Running to success
Senior receives placement as semi-finalist for Dallas/Fort Worth area award
March 20, 2023
After deciding to try out track in 7th grade, senior Srija Venna walked on the track at Killian Middle School. She began to get ready to run her first mile and a half, and although it was a cold day, she was sweating nervously. However, after her run, she felt a thrilling warmth, and it was then when Venna knew she wanted to continue track and cross country for the rest of middle and high school.
Venna is now a senior on the varsity cross country and track team. She was also one of the only two semi-finalists at Hebron who received the Davey O’Brien award. The Davey O’Brien award, created in 1986, awards over $1.2 million to high school senior student-athletes in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Each year the winner of the Davey O’Brien award receives a $30,000 scholarship and the semi-finalists, like Venna, receive a $2,500 award.
“I was very grateful [to receive the award], it was something I hadn’t expected,” Venna said. “It was a whole [new] experience. There [was] an interview for it and I got to go to a luncheon with the other finalists and we all got to speak about where we’re going to college. I was so nervous [about the interview], but it was with six very successful people and just being in the room with them was very cool. I was so grateful to get it, especially this year, because it’s [toward] the conclusion of high school and [the award] puts a bow on it.”
Cross country and track and field coach Chance Edwards could only nominate one senior for the award and said he picked Venna due to her well-rounded personality. Edwards also said Venna is best at the 3200 meter run, as well as long distance, mid-distance, 1600 meter run and the 800 meter run.
“[Srijia’s] work ethic is as good as it gets, she doesn’t even miss when she’s not feeling well,” Edwards said. “[Srijia still comes to practice] and that really [shows her] discipline — the quality in a kid that makes a great distance runner. You nominate kids for [the award] and they rarely make it as finalists, [but] you have to be extremely well-rounded. [Srijia] made it to state as a runner, but she’s also extremely intelligent, involved in community service outside of school, involved in clubs [and is] just very well rounded. Usually a kid successful in all facets [has] a good shot [at getting the award].”
When the girls team made it to regionals this year after placing third in district, Venna placed top 10 in regionals and was the only person from Hebron to make it to the state competition.
“I started [cross country and track] for fun — [I was] trying every type of sport and [when] I tried cross country in seventh grade and finished [the mile and a half] race I was like ‘wow I just did that,’” Venna said. “It was the [rewarding] feeling of putting yourself through that that made me like [running] and [keep on going]. Just being a part of a team [was] a huge part of [joining] — especially coming into ninth grade, I got to see the track [and] cross country team and how close they were. It just seemed [like] something [I wanted to be] a part of.”
Edwards said he has seen growth in Venna and enjoyed being able to coach her during his first year at Hebron.
“[Venna] went from junior varsity runner to state qualifier in one year, so she made a huge jump,” Edwards said. “I wish I had gotten more than one year to coach her, but it’s been a pleasure to have gotten the opportunity. [I enjoyed] it and wish her the best when moving forward and graduating.”
Along with track and cross country, Venna is also a part of National Honor Society, DECA, HOSA, Key Club, Spanish National Honor Society, Psychology and Neuroscience Club and Hebron Girl Up. Venna said she enjoys the rewarding feeling she gets when helping others, which is why she volunteers with the North Texas Food Bank and Heart to Heart hospice.
“She gives her 100% to everything she does,” senior and friend Esha Gajula said. “She’s able to balance her clubs and academics, but also with track. [Track has] been such a big focus [for] her from middle to high school, and it’s been really fun to cheer her on throughout the years.”
Venna plans to get her undergraduate in public health and continue on the pre-med path. Although she is unsure if she will continue running on a team in college, she has not ruled it out. Venna said track and cross country has helped her improve her determination and persistence, and that her team has helped her enjoy running.
“Just being a part of the workouts and races is mentally taxing on you sometimes, and it’s definitely where you have to find your inner strength to push through in races because [everything hurts] when racing,” Venna said. “It’s being consistent with small [tasks] that leads up to being successful in tests and going into medical school. My parents, brother, friends [and] teammates are a huge part [in making] the [aspects] that [are] not running much more enjoyable and worth doing.”