Six Years, Ten Stories I'll always remember: #7 16:59

I'll leave this site with so many memories of being your webmaster the past 6 years. I've compiled my list of 10 stories I'll always remember. This is not intended to be a list of the best athletes but simply personal reflections of the stories we have brought you over the past half a dozen years. My thanks to Craig Martin who's ability to tell a story is one I envy. Finally this list is really just ten stories presented one at a time as opposed to a ranking.

Taylor and Hannah - Chapter 1. These two young ladies have become a frequent headlines on this site breaking and then rewriting records throughout their high school careers. I never get tired of watching the video at the end of this article. The excitement of the crowd and the moment was captured beautifully by Ben Rosario.

Forest Park XC Festival

By time the tents came down and the crowd had left Forest Park Saturday, one race was already reverberating throughout the running world, and those that saw it immediately added it to their short list of memorable moments in Missouri running.

The pieces were all in place for an outstanding race in the girls’ Green Division of the Forest Park Cross Country Festival. Defending champion Hannah Long of Eureka was in the field looking to reset the record of 18:00 she set last year as a freshman. Herculaneum senior Kaitlyn Fischer was moving up to the large school division to test her mettle again against some of the area’s best. And newcomer Taylor Werner, a freshman at Ste. Genevieve, was running her first high school race after posting some amazing times in middle school.

The temperatures had cooled slightly, and the course was soft but not squishy after rains the previous night. Throw in the relatively flat course at Forest Park, and fast times were to be expected.

But no one saw a 16:59.30 coming.

“I’ve witnessed some phenomenal moments as a coach, and that rivals any I saw as far as performance and accomplishment,” Ste. Genevieve coach Brian Jett said.

Werner, Long and Fischer pulled away from the field early and pushed each other to an incredibly fast first mile in 5:22. The pace did not waver at all over the second mile as Long and Werner built some separation on Fischer. Long started her kick with about 1,000 meters remaining, and she later said that might have been a little premature. Werner stayed close enough that she was able to overtake the lead and cross the finish line in the nation’s fastest time this year.

Long was close behind in 17:07.00 and Fischer dipped under the 18-minute mark with a 17:51.50. All three times make the national leaderboard top 15, with Werner and Long atop the entire country by 20 seconds or more.

Werner admitted to being extremely nervous before the race, but once she heard the gun, she just started running and tried to keep pace with the leaders.

“I was so nervous, but really confident at the same time,” Werner said. “I was really under pressure, but I was confident and it worked.

“Now I’ve got to be nervous for the next week and the week after that.”

Werner’s time is not only the fastest in the country only two weeks into the season, but it registers as the third-fastest including all of the 2011 season. It’s also a top 15 time stretching back over the past five years.

“I think she surprised everybody,” Jett said. “But I don’t think she runs that fast without two quality runners to push her. Personally I was hoping she’d break 18 (minutes), and I know she was looking to go under 17:30, but I was trying to be realistic. Kids like this don’t come around often.”

Lee’s Summit West coach Jesse Griffin was one of those who left amazed at the performance.

“She went out and competed and that’s what it’s all about,” Griffin said. “I’ve been to Nike Nationals and seen some of the best run, and there’s no reason our girls in this state can’t run with the New York and California runners.

“Emily Sisson (a 2010 graduate of Parkway Central) came to this state and raised the expectations of what we can do. Coaches on other teams are looking to motivate their runners. They may not have anyone that fast, but how can you elevate your performance to get close?”

Werner is aided by her father Chris, who is an assistant with the team and has coached wrestling in the past. Jett said Chris Werner brings a more physical approach and has added some strength and stretching components that have bolstered the entire team.

Werner also trains with the Ste. Genevieve boys. Jett says every runner does the same workouts, but Werner is able to get a little more intensity by running with the boys.

Jett is aware that there is a lot of cross country season remaining, and his main goal is to keep Werner healthy. Werner takes care of the competitive side on her own.

“I’ve gotten to work with her for a couple years now, and I know she’s special,” Jett said. “I try not to dwell on that but take it one day at a time and nurture her and see how things play out. If she stays healthy, she could be a state titlest, but it’s eight weeks until November.

“We’ve been taking a look into Foot Locker, and we have some other quality girls that might want to tag along. I’ve never taken any runners before, but she’s deserving of that national recognition.”

Here is one more look at the finish.