SPORTS HEADLINES

Going the distance: Taylor chases elusive state bid

Published Wednesday, April 25, 2012
By Richard Greene

IN FOR THE LONG RUN - Northwest's Troy Taylor will try to nail down a trip to the state meet Friday and Saturday in the 3,200 and 1,600 at the Class 5A Region I meet in Lubbock. This Justin photo by Joe Duty

On the high plains at Lubbock, Troy Taylor has chased after a so-far elusive state bid.

But as the Northwest senior from Rhome heads west a fourth time to run in the Class 5A Region I finals in the 3,200 and 1,600, he’s not dwelling on those past races.

“I just move on and get experience,” Taylor said.

The senior is confident this will be his time to earn a trip to Austin for the state meet. The District 7-5A runner-up in the mile and two-mile has been strong all season. He’s turned in a 9:14.3 in the 3,200 in the opening week of the season and ran a 9:15.35 at district.

In the 1,600 at district, he ran a school-record 4:13.4.

“I’m pretty strong and fresh,” Taylor said. “That’s a good sign for this late in the year.”

Northwest distance coach George Lutkenhaus said Taylor is in the best shape of his career.

“He’s as ready as he’s been,” Lutkenhaus said. “He realizes that he can run with anybody.

“But it’s so tough to run well out there [in Lubbock]. You have to have some luck and go compete.”

Luck has not been on Taylor’s side the past two years as he’s fought allergies while competing against some of the nation’s best runners from Southlake Carroll, Flower Mound and Flower Mound Marcus.

“Lubbock is not a good place to run, especially the two mile or mile,” he said. “It’s hot and dry. Every year since my freshman year, I’ve had real bad allergies from dryness and dirt.”

Illness took its toll on Taylor in both distance events last year when he entered as one of the top seeds after winning a pair of 7-5A titles.

In the 3,200, he was in medal contention through the first mile before falling back to finish sixth in 9:41.36.

The next day in the mile, he took the lead with 420 meters remaining and led until the final 200 meters. He fell back to sixth, reaching the finish line in 4:23.35.

But Taylor showed no lingering frustration about regionals. A month later at the prestigious Congress Avenue Mile – running against the state’s top distance runners – he finished second in a blazing 4:08, two seconds behind the winner.

“After being sick at regionals, I moved on to Congress, which gave me a chance to run against the best in the state,” Taylor said. “To run that fast against that competition gave me a lot of confidence.”

Lutkenhaus said that performance in Austin elevated Taylor to a new level.

“He almost won it against the best-of-the-best,” Lutkenhaus said. “It showed him that he really could run with anyone.”

This spring, Taylor has turned in eye-popping times but has focused on staying healthy to give him his best shot at getting to state. He wasn’t upset about not defending his 7-5A crowns in the two events.

“I wasn’t too worried about district,” Taylor said. “I want to make my move at regionals.”

Of the two races, he doesn’t prefer one over the other.

“It’s either eight laps of pain or four,” he said.

Once again at regionals, he will face some of the state’s top runners. It’s something he’s used to after running against the likes of Craig Lutz and Connor Adams over the years.

“Our region is always the hardest with Southlake, Hebron, Flower Mound and Marcus,” Taylor said. “Those top-caliber guys have moved on to be the top guys in college.”

Taylor himself will get the opportunity to run in college next year. He’s signed with the University of North Texas.

Before heading to Denton, he’s hoping to make his way to Austin.

“I’m not worried about times this week. It’s all about place,” he said. “I just need to get first or second.”