JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – After Ste. Genevieve freshman Taylor Werner arrived on the high school scene with a jaw-dropping performance at Forest Park, speculation quickly started swirling about whether she could take down the girls’ state record.
In the first race of the day, Werner set off on her from the opening gun, and Potosi senior Sarah Jacobsen was the lone runner to maintain any contact. Werner stretched her lead stride by stride, doubling a nine-second lead at the mile into an 18-second advantage after two miles.
She closed on the finish line as strong as she started and clocked an 18:19 for her first trip around the Oak Hills Golf Center Course. It was not the overall state-record time of 17:51 she was hoping for, but it is a top 10 performance and a new Class 3 record.
“I wanted to beat the record, but I’m still really proud of my time,” Werner said. “Running by myself, it’s really hard to push myself, but I’m pretty proud of what I did. It got to the two mile mark and it was slower than I had planned, but I’m really, really happy.
“It’s so wonderful. It’s been my dream since I first heard about cross country. In the sixth grade my sister (Shelby) would come home complaining, but after I saw her race I fell in love with it without even running. I knew it would be my sport.”
Werner’s performance helped her team grab the team title with an equally impressive 42 points. Shelby, just a junior, captured fifth in 19:51, and freshman Mallory Koller took ninth (20:00) to give the Dragons three top 10 finishers. Two more all-state finishes – freshman Mia Jerman in 18th and senior Rachael Huck in 24th – guaranteed Ste. Genevieve would take home the first-place trophy.
“The first week of June, we knew we had a team that could compete, and we worked toward that end all season,” Ste. Genevieve coach Brian Jett said. “I put that bug in their ear in July, and they didn’t necessarily believe it, but as the weeks went by they started to believe it. That was our goal from the first day of the season.”
Ste. Genevieve previously doubled up with a team title and individual title when Jessica Bollinger’s victory helped the Dragons win Class 2 in 2005.
Festus finished runner-up with 100 points, and Smithville was third with 110 behind the third-place finish of Katie Tuck (19:25).
“Everything just fell into place today,” Tuck said. “I usually start out my first mile really slow. It was just weird running today. I didn’t think too much of a strategy. I just wanted to stick with what I’ve been doing because I’ve been successful with it.”
Jacobsen was able to carve out a runner-up finish after spending the whole race isolated in her own bubble behind Werner but several seconds ahead of the rest of the field. She said she was excited just to be back on the course after being sidelined with a shin injury that required her to be in a boot last fall.
“I raced like how I’ve been racing all year – just go strong and try to stay as close to Taylor as I could,” Jacobsen said. “I’ve done that all year so I didn’t worry about everyone else and just tried to focus on me and my race and not worry where the other girls were.
“I’m so thankful to be back. I was injured last year and here in a boot and didn’t get to do anything. I’m just so thankful I got to run this year. I knew it was a privilege just to get to run.”