KAYSVILLE — Taylor Cox isn't sure she'll realize her dream of being a state champion despite thousands of hours of training.
"That's the hardest part," said the Davis High junior of what it's like being a member of a deep, talented team. "I've always wanted to win a state championship, and it's hard knowing I probably won't because my teammates will beat me. But I stay motivated by thinking next year is my year."
But the Davis High junior is hoping a national championship might relieve some of the sting she'll likely feel when her teammates beat her, once again, in the 800-meter race this track season.
Instead of harboring resentment that Shea Martinez, who won the state championship in the 800, and Ellie Child, who finished second in that race, are always just a few seconds ahead of her, she's hoping their talent will help her evolve into an elite runner herself.
"When I first moved from Woods Cross (to Kaysville), I was kind of nervous," she said. "It was a hard transition because at Woods Cross, I was the top runner. I was kind of sad that I wouldn't be winning as much. But if I hadn't been training with these girls, there is no way I would have taken 15 seconds off my time last spring."
Cox admits the fierce competition can cause some friction. Luckily their head coach, Corbin Talley, is as skilled in sports psychology as he is in training regimens.
"The cross country season really brought us all together," Cox said of the team that finished 12th at the Nike Nationals. "We don't look at it as a competition anymore."
Track and cross country are unique team sports. Unlike traditional team sports like basketball or baseball, individuals can excel without the help of teammates. Just look at some of the state's best runners — Park City's Ben Saarel, who became the school's national finals qualifier with a first-place finish in the Foot Locker West Regional on Dec. 1. His highest finishing teammate in this fall's cross country meet was 15th. Or Summer Harper, from Orem, who just won the mile run in the Utah Distance Challenge.
But even in running, talented teammates can make a difference. In fact, it isn't even race day that makes speedy teammates an advantage.
It's in training.
If a runner's teammates are dedicated, goal-oriented and talented, it can motivate less-talented, less-committed teammates to improve.
Cox said winters are hardest for runners thanks to frigid temperatures, horrible air quality and cold and flu season.
"It is pretty hard right now," she said laughing. "We've had a lot of sickness on our team. In fact, three or four of us have bronchitis right now, including me. I've had to take a couple of weeks off, and it's been a little discouraging."
But she holds onto a goal she set with her speedy teammates after they reached their goal of competing as a group at the Nike National Cross Country meet in December.
They enjoyed the taste of nationals so much, they decided why not shoot for a national indoor title to get them through the toughest training months?
"We all focus on the 800 on our own," Cox said about Shea Martinez, Ellie Child and Joanna Boyd. "So we decide to focus on it as a group."
It turned out to be an inspired idea.
The team won the New Balance Boise Invitational on Jan. 25 and is currently ranked No. 2 in the country in the 4 x 800. They've been invited to run in New York at the New Balance Indoor Nationals in March if they can raise enough money to travel there.
Talley said it's difficult just to qualify, but these runners aren't just looking for a road trip.
"We want to go and win," he said. "We feel we can run quite a bit faster, and we hadn't done that much training in that first race. It was the first race of the (indoor) season for a couple of them, and with a little more experience, we think they'll improve."
Davis also qualified a team of boys that will run the 4 x 1600, and Talley said it's unusual to qualify such a large group of runners. Three of the girls have run 800-meters in in under 2:15, with Martinez owning the fastest time of 2:09. Child's best time is 2:14.2, while Cox's personal best is 2:15.3. Boyd's personal record is 2:22.4.
Their goal at nationals is to be under nine minutes, something only six teams have done in history, Talley said.
"It's pretty unique for us," he said. "I don't see us going back every year. We're only going to fly to New York if we have the opportunity to do really well. We want to be All-American or national champions." Cox is hoping for both.
"I've never been before," she said. "But I'm really excited. It's really kept us motivated. We've worked really hard. We have really high goals and we worked hard all through the summer. We want to win natinals, which I don't think is out of our reach."