"When I was in the sixth grade, (former cross country) coach (Tim) Godby tried to get me to come out and run," Pittman said. "I came out and ran in like two races, but I didn't get in enough to run region or state or anything. Then he left and coach (Ed) McKinney was there. Coach McKinney was a lot of fun, so I decided I'd run last season. I'm really glad I came out."
So is McKinney. His first year was made easier by the emergence of Pittman, who proved to be a natural runner.
"She's obviously really, really talented," McKinney said. "She had a really good season last year. She's very likeable and she's enjoyable to have around. Her teammates like her, so she's got everything you would want in a cross country runner."
She has plenty of company
Pittman is the best runner returning to the Admirals this year, but she has plenty of company as the team, along with other area squads, prepares to start the season. Seventh-grader Maddie Meckes was 43rd overall at the state meet last year and sophomore Morgan Young was 61st.
It's the combination of youth and experience that Pittman said will pay off in the future.
"I think we're going to be really good when we're all in high school," Pittman said. "There are so many young runners and when we get up there, everyone will be experienced. I think we have a chance to win state championships."
As the team's No. 1 runner, Pittman may be expected to be a leader. But both she and McKinney said that's just not the case because everyone on the team is capable of filling that role.
"In practice, there's not a difference between me and the other runners," Pittman said. "We just run as fast as we can and do our best. Everyone has a chance to be the top runner. There's no pressure on me to lead the team because there are older girls there."
"Our girls team has got pretty good balance," McKinney said. "Some people don't look at cross country like it's a team sport, but in a way it's really a team sport because out here running every day you need people to run with.
"We've got some older girls that have been around like Julie (Johnson), Morgan and Alex Meckes. It's a better situation for her (Pittman) with having some older girls around."
Several of the girls also play soccer
Several of the girls on the team also play soccer, either for Bate or for Danville. The distraction from each sport by the other can hurt performance, but Pittman said the Admirals have a chance to make some noise in cross country if they can keep their focus.
"We have a chance to win region and do well in state," Pittman said. "I just think that if we all pull together and really try hard for those few weekends that matter and just concentrate on cross country, I think we have a chance to do well."
McKinney said Pittman has a good chance of doing well over her next five years of competition. The coach said while making guesses about the future can be very risky, he feels confident Pittman can be a key competitor for Danville for years to come.
"It's extremely hard to predict how good they're going to be," McKinney said. "Obviously if she keeps making the kind of improvement she made last year, she has a chance to be one of the better runners in the state in Class A."