Return to Headlines

Highland student is a three-time state champion


Lauren Tolbert: A three-time state champion who’s eyeing the Olympics

What is it like to be a three-time state champion?  To find out, we asked Highland School of Technology student Lauren Tolbert.

In January, Tolbert, a junior, captured the 1-A individual cross country state championship, and her time of 19:15.05 set a state record.  Her win makes her the first cross country state champion for Gaston County Schools since South Point’s Glenn Sparrow captured a state title 43 years ago.

Winning state championships is nothing new for Tolbert.  As a ninth grader, she won the 400 meters outdoor track and field title, and last year, she won the 1,000 meters indoor track and field title.

Tolbert is a champion in the classroom, too.  She works hard to maintain an A average and wants to graduate with honors.  Her college plans include pursuing a degree in biology or other related field, going to dental school, and specializing in oral surgery.  

Here are five questions we asked to learn more about Tolbert’s winning ways.

As a student-athlete, how does it feel to win first place and set a state record? 
It feels really great winning and setting a state record because this year was more challenging than previous ones because of COVID-19.  The season started later than usual so this pushed us to run in much colder weather.  With all that we went through, I am glad to end the season on a high note, knowing that the hard work I put in finally paid off.  It has always been my goal to win a state title in cross country.

Last year, you were an indoor track and field champion.  How does that compare to winning a state championship in cross country?  
The cross country title is a bit more special because my true strength is on the track, not on trails.  As a freshman, I finished third, and as a sophomore I was the runner-up.  This year, I am the champion so it really means a lot.

Due to the pandemic, the NCHSAA canceled indoor track and field.  What are your aspirations for outdoor track and field this spring? 
My aspirations during outdoor season is to finally run a sub 2:10 in the 800 meters and around 54.5 seconds or better in the 400 meters.  These were my goals last year, but the season was canceled.  I am aiming to break the state records in both of these events.  If they have the New Balance Nationals this year, which is a big high school meet, I would like to compete there, too.  Accomplishing these goals will help continue to build my confidence, and I feel anything is possible if I work hard and I put my mind to it.

What is a typical school day like for you? 
My school day involves taking honors classes both in core subjects and the dental science pathway.  After school, I am involved in training with my track/cross country teams.  I normally run about 16 miles per week to get my endurance up and improve my speed.  On days when I am not running, I work on conditioning and weightlifting.  After my workouts, it is time for homework and getting ready to do it all over again the next day.

What long-term goals do you have moving forward with either cross country or track and field? 
My goals over the next year and a half are to win more state titles and set new records to leave a good legacy before graduating from Highland.  I have been competing nationally at the Junior Olympics for AAU track and field for seven years, and I have placed third twice.  After high school, I would like to compete at the NCAA Division I level to continue improving my running skills and maybe someday achieving my ultimate dream of trying out for the USA Olympic team.