Polk County senior Shelby Wells, seated right, will run track and cross county this fall at Louisburg College. Also present at a ceremony marking Wells' signing were her mother, Jennifer Allen (seated left) and, from left in back, athletic director Jeff Wilson, assistant coach Jenny Wolfe, head coach Alan Peoples and Polk County principal Mary Feagan.

Shelby Wells offers a simple explanation for how she became a distance runner.

“I don’t sprint,” the Polk County senior said, laughing.

But Wells didn’t need to a sprinter’s burst to find a home with Polk County’s track and cross country programs competing at longer distances, and that talent will next take her to Louisburg College, Wells signing with the school to run cross country and track beginning this fall. Wells becomes the fourth Polk County senior to plan to continue their career in college, joining Mark Mazzilli (baseball), Alivia Livesay (tennis) and Allison Swope (cross country, track).

“I’m really excited,” said Wells on Monday after a ceremomy in the Polk County High library.

Also sharing that enthusiasm was Polk County head track and cross country coach Alan Peoples, who grew up near Louisburg, located about 45 minutes northeast of Raleigh, and attended the college before completing his undergraduate work at the University of Tennessee.

“I’ve told her, and everyone else, that if you have the academics and the running ability and you’re willing to work a little bit, there’s a level that you can go to, from junior college all the way to Arkansas or UCLA,” Peoples said.

“Shelby has the grades and has the running ability. She’s a hard-working kid and a good kid.”

Peoples expects Wells to run distances from 1600 meters up at Louisburg, a two-year college that placed 24th last fall in the National Junior College Athletic Association championship meet despite being the first season for the program.

Wells began running in the eighth grade and often was among Polk County’s top five cross country runners last fall, placing 22nd in the Western Highlands Conference meet. She finished fourth in the 3200-meter run at last year’s WHC outdoor track and field meet and is expected to compete in that event again Wednesday at this year’s conference championship.

Wells, who hopes to study psychology, said she began talking with Louisburg in December about possibly joining the program.

“I didn’t think it was going to happen, but I’m excited now that it has,” Wells said.