Family Ties, Individual Happiness
I never wanted to run while growing up.
I grew up in a running family surrounded by relatives running collegiately and professionally, with no desire of my own to run. I was a soccer player. I played soccer since I was three years old and when high school started I played both on my P1 (premier) club team and my high school team. I played outside back and wing and loved to use my speed while in the game and enjoyed the conditioning.
While in middle school, many of my soccer friends did track or cross country to get in some extra fitness. I decided to join them on those teams to help improve my soccer fitness. I raced a few times, but did not enjoy it very much.
Courtney Meldrum, the distance coach at the high school I would be attending, always came to these middle school races. Courtney ran in college at BYU with my aunt and would consistently ask me to come run with her team at the high school. I declined each time she asked, telling her I was happy with soccer. If I ever saw her out in public situations I would go out of my way to avoid talking to her, knowing she would ask me to run.
Fast forward to my junior year of high school.
It was fall of 2020 and I was playing soccer for my high school team. It had been a frustrating season thus far both individually as a player and with some situations with my high school coaches. One Friday practice we had a full conditioning session, consisting of a 2.5-mile run doing laps around our high school.
I tended to do very well at these conditioning sessions and put quite some distance on the rest of the team. After practice, Courtney approached me telling me she had watched me run and asked me to run a XC 5K race the next day. I was very frustrated with soccer at the moment and finally gave in and decided to try and race.
I was so nervous to race because I knew it would hurt. I showed up to the race completely clueless. Before the race started Courtney told me to switch into my spikes. I was so confused what she meant, having no idea what spikes were let alone having any. I was able to borrow some from a teammate before I raced. The race did hurt — as expected — but I did very well and made our school's varsity cross country team.
Even with the success, I still hated running. I told my coach, “I don’t think I can go faster than that, it was my very best.” She laughed at me and told me, “Just wait Taylor.”
I still had about a month left of my high school soccer season and didn’t have time to run with my soccer practice schedule. After my soccer team had our state tournament, I began to run consistently with the cross country team.
However, with soccer there is no break; immediately after the high school season is over training begins for club teams. My running coaches, Courtney and Ryan Bybee, told me I would race varsity at our state meet, which was about 20 days away. I ran very low and modified mileage those three weeks while balancing it with soccer, and maybe ran one or two incomplete workouts.
The state meet came and I ended up placing 6th overall across all divisions in Utah. It was after this state championship race I began to like running. I loved the team and enjoyed spending time running with them.
I continued to run and slowly was building up a base and mileage. I really enjoyed running at this point but still loved soccer and choosing one or the other was something I couldn’t do. I was still training with my club team and went to a soccer tournament in January of 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona.
In our finals game, two girls on the opposing team ended up being sent to the hospital for a torn ACL and broken ankle. After returning from this tournament my club coach sat me down. He told me that during the entire finals game he was just thinking about me and how easily girls were getting injured.
He told me obviously he didn’t want to lose a player but knew I had a lot of potential in running. He said he would be so happy if I stayed on his team but if he were my father he would tell me to run. He was such an awesome coach and mentor. Especially, because at that level of competitive club soccer most coaches are not concerned about your best interest individually over the team goals.
I went to Courtney’s house and told her I decided to stop playing soccer and focus entirely on running. She was so thrilled and knew it would be the right decision. I decided I wanted to run in college and see if it was a possibility for me. So, I started putting in the work. I had my grandpa, two uncles, one aunt, and two coaches all run at BYU, as well as two teammates committed there for the following fall.
It was always a hope in the back of my mind to run there. I followed their running and set it as a hopeful goal.
At this point in late January we were building up and just beginning to incorporate some workouts into our training. I was doing well, improving, and loving the sport. On February 1, 2021 there was a lot of snow in Utah. After school my friends and I went sledding. We were sledding down a steep hill with a three-foot jump at the bottom.
I wanted to get some air so I went down on a tube with a running start. I ended up going off the jump so fast and achieved my goal of getting a lot of air. When I was coming down the tube was not underneath me anymore and I was basically falling towards the ground head first. I fell on my back halfway rotated as I was trying to come to my stomach mid-air.
I thought I had just bruised my tailbone and got the wind knocked out of me. Later that night I was home trying to do homework and couldn’t stand the pain. I ended up getting some x-rays and found out I had broken my back. We drove up to Primary Children’s Hospital and were there for most of the night getting further x-rays and scans. I had multiple small fissure breaks in my L2 and L3 vertebrae with a compression fracture as well.
Very luckily, those would heal perfectly fine, not involving any surgery or lasting issues.
The only problem was that I was not able to train for about 8-10 weeks.
I was devastated and so upset as I had just a few days before decided to quit soccer to run. After some emotional talks with Courtney and Ryan we set up a plan for me to try and get in maybe a few races at the end of the track season in May. For the first two weeks I could not leave my bed, but after that we set up a cross training schedule.
My doctor only approved me to aqua-jog; no elliptical, no biking, and no swimming. I aqua-jogged almost everyday for about 6 weeks. I even made friends with all the senior citizens who were aqua-jogging as well at my local rec center.
I made it a priority to still go to my teams workouts and meets to cheer them on and help my coaches give them their splits. During these long weeks I was so hungry to run and wanted to compete more than anything. I then eventually got cleared to slowly work into biking and the elliptical. About two weeks later, I got cleared to begin running lightly.
I started running just a half mile on the track then adding a half mile more each day. I built up my mileage and continued cross training. Finally in May of 2021 I got to race my first high school track meet! I only had two meets to qualify for my state track meet as I was coming into the season so late. I ended up qualifying in the two events I ran and improved my times each race.
After these races I had a phone call with Coach Diljeet Taylor at BYU and was motivated to keep working hard. I ended up doing well at my state meet with a new PR.
After my extremely short track season I ran all summer getting stronger and really fell in love with running. I made a lot of changes in my sleeping and eating habits to do all the little things I could to improve. I started looking forward to challenging workouts and opportunities to push myself. I was really looking forward to my first actual cross country season.
I ended up starting my season with huge PR’s and was so motivated to do well. I took some official recruiting visits, and when I took my visit to BYU I knew it was the right choice. Coach Taylor puts so much into her team and program, and the team bond was insanely special. I ended up committing and signing to run at BYU. I was so excited and couldn't wait to see what I could do.
Later into the season I learned through experience about the mental side of running. I had a little patch of rough races, but during this same time I was just having a hard time in everyday life. My coach Courtney was a huge supporter and helped me through this hard time — not only with running goals, but my spiritual goals and improving myself as a person.
I really saw improvement in myself, and improvement in running followed. It was then time to prepare for some regional races. I was beyond nervous as I had never raced outside of Utah.
I went to the NXR Southwest race in Arizona with my teammates this past fall. We had the best time and I ran well enough to continue onto NXN (which unfortunately was canceled due to covid). What I was really looking forward to was the Eastbay West Regional race held at Mount Sac in California. I knew it would be very challenging and more competitive than any race I had done before. My coaches helped me find confidence in my running and not focus on others’ ranking or times.
I fought in that race and placed in the top ten, advancing to Eastbay Nationals the following weekend in San Diego, California. I will always remember the hugs I got from my coaches Ryan and Courtney after that race, as well as how much fun I had on this trip with all 100 of us. At Eastbay Nationals I met some really cool people and that trip was probably the highlight of my year. Although the race did not go as I had hoped, those friendships are some that I will have throughout college.
Running has brought me so many blessings and friendships that I am so thankful for. While I never wanted to run as a kid, it is now such a huge part of me and I can’t imagine my life without this incredible sport.