Taylor made for winning: Liberty junior returns after rare state cross country bid
Last year as a sophomore, Taylor Brown became Liberty’s first girl in 15 years to place in the top 17 at a state cross country meet. --Photo by Rick Wasser
Last fall, through her success, Taylor Brown demanded attention be paid to the Liberty cross country team.
She was Fauquier County’s lone representative at the 2012 state meet and became Liberty’s first girl in 15 years to place among the top 17 at state.
Unfortunately for Eagles coach Doron White, Brown’s exploits didn’t have a ripple effect of enthusiasm at the school. Liberty has only nine runners on its roster this season after fielding a similarly small 10-person squad in 2012. Success didn’t breed better participation.
“That’s what one would think, but I think it will take a little more than just people placing at state,” said White, a second-year head coach. “It just takes a while to build the program. … A good three or four years.”
Perhaps an Evergreen District championship by Brown this season, and a top-15 state finish, will do the trick. Those are her goals, at least.
“I fully expect, and I think she’s of the same mindset, for her to improve on last season,” White said of the junior. “She does not like to lose, whether she running with one leg or two legs.”
Brown, in fact, ran with a stress fracture in one leg much of last season. Nonetheless, she placed sixth at the Evergreen meet, eighth at the Region II meet and 17th at the AA state meet.
Stephanie Giunta was the last Liberty girl to even qualify for state – in 2005 – and Jennifer Modliszewski was the last to place higher than 17th. Modliszewski won the state title in 1997 and went on to run at N.C. State.
“I don’t think she really grasped the entire breadth of that situation at the moment,” White said of Brown’s state performance. “It’s been a while since somebody [at Liberty] has accomplished that feat. She had administrators commenting and the AD commenting, but there’s no big-headedness about her.”
At the state meet, Brown beat all other district runners, making her a strong contender to win the Evergreen title this season. She then set a personal-record time at the region meet – 19 minutes, 35 seconds – before running a 19:36 at state.
“With her it’s just realizing she still has the potential to be that top state runner,” White said. “Keep her healthy and make sure she has the right mindset.
“She got some mileage in over the summer,” he said. “It’s showing.”
Along with Brown, new foreign exchange student Mami Takashaima should lead the Liberty girls. Prior to Tuesday, they were the only two girls on the Eagles’ roster, but then two more foreign exchange students joined the squad.
“They just appeared and said we’d like to run,” White said. “It just seems like we just keep getting a person here and there.”
Lara Promess is from Germany and Annanda Pures is from Brazil, while Takashaima is from Japan.
“She ran in Japan and actually has trophies,” White said. “She’s not quite able to keep with Taylor, but to hold her pace. She’s impressed me in practice.”
With so few girls on Liberty’s past teams – two last season – Brown has trained with Liberty’s boys on occasion, including during the 2012 postseason.
Three returning starters will lead the Liberty boys – senior Danny Collins, junior Adam Walker and junior Michael Fairfax – and rounding out the lineup are freshmen David Kraus and Wyatt Potter.
During a meet at Eastern View on Wednesday, Kraus set a personal-record in 22:25 and placed 26th after posting a 23:07 at a season-opening Chancellor Invitational on Saturday and a 23:33 in a scrimmage at Eastern View.
Kraus “has really impressed me,” White said. “Just to see the leaps and bounds he’s made since the first week of practice.”
Collins should be the Eagles’ top runner this season after leading them with a 10th-place finish in the 2012 district meet, clocking a 17:44.
“He’s really dedicated to the sport,” White said. “He loves to run, so I think his passion will help him drive to the top.”
The Liberty boys have fewer runners than the eight they had last season, so they will struggle to compete as a team after placing fourth in Evergreen last season. Their individual goals, however, won’t change.
“My goals are always the same every year, whether we have one person or 30 people on the team,” White said. “Always try to make it to that state meet and get stronger and faster throughout the season.”
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