The Classical Academy senior Kaylee Thompson had a bit of ground to make up to the top runners in the area when she first went out for cross country as a junior.

“I remember the first day I showed up to cross country, I had this old pair of tennis shoes, and I didn’t realize you had to have, like, running shoes,” Thompson said.

“It definitely has been a learning experience.”

Thompson’s apparently a quick learner, as she finished her first season running competitively with a 10th-place showing at state before finishing first this year in 18:19.2. It was the fastest state time in the area and helped Thompson earn Gazette Preps Cross Country Peak Performer of the Year.

The 2018 win not only helped the Titans to a team title but surpassed what Thompson thought possible just a couple months ago.

“During the summer, I thought about it, but I was like, ‘That’s so far-reaching, I could never accomplish that goal,’” she said.

“Then as I went closer and closer to the season, I kinda thought more about it, but I still thought it was impossible.”

The decision to go for it, one she acknowledges could’ve hurt her team had she pushed too much and crashed late, was made in the week leading up to state.

She decided to push herself from the start of the Titans’ regional race and ended up with 30-second win.

“I usually like to start more laid back, because I’m always scared that I won’t have enough energy at the end,” she said.

“That race helped teach me a lot that I could finish a race and have enough.”

After that regional, however, even TCA coach Alan Versaw was reluctant to push her to try and win, instead thinking about the Titans’ team-title hopes.

“I didn’t want to say, ‘Kaylee to for the win,’ because the last thing I wanted to do was blow it up,” Versaw said.

“As I found out later, she had entertained the idea.”

Thompson credited some of her quick ascension to a better understanding of the sport. What also helped was giving up club soccer, her previous fall activity. As a junior, she balanced the demands of each sport before committing herself to running in the summer.

“I wanted to go to college for cross country, so I decided that that’s what I wanted to focus on,” she said.

“I thought it was kind of fun that I had this new sport, and I feel like I had done soccer for so long that I wanted to try something new and pursue that.”

Now, having made up that ground, she’s deciding how she wants to spend the spring: one last season of high school soccer or a first season of track where she could help prepare for Division I running, as she’s committed to Brigham Young University.

“I really want to finish my high school soccer career as a senior, but I also really want to do track,” she said. “So we’ll see what happens.”

Thompson didn’t take the typical path to cross country success, but that doesn’t mean she has any regrets.

“I wouldn’t change anything,” she said.

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