Prep cross country: Estero's Kacy Smith, Katy G. Solis sign with Ole Miss

After signing with Ole Miss, Estero High senior cross country and track standouts Katy G. Solis, left, and Kacy Smith, right, are joined by Estero athletic director and xcross country/track coach Jeff Sommer on Feb. 8, 2013 in a lunch room at Estero High School. Solis and Smith, who have been good friends ever since they were in kindergarten together, were part of three state championship cross country teams in their four years at Estero. Kevin Johnson/Staff

Photo by KEVIN JOHNSON // Buy this photo

After signing with Ole Miss, Estero High senior cross country and track standouts Katy G. Solis, left, and Kacy Smith, right, are joined by Estero athletic director and xcross country/track coach Jeff Sommer on Feb. 8, 2013 in a lunch room at Estero High School. Solis and Smith, who have been good friends ever since they were in kindergarten together, were part of three state championship cross country teams in their four years at Estero. Kevin Johnson/Staff

Corey Perrine/Staff Photo Illustration
Estero's Katy Solis, 18, is the 2012 girls cross country athlete of the year. She fell into the sport because she wanted to condition and train for soccer in 8th grade. Admittedly, 'fell in love with it.' The rest is history. The past four years she's finished in the top 20 or higher, peaking at a runner-up title in November. She set a personal best with a time of 17:58.70, 10 seconds off the leader and finally outrunning friend and teammate Kacy Smith by 12 tenths of a second. Most important she lead her team to a third consecutive state title. At 5' 9' she's not your typical long distance runner. She works harder than most and has been told a 'longer stride than a couple of boys on the team.' She's verbally committed to the University of Mississippi next fall on scholarship where she plans to become a pediatrician. 'Size doesn't matter. It's the size of your heart,' Solis said. 'Because it takes heart to be a champion.'

Photo by COREY PERRINE // Buy this photo

Corey Perrine/Staff Photo Illustration Estero's Katy Solis, 18, is the 2012 girls cross country athlete of the year. She fell into the sport because she wanted to condition and train for soccer in 8th grade. Admittedly, "fell in love with it." The rest is history. The past four years she's finished in the top 20 or higher, peaking at a runner-up title in November. She set a personal best with a time of 17:58.70, 10 seconds off the leader and finally outrunning friend and teammate Kacy Smith by 12 tenths of a second. Most important she lead her team to a third consecutive state title. At 5' 9" she's not your typical long distance runner. She works harder than most and has been told a "longer stride than a couple of boys on the team." She's verbally committed to the University of Mississippi next fall on scholarship where she plans to become a pediatrician. "Size doesn't matter. It's the size of your heart," Solis said. "Because it takes heart to be a champion."

Scott McIntyre/Staff
Girl's cross country runner of the year Kacy Smith of Estero High School.

Photo by SCOTT MCINTYRE // Buy this photo

Scott McIntyre/Staff Girl's cross country runner of the year Kacy Smith of Estero High School.

ESTERO — Asked to recall their early impressions of Estero High cross country/track coach Jeff Sommer, seniors Kacy Smith and Katy G. Solis didn't struggle to find the words.

"Crazy, loud, annoying," Smith said.

"I thought he was crazy," Solis added. "I didn't know how people could put up with him, but I learned to love the old man."

While proudly wearing T-shirts of their next team, Smith and Solis agreed that Sommer paved the way for the Wildcats runners to sign with the University of Mississippi on Friday morning.

"It all pays off," said Smith, who will head to the Southeastern Conference this summer on a full athletic scholarship. "He's a man with a big heart and very emotional. He's defiantly got us to where we need to be today. All of this wouldn't have been possible without him pushing us every day. All the hard workouts — that we were miserable throughout — have brought us to this."

Smith was named the Naples Daily News Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year in 2011. Solis captured the honor in 2012.

Last fall both runners committed to Ole Miss, where they're slated to run cross country and track. Chances are good that the 5-foot-2, 125-pound Smith and the 4-foot-9, 79-pound Solis won't ever be mistaken on campus for 6-foot-5, 260-pound Robert Nkemdiche, the nation's No. 1 football recruit who signed with the Rebels on Wednesday.

Friends since they first met in a kindergarten class in Bonita Springs, Solis and Smith led Estero to an undefeated season and its third straight state cross country championship last fall. Solis finished runner-up as she nipped Smith by a fraction of a second in the final.

Nobody needed a 4.5 grade-point average — which is what Solis carries as one of the top students in the school — to know what college the standouts were signing with inside an Estero High lunch room Friday that was full of Rebel blue and red.

Everything was stamped with Ole Miss, including the signs on the wall, the baseball caps, the pullover worn by Sommer, the shirt worn by principal George Clover, the pens used for the signings, the cake shared among family, friends and teammates. There were even Ole Miss napkins.

Sommer could have used one of those napkins as he fought back tears while speaking to the audience.

"I've never had two kids with as much heart as these two kids had for four years. When I say four years, it's not three months a year, it's 12 months a year," Sommer said.

Watching their coach become emotional wasn't a surprise to his runners.

"That's expected. He cries when we leave practice in the morning," said Smith, who won the 2A state championship race as a sophomore in 2010.

Clover, whose secretary is Smith's mother, also praised the dedication that the Ole Miss-bound runners have shown in Sommer's demanding program.

"You've got to be one heck of an individual to get up and be ready, and I do mean ready," Clover said. "When he says start at 5 (a.m.), he really means be loosened up and ready to go at 4:45."

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