* Taylor Ewert wins Gatorade's National Track and Field AOY award
Photo Credit: Gatorade
"At the end of the day, I want to use this freshman year to set myself up for an NCAA career and come out as one of the top freshman and hopefully one of the top NCAA runners in the fall. I want work my way up. Top 30, top 20, to top 10. You know me, a slow progression."
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Taylor Ewert didn't think twice when a massive box arrived on her family's doorstep this past week.
Her father, Brian, had been doing work in the back yard for weeks, so she just figured it was another piece of material used for building. Curious but not surprised, the recent Beavercreek (OH) High School graduate didn't inspect it and instead let her mother, Teri, haul it off and set it aside.
A few days later, though, another interesting development came.
Ewert received a notification that she was going to be interviewed by ESPN.
That was new, for sure, but not overly unusual, considering she had just been named Ohio's state track and field Player of the Year by Gatorade.
But then, midway through the interview, Ewert finally put it all together. Out of the corner of her eye she saw her mother holding a gigantic trophy ... a Gatorade National Player of the Year trophy.
"And then the interviewer announced I had won," she said.
On Tuesday, it became official. Ewert, a 9-time Ohio state champion across all seasons, a 5-time national cross country All-American and a University of Arkansas signee, was named as Gatorade's National Player of the Year for the spring track and field season.
"It means a lot," Ewert said. "I'm very grateful to receive this award. It's tough when you know what you could have accomplished over the outdoor season and weren't able to do it. But this leaves this season on a good note and I'm grateful."
In many ways, Gatorade's recognition of Ewert was a bet on the Ohio dual-threat athlete, who has qualified for the Olympic Trials in the 20K racewalk but also presents a promising future in the steeplechase at the NCAA level; she's the defending New Balance Nationals Outdoor high school champion for 2,000 meters.
"She deserves it," Beavercreek coach Howard Russ said of the award. "I really don't think there has ever been a distance runner like her ... She took our program from a state power to a national power. Now the goal is to keep it going."
Of course, this season was unprecedented. Every single season across the United States was canceled ahead of state championships. Ewert, in particular, hadn't raced since March -- her last high school races, in fact, were two indoor state championships in the 1,600m and 3,200m.
She at least had that. Since then, while many athletes have been tuning up on the track with informal races or tune-ups, Ewert has been training.
"I have not done time trials," she said. "Right now, it's more important for me to get good training blocks in ... but the second I found out (NSAF's outdoor meet) was canceled, I just wanted to focus on getting ready for (NCAA) cross country and continue to build on my aerobic base."
* In 2018, MileSplit published a feature on dual-threat athlete Taylor Ewert
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Ewert had planned a few races a few weeks ahead of the revised schedule for the National Scholastic Athletic Foundation's outdoor meet, she said, but then they got canceled, too.
Weirdly, Ewert was hit with the realization that her high school career was over immediately following one of the best training runs of her life.
She had finished 13 miles -- had breezed through it, actually, while her mother biked alongside her.
And in that moment, she said, it felt like everything was right where it needed to be. But then Ewert received a text from her coach, informing her of Ohio's cancellation of the state season.
"I just remember I was going really good, I felt in shape," she said. "I'm talking to my mom about goals. And then I'm on the phone with my coach, 'Ohio has canceled all of track.'"
But that won't dismiss what Ewert was capable of. The Ohio standout, who holds a handful of American Junior and national high school record race walking records, is the defending runner-up at Nike Cross Nationals and a three-time All-American of that competition. She's finished within the top 6 at Foot Locker Nationals over the past two seasons, too.
And yet, her main priority over the outdoor season was the 2K steeplechase national record, which was re-set in 2019 by Sarah Trainor. Ewert's personal best time of 6:33.61 was just four seconds off of Trainor's national-mark, though the pair did not race for a NBNO title in 2019.
There were also various PRs, from the one mile run outdoors (4:48.01), to the 3,200m (10:17.85) that Ewert was likely to drop considerable time on.
* Taylor Ewert's American Junior Record racewalk in the 3,000 meters indoors
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And of course, there was the racewalk. Ewert owns American Junior records at 3,000 meters indoors (13:00.56) and 5,000 meters outdoors (22:28.61), the latter effort ending the 2019 season as the No. 28 best time in the world.
She also sports a national indoor record in the mile racewalk indoors of 6:34.53 and has gone 48:24.61 for 10,000 meters outdoors, leading to her U.S. Olympic Trials qualification.
Ewert chose Arkansas over the National Letter of Intent period for a lot of reasons, the biggest of which being that the Razorbacks, who won three straight NCAA national championship titles in XC, indoor and outdoor track across the 2019-2020 seasons, are a winning program -- and few athletes at her age in the United States are as competitive as Ewert.
"At the end of the day, I want to use this freshman year to set myself up for an NCAA career and come out as one of the top freshman and hopefully one of the top NCAA runners in the fall," she said. "I want work my way up. Top 30, top 20, to top 10. You know me, a slow progression."
But the program also will give her Ewert a chance to chase her dreams toward the Olympics, as her training heeds additional time outside distance running and more precision in the race walk.
"I would really love to take that opportunity and make it," Ewert said. "But I know I have things to work on."
- 2019: Jasmine Moore
- 2018: Katelyn Tuohy
- 2017: Sydney McLaughlin
- 2016: Sydney McLaughlin
- 2015: Candace Hill
- 2014: Raven Saunders
- 2013: Kendell Williams
- 2012: Shelbi Vaughan
- 2010: Amy Weissenbach
- 2009: Ashton Purvis
- 2008: Anna Jelmini
- 2007: Chanelle Price
- 2006: Emily Pendleton
- 2005: Bianca Knight
- 2004: Brittany Daniels
- 2003: Shalonda Solomon
- 2002: Allyson Felix
- 2001: Sanya Richards-Ross
- 2000: Ychlindria Spears