In a world where many coaches and parents insist on athletic specialization for their kids, it is a welcome breath of fresh air to meet and listen to the philosophies of Taylor Ewert.
Ewert, a high school senior from Beavercreek, OH, stunned the crowd at Liberty University on Friday evening with her national record-setting performance in one of the more unusual events in prep track and field - the 3,000-meter racewalk. Her time of 13:00.57 smashed the old record she set at Liberty last year (13:24). and brought the crowd to a roar as it started to become obvious, as announcer Bill Lott started to work through the math , that the first sub-13-minute performance ever by a high schooler was a possibility, a fact that Lott conveyed to the several thousand spectators on hand.
"I would have been excited (about breaking 13)," admitted Ewert after the race. But the Arkansas commit added, "But I have a 20-km walk coming up at the Millrose Games soon.
For many of the participants in the VA Showcase racewalks, the event is perhaps a chance for good (not always great) runners to aim for a college career from another angle. There are a few scholarship opportunities for racewalkers, and for that reason, some runners will make the switch to the walk in the hopes of continuing their athletic careers.
By comparison, Ewert is already a great runner, and one who missed the national high school record in the 1,500-meter steeplechase by "2 or 3" seconds last summer, although she only ran the event twice in 2019. She has also run 4:48 for the full mile.
So why walk?
"I've been race walking since I was eight years old. I got into it through AAU track," said Ewert. "It's a unique event."
Yet, walking three kilometers or hurdling over barriers for two is not always challenging enough for the diverse prodigy.
Which leads back to the 20-kilometer racewalk.
"I'm prepping for the Olympic Trials," says Ewert, who is self-aware enough to realize that the 2020 Trials will be held just weeks after her Ohio state track meet.
Ewert represents a dying breed in sports - that of the multi-faceted athlete. Although she focuses on running, she expands her boundaries within the sport.
"I want to open doors for my pro career," says the 18-year old, but the reason is deeper than simply building up a resume. Speaking of her various events, she says, "It's good for cross-training. It's high school, and I don't want to focus on one event. (Doing multiple events) gives me a chance to develop myself."
It also adds options. While Ewert is focusing on the longer race walk for the 2020 Olympic Trials, she feels that by 2024, she may be ready to qualify in the running events. By then, she will still be just 22 and in prime condition.
But for a short time on Friday evening, she was the belle of the ball at Liberty.
"I like the track here," said Ewert of the swift Liberty oval. "It's known for fast times, and finding a good track is hard. Also, it's important that all the judges are USATF certified. If I break a record, it won't be challenged. Plus, it's not too far of a drive for us."
So, for the time being, Ewert will enjoying exploring the boundaries of running and walking. On Saturday morning, some of the muscles that she finds to be sore after a hard run will feel better than the ones she worked on Friday evening as a walker. And for one more day, Taylor Ewert will reign as track's young Renaissance woman.