It isn’t likely that Natalie Settle and Kaitlin Snapp will challenge each other to a race any time soon. But if they did, it isn’t likely that either of them would give an inch.
The two girls would probably shake hands and exchange pleasantries before and after the race, but the competition itself might bring out an entirely different side of them.
For while Settle of Boyle County and Snapp of Danville are regarded as two of the area’s nicest athletes, they might also qualify as two of the most competitive. And that competitive nature was a contributing factor in successful senior seasons that led to them being named The Advocate-Messenger 2012 Area Female Athletes of the Year.
They share the annual award that Snapp won in 2009 and 2011 and that Settle is the first Boyle girl to win since Renita Pennington in 2001.
The coaches who know them well say they also share some of the same traits, including the drive to win that often sets better athletes apart.
Settle was on soccer, basketball and track and field teams at Boyle, and basketball coach Greg Edwards said he can’t recall a time when she wasn’t going all-out.
“Her greatest asset is her fierce nature and attitude and her want-to,” Edwards said. “She plays hard all the time. You want everybody to play hard all the time, but she takes it to another level.”
Snapp ran for Danville’s cross country and track and field teams, and E.G. Plummer, her first running coach there, said she might be the best kind of competitor.
“I see her as being a hard competitor, but she’s definitely not over the line,” Plummer said. “She’s a competitor, but it’s not one of those where it’s just do or die. And that’s the way it needs to be.”
Snapp is one of the most accomplished athletes this area has ever produced, recently completing a 10-year running career that included nine state championships — six in track and field and three in cross country.
She concluded her final season by winning a third straight title in the Class A girls 1,600-meter run last month at the state track meet, and she was fifth in the Class A girls race at the state cross country meet last fall.
Plummer, who won seven state running championships for Danville in the 1950s and coached generations of runners on its cross country and track teams, said Snapp is easily the best runner his school has produced.
“Oh yeah, absolutely,” he said. “We’ve had other athletes ... but it’s just one of those things where there’s a lot of natural ability, but if you don’t work, your natural ability (doesn’t matter).”
Work has not been a problem for Snapp or for Settle.
“She’s very talented, but she’s also one of those where I never had to question her work ethic,” said Brent Wagner, the head track and field coach and an assistant soccer coach at Boyle. “She’s an absolute worker on the soccer field and on the track.
“If she was going to be in your group, you’d say, ‘Oh crap, we’re going to have to work or she’s going to absolutely embarrass us.’ If your group is slacking, she’ll tell you, or either she’ll beat you so bad she’ll try to embarrass you.”
Settle enjoyed success on the track this spring, competing in four events — two hurdles races and two relays — to help Boyle finish fourth among Class AA girls teams. She anchored a 1,600 relay team that finished third in its state meet section, and she was fifth in the 300 hurdles.
“She had her hamstring or her quad pulled about two weeks before the state meet, and she said, ‘Coach, I don’t want to do hurdles. That’s the kind of teammate she is. She said, ‘I’m not letting that 4-by-4 (relay team) down,” Wagner said.
Wagner said Settle could have excelled in other events as well, such as the 800 or even jumping events or the pole vault.
“If there was a decathlon in track and field, she would’ve done it,” he said. “She’s the best overall athlete we’ve had in quite some time, and a lot of it is the competitiveness. She wants to win, she likes the rivalry, the competition.”
Settle was a midfielder on the Boyle soccer team that reached the state quarterfinals last fall, and she played forward for the basketball team, where she was the leader in rebounds, assists and 3-point shooting.
“She was just a joy to coach, because I don’t think I’ve ever had a player, male or female, that worked any harder than she did,” Edwards said. “We had a young team and she was our leader, and she set a great example for us.
“And she’s a great person on top of everything else. She is what you’d want your daughter to be like.”
Snapp is regarded in much the same way, and Plummer said her competitive drive is also similar. He pointed to her state-winning run in the 1,600 in 2011, when she bounced back from a stress fracture that derailed her 2010 season and overtook the leader in the final 200 meters.
“She understands her physical condition, like when she had that stress fracture in her foot, and I see her being really level-headed and really smart,” Plummer said. “She didn’t know (how good) her conditioning was (in that race), and she was just running to hang on to that girl, and she wound up with enough kick to slip past her.”
Settle will not compete in collegiate sports — she plans to attend Kentucky — while Snapp will continue her running career at Elon.
“It’s hard to determine how good she’ll be,” Plummer said. “It’s harder on girls to get better because their (body) changes. But there are all kinds of Olympic runners that are outstanding, so the potential is there, and she knows how to have a happy medium between her social life and her studies and her training.”