Beavercreek junior puts charge into girls cross country

Beavercreek High School junior Taylor Ewert, a world-class racewalker, finished third at the Division I state cross country championships last season. GREG BILLING / CONTRIBUTED
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Beavercreek High School junior Taylor Ewert, a world-class racewalker, finished third at the Division I state cross country championships last season. GREG BILLING / CONTRIBUTED

Competing as a world-class racewalker, as well as a national champion steeplechaser, has taken Beavercreek High School junior Taylor Ewert to Finland, Peru and Canada. The Tokyo Olympics and the IAFF U-20 World Championships in Kenya, both in 2020, are also on Ewert’s itinerary.

But for the next few months, the world traveler is focused on a destination about 90 miles away.

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Ewert and her Beavercreek cross country teammates are concentrating on Columbus and the Division I state cross country championships. The Beavers return a talented top four and a group of about 10 girls battling for the final three spots.

It starts with Ewert, who finished third in last season’s D-I state championship in 17:35.1 and just five seconds behind Troy graduate Morgan Gigandet. Beavercreek finished fifth overall as a team, and returns its top three runners and added a move-in who finished fourth in the Virginia 4A state cross country championships last season.

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Beavercreek, as well as the rest of the state, continues to chase the Centerville girls. The Elks have won the past four D-I state titles and return six of the top seven runners from that title team this season.

“This year I’m more motivated than ever. I’m trying to make sure I’m doing all the little details and being there for my teammates,” Ewert said. “I’d love to go for a state title and I’m hoping the team can follow up with a state title as well.”

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Ewert already had quite a haul from competing this summer. Among her 2018 highlights:

• Set an American U-20 record in the 5,000-meter racewalk (23:07.07) while winning the USA vs. Canada Junior Match. The previous U.S. record was 23:44 set in 2005. Her time also broke the meet record of 24:11 set in 1999.

• Set an American Junior record in the 5K racewalk in 22:38:16 at the Penn Relays, the fastest U-20 performance in the world this year.

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• Lowered her 10K racewalk American Junior record by more than three minutes to 45:57.81 at the IAAF World U-20 Championships in Finland. Her 10th-place finish marked the first time an American female made the top 10 in the race walk at any level of world competition.

• Won the New Balance Nationals 2,000-meter steeplechase in North Carolina on a Saturday (missing the high school sophomore record by one second), then drove to Indiana to win the the 10K racewalk at the USATF Junior Nationals the next day. Her racewalk time of 49:07.52 was a Junior record that she shattered in Finland.

“Coming off such an incredible summer it’s kind of hard to think how am I going to top that?” Ewert said. “Last year I’d done anything to be where I am now. If I kind of look into the future – and not really think about the reward but the ground covered to get there – I think there’s a lot to come. I try to stay positive and keep working hard.”

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Beavercreek coach Howard Russ said Ewert is as humble as she is successful. She rarely mentions up her accomplishments on her own, so he’ll do it for her.

“I’ve had her bring her USA gear just to show the girls how cool it is. We’ll watch her races on the internet,” Russ said. “But she’s not one to really talk about her race walking unless you really bring it up to her. We’re all amazed. She can walk faster than a lot of kids can run a 5K.”

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In addition to Ewert, Beavercreek also returns sophomore Juliann Williams (26th at state) and junior Jodie Pierce (36th). Junior Savannah Roark, whose father was transferred to Wright-Patterson AFB, makes up Creek’s top four runners. Junior Kendall Hobbs (110th) and seniors Bently Barrett (119th) and Molly Bernhard (146th) were also members of last season’s state team.

“Our top four girls I think they can compete with anybody,” Russ said. “We’re looking for that No. 5 and we have a whole group of girls who have really put in some big mileage thus summer.”

Ewert puts her competitive racewalking on hold during the cross country season and will pick it up again in November. And while the 2020 Olympics and the potential of competing with Team USA is always in the back of her mind, it the 178-person strong Beavercreek cross country team – boys and girls combined – that has her attention now.

“At the end of the day we’re all out here trying hard,” Ewert said, echoing of Beavercreek’s season motto of be the best you can every day. “Whether I’m trying for a low 17-minute 5K or someone is going for a low 23 minute, we’re both out here doing the workout and getting it done.”

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