It's late August and Taryn Parks is in shape. Very good shape.
"I'm feeling stronger than I have in the past at this time," the Greencastle-Antrim High School senior says. "I'm just really eager to start racing and seeing where my fitness is."
Rich Secrest, Parks' coach, has been noticing her improvements, too.
"You look much better at this point in time than you ever have before," he adds. "You look stronger. You took a nice run-up with mileage."
He says that as she walks to grab a sip of water, just after a 6x1,000-meter repeat workout toward the end of a week of training, and just before a cool down at tempo. It's all clockwork.
The rising senior took two weeks off from running entirely following a mile PR of 4:42.37 to place second at the Brooks PR Invitational in June. She's only seven weeks into her new training cycle, but she says she's been focusing on what will help her for later in the season.
"She's added some strength training and speed training at a local gym that's gonna help maybe recruit some of that fast-twitch muscle fibers and she's going to continue doing that over the next six months," Secrest said. "We've already seen the benefits from it."
All of Parks' workouts will be building toward November and December, where Parks hopes to make it to Foot Locker Nationals for the fourth year in a row, something only 24 other girls have done in Foot Locker's 40-year history.
"I think states is always like a goal of mine, but I think above all it's definitely regionals, nationals and trying to be a four-time Foot Locker National finalist," Parks said. "I think it's definitely special. It goes back to my freshman year, and they made a big deal about how very few people have gone four times.
"I've definitely just stuck with that goal all four years and I just want to finish it off strong this year."
Although Parks has finished 40th (2016), 36th (2017) and 27th (2018) at Foot Locker Nationals over the past three years, she's only focused on what's ahead. Constant improvement.
"I think what makes her a very good competitor is that she doesn't assume anything," Secrest said. "What's in the rearview mirror is in the rearview mirror. You are only as good as what you've proven, as what you are this day at this championship at this whatever.
"She knows that and she doesn't let previous performances hold her back. There are no strings on her back to the previous performance, she's looking forward and she's hungry, these things excite her.
"She's still young (and) she's still new to the sport and to make those trips and going to San Diego, that's a huge motivator for her -- but she also wants to be an all-American in cross country and she wants to get those top positions."
Parks also ran some of the best times in the nation last track season. She won an indoor national title in the mile. And in the spring, she scored PRs of 2:09.56 in the 800m, 4:37.07 in the 1,600m and 4:42.37 for the full mile. She won her third straight 1,600m title this spring at the PIAA Class AAA Championships.
"I think of myself as more of a track runner, so I just try and use the cross country season to work on my strength and just keep my goals for track in front of me," Parks said.
She's been slowly building over the summer to get to where she is now.
"She's done a very good job of increasing her mileage each week, she's done a lot of work on her own with her schedule and working in the summertime and showing maturity and responsibility," Secrest said.
The 1K repeats were a part of a larger plan for Parks' training, which has been planned out until June 2020.
It's something Secrest believes will be important as the senior begins to take official visits to North Carolina State, University of North Carolina, Georgetown, Washington, and Stanford this fall.
Parks and Secrest talking after her 1K repeats.
"Things can be overwhelming; you go into your senior year and you want to worry about your grades, training, and that added schedule strain you only have 100-percent of the time to divvy-up," Secrest said.
With 2020 being an Olympic year, Parks has some dreams, too.
"She has bought-in [to the training], and we know this is an Olympic year and [qualifying for] the USA Trials would be something that's nice, very nice," Secrest said. "I think she could come close to qualifying."
Although she has accomplished quite a bit already in her high school career, Parks said she's looking to focus on one race at a time.
"I think being my senior year I just want to take it in slowly and I don't want it to fly by," Parks said.
"I know she has a lot to prove in the 5K, which she totally can. I think it's just her believing in herself, believing in the paces and the workouts that we do," Secrest added. "Nothing surprises me about her, no performance would ever surprise me."
Coach Rich Secrest:
"We don't have a crystal ball and we can't tell what's going on. We just trust in the process, you have to buy into the process, and she and her parents and family have really done that from day one. And it's really made things smooth and easy with training her."
"With what we've seen in workouts, her leg speed, and she's been able to do what we feel is very confident she can achieve certain things. But if that's not there, and we don't achieve that, getting as close as we possibly can, these times -- they are not some dragon you have to slay. There are things that should be obvious as you're coming along in your training."
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- On The Line, Episode 14: Greencastle-Antrim's Taryn Parks
- Parks Takes Second In Brooks PR Mile