
XBrian Richesson covers high school sports for The Vindicator. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org