Makayla Kucera has a lot of time left as a Lady Tiger, but she’s finding success now as an underclassman.

The sophomore has been the top performer for Glen Rose cross country throughout the 2012 season. With the regular season in the rearview mirror, Kucera finished in the top 20 at every meet and in the top 10 at most of them.

Born and raised in San Angelo, she moved to Glen Rose in the fourth grade. Her cross country career began in the seventh grade.

“It was probably in eighth grade that cross country began to mean more to me,” she said. “My dad got me started in it; I really liked it and then in eighth grade I was thinking I really need to be working for high school (competition). It still is more about me enjoying it than anything else.”

Kucera made an impact last year, finishing eighth at district (13:55) and going on to compete at the regional meet (14:22).

“The district meet is the one that stands out to me,” she said, regarding a memorable freshman meet. “It was a really close call for me to make it out to regionals. Regionals was also memorable just because it was regionals.

“I definitely remember always enjoying the (meet) runs (as a freshman). We had some good senior runners last year who went to regionals, so it was always a goal of mine to try to beat them.”

Kucera’s meet times have dropped significantly since last fall.

“I’m a lot better at pacing myself and knowing when to start sprinting,” she said. “That’s definitely helped me drop my time. You could be a good runner, but you also need to understand the mental side of it. When you get really tired, it’s your mind that says you can still compete – you will keep running.”

Kucera’s best-ever meet time came Oct. 15 in Priddy at the final regular-season meet (13:16). She ran a 13:13 in Thursday’s practice.

“I felt pretty good about how I did at Priddy, but I think my best (race) would have to be the (meet) we hosted,” Kucera said of the Glen Rose Invitational when she finished sixth. “I was able to stand up to the mental standard I’d set for myself and I helped our team do better like I knew we could.”

Speaking of the team aspect, Kucera is counted on to deliver the best Lady Tiger result week in and week out.

“It feels really good to know the team counts on me,” she said. “It also makes me nervous at a big meet because I have to get the girls started and better my (previous) time. The coaches also count on me.”

Kucera can also draw motivation from other standouts in the sport.

“There was a girl from Denton who went to state as a freshman that I know of,” she said. “It would be fun to try to beat her, and I’m trying to do what she’s done (as an underclassman).”

This Lady Tiger is goal-oriented, and it continues to fuel her fire as she gears up for Wednesday’s 7-3A meet in Glen Rose.

“The main goal is to get to state before my senior year,” she said. “The other biggest motivation is to get my time down under 13 minutes. I know that’s what it takes to compete with the best.”