Only a freshman, Slauson ready for challenge of state meet

KELSEY SLAUSON IS IN HER FIRST YEAR of running high school cross country and will get her first look at the state’s best Saturday in the Class 5A state cross country championships in Fort Collins.

Kelsey Slauson runs for one reason.

The Grand Junction freshman doesn’t do it for the accolades, and she doesn’t do it for fitness purposes.

Slauson runs simply because she loves it.

“I enjoy it so much, it is not painful at all,” Slauson said. “It is not something I do to get into shape or just to get glory, I do it because I love it.”

Running seems to love her back.

Slauson finished seventh at the Region 1 meet last weekend qualifying her for the state tournament this weekend in Fort Collins. Slauson was one of only two freshmen to finish in the top 15 as she crossed the line at 20:36.7.

“I was really surprised and exciting that I did qualify,” Slauson said. “It made me feel pretty good.”

Slauson began running as a fourth grader as a part of the Girls on the Run program. Slauson began slowly, but gradually picked up her pace and got hooked.

“I just started running more instead of walking during those practices,” Slauson said. “I started really enjoying it and running became addicting.”

By the time Slauson arrived at Grand Junction this fall, she was ready to turn some heads. The thing that impressed Grand Junction coach Clay Keithley was Slauson’s ability to improve over the season.

“Mentally to be able to go through all those races and physically it is the most running that a freshman will do consecutively,” Keithley said. “It is pretty tough, but every race she has gotten better and gotten better times.”

Besides that, Keithley said Slauson doesn’t have a lot of the typical freshman traits. She has the mental approach of an upperclassmen.

“She is self-motivated,” Keithley said. “We will go to a meet and the coaches will be doing their thing and I will look out and see Kelsey with the map starting to walk the course and it is like, wow. You can teach kids that, but they usually don’t get that until they are older, but she has it and I’m not going to question it.”

But the state meet can be an overwhelming thing. Slauson will be competing against roughly 100 runners.

Keithley said it can be intimidating at a runner’s first meet.

“Getting on the starting line and coping with the anxiety of looking down the line and seeing 100 kids will be the first step,” Keithley said. “But after the first mile she will realize this is just a big herd and it will be unlike any race she has been in.

“Just running at the state meet will be an experience she can build off of.”

Slauson said the key for her will be relying on what has taken her this far.

“I am going to do what I always do, which is be exhilarated by the run,” Slauson said. “My goal is to have fun and do my best.”

Although Slauson understands what an accomplishment it is to make it to the state meet in her freshman year, this is not the peak of her goals.

Before she graduates from Grand Junction, she would like to leave a legacy.

“I think it would be fun to be No. 1 on the top-10 record board,” Slauson said. “Plus go to state every year.”


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