By Richard Smith
West Valley Preps
Taylor Mollenhour was at her best Nov. 4, 2017, finishing seventh at the state Division I cross country championships with a time of 19:44.
The Mountain Ridge runner has rarely felt right since that day. For example, entering the state finals on Nov. 10, she had the 39th best time in Division I.
“Individually, I wasn’t sure what to expect coming into this because I had a strong (cross country) season last season but track was really rough for me. I missed a lot of training when I was sick (with pneumonia). It set me back really far. I didn’t PR that whole season,” Mollenhour said. “This season I haven’t had a PR yet, which I’m not entirely proud of but I have been going to physical therapy because of my knees and hips. This is my last week going and hopefully this is when I start getting into gear.”
Her coach, Mark Faust, has seen reason for optimism in recent weeks.
Mollenhour is on the mend, and it helps that the state meet at Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix is on Nov. 10 this year, essentially a week later than previous seasons.
“Taylor has been working through some pre-exisitng and nagging injuries all season long. It effected her ability to complete all the workouts designed to really task the body but we modified workouts and managed the injuries throughout the season. Taylor is at her healthiest all season as we prepare for state,” Faust stated in an email.
Faust is in his first season working with Mollenhour and a deep, veteran crew of girls distance runners. He was the Mountain Lions’ sprints/relays coach last season.
Before that he spent 17 years as an assistant for the Sunrise Mountain track & field and cross country teams. Between Mollenhour, the Simon triplets and Celicia Sermeno, the Mountain Lions’ top 5 is full of seniors who led them to a seventh-place finish in 2016 and ninth-place in 2017.
That has the team leaders focusing on the fifth and sixth runners this season. Getting them to run in a pack will allow the Mountain Lions get more points and reach the team’s goal of a top five finish.
“Individually, I’m hoping to see how I do. I want to do the best I can really. I don’t have a whole lot of expectations going into it because I have a lot going on with myself. I’m not where I was last year. But I’m hoping I can get a good place up there — at least for the team,” Mollenhour said.
If Mountain Ridge able to run as a pack near the front, Mollenhour could wind up their top points scorer again. She and Emily Simon are the Mountain Lions with the best finishing kicks.
“Taylor has multiple gears to her speed which makes her dangerous on the 5K course since you can’t rule her out. She can close fast and find another gear,” Faust stated.
Further down the road, Mollenhour is hoping to get a scholarship to run in college. She has talked with Grand Canyon University coaches and will talk to them more.Coach Faust is helping her make contacts, she said.
Mollenhour said she plans to study kniesiology or exercise science.But first she wants to leave on her best note with the other seniors.
“With me and the triplets carrying the team I was hoping we could work together this season. We have been a lot lately,” Mollenhour said.