“I initially started acting because I’d gone with my mom to work in the business,” said the Tennessee resident. “I graduated from Belmont University with a degree in Mass Communications and a minor in Sports and Media. I thought I was going to be the next Erin Andrews!”
Now, one year away from graduating from law school, Hethcoat finds herself headed to her first ever theatrical release. “It was a privilege for Dave to trust me with the role,” she shared. “To have someone trust you with their film is a big deal!”
Playing the young upstart coach who wants her team to “train slow to get fast,” Hethcoat was impressed from the first read through when Christiano showed a Youtube video of a 1970s Olympic Trial. There, a young American runner ran the mile, starting from the back of the pack and gradually eclipsing everyone else. “Right away, we could see that the training method worked. This was authentic.”
Hethcoat’s character followed a successful coach who controlled everything about the running program, and provides a new way of doing things. The team sets one goal it will work toward, and talks about picking its battles… while the parents of her runners react angrily to the changes in leadership.
“Anytime there is a change, there’s going to be resistance,” Hethcoat shared. “Change followed by a lack of immediate success? That really bothers people.”
But the faith-based elements of the film showed up in the way that Smith-Donnelly responds to her detractors, said the actress. While Christiano worked hard to make sure that the running and competitions were accurate, Hethcoat walked away impressed by the way that coaches and people of faith could stand up and lead in the midst of adversity.
“It was educational,” she said. “I learned about the sport, about film, about being a leader. And I gained a family, who were part of creating something good.”
While the cast was primarily female, it was also incredibly young. At the “old age” of twenty-five, Hethcoat became the group’s “Mother Hen,” but she warmed to the role. “I’ve always been the younger sibling, the daughter to my parents, the student to great teachers. Having been the recipient of all of that, I wanted to apply that blessing to being the mentor and role model for young people.”
“I’ve tried to live my life as a good person and a Christian. It was an honor to mentor those young women about acting, about dating, etc. I wanted to be the type of role model I’ve had.”
Clearly, Hethcoat has been moved by the experience, tearing up when finding a note from one of her younger castmates. “The note said, ‘You’re a beautiful role model and I love you,’” shared the Mother Hen. “To have had that opportunity to make another young women feel like she had someone to guide her, that was enough. I know that they’ll serve as role models to others.”
Now, Hethcoat and her runners will have to wait for the film to release in theaters. They know the power that comes with the team coming together; they’ve seen the impact of those beliefs in their own lives. All that remains is for others to see the film and catch fire, to train slow to run fast, and pursue the goal put forth by Jesus.