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Lakenheath freshman Amber Buckingham.

Lakenheath freshman Amber Buckingham. (Geoff Ziezulewicz / S&S)

Lakenheath freshman Amber Buckingham.

Lakenheath freshman Amber Buckingham. (Geoff Ziezulewicz / S&S)

Amber Buckingham finishes up her record run Oct. 21.

Amber Buckingham finishes up her record run Oct. 21. (Courtesy of Lakenheath High School)

What’s that adage? Sports are 1 percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration? Regardless of how you slice it, it’s often that extra effort, sometimes manifested in straight-up sweat, that separates some athletes from the pack.

Take Lakenheath High School freshman Amber Buckingham, for instance. She knows what that extra bit of effort can mean.

During a cross country meet Oct. 21 at the school, Buckingham set a course record.

By one second.

Any lapse in her pace, any split-second moment of hesitation during that 5K, and the record would not be hers.

In fact, as the 14-year-old tells it, she didn’t know right away that she had set the new record of 21 minutes, 51 seconds.

“I found out about 30 minutes after the race was over,” she said. “My stepdad asked the coach and then told me. It was really exciting.”

Local Lakenheath luminary Greg Billington also set a record that day, beating his own best on the course with a time of 15:50.

Buckingham, who has been at Lakenheath for about a year and originally hails from Florida, got into running through her sister Brittany, a Lakenheath junior.

“My sister is my role model,” Buckingham said. “She started running, and I started running.”

Running the long distances of cross country allows Buckingham to gain a zenlike view of things, she said.

“It gets rid of my stress,” Buckingham said. “I don’t think of anything else. All I think of is running.”

The hardest part about cross country is the wear and tear on joints, she said.

“The pounding on the cement hurts my knees,” she said. “I try to go on the grass more than the cement.”

Despite the aches and pains, Buckingham said that running such distances is largely a matter of telling yourself that you can do it.

“It’s more of a mind thing,” she said. “If you say you can’t do it, then you probably can’t do it.”

Buckingham has been battling a knee injury, but she’s still able to compete, said her coach, John Gilmore. The injury should be fully healed soon.

“She’s just a freshman, but she’s done a good job,” Gilmore said. “If she would have been able to do a full workout, who knows what she’ll do?

“And when she gets injury-free, she’s going to be able to do a lot.”


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