From her days in the Northwestern Lehigh Middle School through her sophomore year of high school, Lindsey Kerr had an extraordinary cross country role model to look up to.
Little did she realize that just a couple of years later, she would become one extraordinary role model herself.
The young Kerr constantly looked to former teammate Dana Stellar, who is now a senior harrier at Lehigh University. But Kerr didn't just match Stellar's lofty accomplishments, she exceeded them.
This year, Kerr won a second straight Colonial League cross country title, matching the feat that Stellar accomplished back in '04 and '05.
Kerr did her idol one better in District 11 competition, winning Class AA gold medals in both 2008 and 2009. Meanwhile, Stellar captured a District 11 title as junior, but had to settle for silver her senior year.
Finally, Kerr was able to accomplish something that no other Northwestern Lehigh cross-country runner ever had when she won a PIAA State Championship last month.
Kerr's outstanding career has thrust her into a role that she could have never imagined .
"When I was in middle school we had someone like Dana Stellar that everyone looked up to," Kerr said. "For me to feel like that's who I am now, and to have the younger girls looking up to me, it's a pretty amazing feeling.
"To have young runners say 'that's what Lindsey Kerr did,' feels good. I feel like I can actually set an example for everyone else."
Kerr's incredible string of championships this season allowed her to run away with her second consecutive TIMES NEWS Girls Cross Country Athlete of the Year Award. She joins Stellar and Tamaqua's Alexa Griffiths as the only two time winners for cross country.
"Just to be mentioned with those two names is such an honor," said Kerr. "Then you look at the state level and someone like [former Allentown Central Catholic Class AAA state champ] Francis Koons, who's from this area, it's like 'Wow, I'm on the same list as them,' so it feels really good. I would have never thought years ago that I would be where I am now.
"It shows that hard work does pay off."
Kerr's work ethic is the driving force behind her success.
"She realized how good she could be after last year's PIAA State Championships when she finished fourth," Tiger coach Chris Stitzel said. "It was the determination and hard work she put in last year and just knowing that she was that close and didn't want to be denied this year. She actually quit the soccer team to join track because the one thing she was lacking was speed. Especially when you get to a big race like that, you need it to out-kick somebody and she really didn't have that.
"So she went out for track and it really helped her. She trained all summer leading up to this season."
Despite her outstanding season leading up to the State Championships, Kerr felt that she still had something to prove at states.
"Standing at the starting line the morning of the State Championships, I don't actually think I was on too many lists as a possible contender," Kerr said. "I mean I could have been on the team list because our team was projected to do well. But I don't think I was on the individual list.
"Then, coming across the finish line, it felt really good because it proved I should have been on the individual list in the first place and then it also put a good end to my final season. Everything just paid off in the end."
Paid off is an understatement as Kerr closed a storybook career.
When it came to the competition at the state level, it was a gradual progression straight to the front of the pack.
Kerr finished 99th as a freshman, 34th as sophomore, fourth as a junior and then topped the charts with a state championship this season.
"I hope all of the underclassmen realize what it takes to be that good and hopefully it rubs off on the kids we have coming up," Stitzel said. "Even though Lindsay stands out, it's actually this entire senior class that have been great role models. Seeing their leadership and how they grew from a freshman to now. Doing workouts, pushing each other, just making a strong bond with each other.
"We're going to miss them. Hopefully, the underclassmen learn something and we can keep the tradition going here."
Thanks to Kerr, it's a tradition that got a lot more impressive the last four years.