Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

ALL-FIRST COAST CROSS-COUNTRY; Veteran, 'Rookie' Named Runners of the Year

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

ALL-FIRST COAST CROSS-COUNTRY; Veteran, 'Rookie' Named Runners of the Year

Article excerpt

Byline: JEFF ELLIOTT

Listen to Maggie Traylor talk about the side effects of running in cross-country races, and you wonder why she competes in the sport.

Watch Traylor run in a race and it's a simple answer. She's good. Really good.

The Episcopal sophomore has only been running competitively since seventh grade, when she was a student at The Bolles School. She transferred to Episcopal a year later, but was hurt much of the year and didn't compete. That means her first full year of varsity competition didn't come until her freshman season in 2004.

That makes her rise to the top of the talent-laden Episcopal squad pretty remarkable. It's this ascent to elite status among area competitors that earned Traylor the Times-Union All-First Coast girls cross-country runner of the year award, the sixth consecutive year that the award has gone to an Episcopal runner.

After a mediocre start this fall in which a midseason virus slowed her, Traylor hit her peak the final month of the season, finishing as the Eagles' top runner in the team's final four races.

That included setting a personal record of 17:57 (her first sub-18 minute race) at the Foot Locker South race, and then a 35th-place finish at the prestigious Nike Team National Invitational despite running more than half the race with just one shoe after losing one in the mud on a rain-soaked course.

While Traylor has earned individual honors and helped her team reach national recognition, it's all achieved by the willingness to accept the down side of long-distance running.

"Cross-country is really, really, painful," she said. "But I'm willing to put myself through the pain. It's like before the race, I know in the next 20 minutes I'll be hurting, I'll be in pain."

But all the negative feelings vanish once a race is over.

"I'm just a totally different person once the race is over," said Traylor, 16, who maintains a grade-point average of nearly 4.0. "The sense of accomplishment that you get from yourself when you finish is something special. You know that physically, you've just given your all.

"And even if I don't run my best race, you can still be happy for your teammates. …

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