FORT PAYNE — Often before races begin, Ider cross country runners will ask head coach Dustin Bryant which runner from an opposing team they need to keep pace with in order to give themselves the best chance for a strong finish.
Seventh-grader Makinley Traylor asked Bryant that same question prior to the girls state-qualifying race in Huntsville on Nov. 5. The coach didn’t want Traylor keeping pace with a particular runner. He wanted her to compete with herself.
Traylor made her pace a winning pace, capping her first cross country season with the AHSAA Class 1A-2A individual girls state championship in Oakville on Nov. 14.
After crossing the finish line in a winning 20 minutes, 43 seconds, the state champion ran into the arms of her parents.
“It just shocked me that I’d just won something from the state and I didn’t know what to do,” Traylor told The Times-Journal during a phone interview last week.
Traylor’s winning effort helped the Ider girls place third overall in the team competition.
“I was toe-to-toe with this girl the whole race and we passed each other. And then on that last stretch of the race, I outran her,” Traylor said.
Bryant, who just completed his third year at the helm of Ider’s cross country program, had high expectations for Traylor before the season began. He’d watched her play other sports when she was in elementary school and knew she’d thrive in cross country.
“She’s a special kid, a winner,” Bryant said.
Traylor’s first-place finish was 12 seconds faster than state runner-up Reagan Parris of Cold Springs and 41 seconds faster than third-place finisher Brooke Crider of Cold Springs. Traylor earned all-state honors in addition to her top individual finish.
“We knew about where (Traylor) had to be to win the individual state championship,” Bryant said. “It really came down to her and one other girl. Our strategy was to run consistent with her until the last 1,000 meters. That’s when we thought (Traylor) needed to separate herself and she did just that. Her maturity and mental capacity for a seventh-grade kid is unbelievable.”
Ider relied heavily on the strength of its young nucleus of runner this season. The girls team fielded five seventh-graders (Kennzie Smith, Makinley Traylor, Brynley Traylor, Emma Hayes and Madilyn Johnson), an eighth-grader (Maleah Smith), a freshman (Aubree Chapman) and a sophomore (Brewer). Junior Everett King was Ider’s lone male runner to qualify for the state competition; he finished 58th overall (19:59) in the state race.
“I was happy that I wasn’t the only seventh-grader running,” Traylor said.
Traylor was the top individual finisher in the sectional race, in which the Ider girls won. Other winning finishes for the Ider girls included the Jackson/DeKalb County Meet in Pisgah on Oct. 8, the Scottsboro Invitational on Sept. 26 and the Pisgah Invitational on Sept. 5. They placed second in Scottsboro’s Black and Gold Classic on Aug. 29 and placed third in a race at the Wildcat Fall Classic at White Plains on Oct. 17.
Sophomore Lexi Brewer, who was the eldest of the Ider girls competing at the state race, said she’s looking forward to what her team can accomplish next season with such a talented group of young runners returning.