Despite it being the 29th prep cross country race of her career, four-time state cross country qualifier Taylor Polson still had pre-race jitters before the start of this year's state 2A cross country championships on Oct. 26.
"I was probably more nervous than I'd ever been," said Polson, a senior at Paonia High School, who was fighting a cold in the days leading up to the meet.
Polson got out ahead of the crowd, and ran the best state race of her career to finish fifth. She was named to the 2A All-State Cross Country team.
Teammate Chelsea Meilner finished 11th and was named to the All-State Second Team.
Paonia finished fourth in state team standings, with senior Braiden Clement, a three-year qualifier, placing 35th.
Polson, a two-time top-10 placer, said she was "very happy" with her finish, and her team's fourth-place finish. Just three seasons ago Paonia didn't have a team. After running for almost 20 seasons, Paonia split from Hotchkiss in 2012, and Hotchkiss assistant coach Richard Hypio took over as head coach.
Polson was a two-year state qualifier for Hotchkiss and was competing with teammates including Natalie Anderson and Jenni Celis, both elite runners in the state, before becoming the lead runner for Paonia.
It (Hotchkiss) was very welcoming, Polson said of her former teammates, "But it's still a rivalry. There was a lot less tension once we got our own team. It was more relaxed."
The teams train on the steep trails of Jumbo Mountain, which makes courses like the state course at the Penrose Events Center in Colorado Springs and its mile-long hill seem relatively easy. "That hill kills a lot of people, its so long and so steep," said Polson. "We bump off a lot of people just going up the hill."
Polson has passed a few runners, both on the trail and the track. She started running with her mother, former college runner Debbie Polson, at age 6, and had compiled impressive stats before entering high school.
At the middle school-level Hershey's track meets, Polson won state titles in the 400-meter relay, the 800m run, and the standing long jump, which she won all three years beginning in sixth grade.
The summer after eighth grade Polson competed in the Junior Olympics Pentathlon, winning at the state and regional level, and finishing mid-pack out of about 30 runners at the national level.
Polson also finished ninth at the 2012 and 2013 Colorado State Pentathlon meets. Polson said the event, which includes the high jump, 200m and 800m runs and shot put, is a lot of fun and one she hopes to continue competing in.
Polson is also a four-time state qualifier in track for Paonia, and competed in the 3200, 300-meter hurdles, 1600 and 3200 relays last season when the Paonia girls claimed the school's first state track title. Her name is in the school, regional and state record books.
And while she's found success in cross country, her priorities are with track. "I love track," said Polson, who is considering competing at the college level.
While many colleges require runners to compete in both track and cross country, Polson hopes to find a school that will let her focus solely on track. "I love to run, I love cross country," said Polson, "but if I take it too seriously, I don't do well with it."
For now, Polson is focusing on basketball, where she plays at post, and is looking forward to track season next spring.
The cross country team will lose three senior girls, including three-time state qualifier Braiden Clement, and Noelle Helmer, a transfer student and state qualifier.
With a strong group of young runners moving up, said Polson, "I think they will go on and do great things."blog comments powered by Disqus