It has been a season to remember for Stailee Heard.
The 8th-grader is flying around race courses and nothing seems to get in her way, even untied shoes. More on that later.
Stailee is undefeated for the Sapulpa Chieftains Junior High Cross Country team. Through four races, she has four wins.
“It makes me feel good. I have great coaches. I have great teammates. I have great parents that push me to be the best,” she said during the team’s off week.
Stailee’s times are blistering fast. Here’s what she’s accomplished this season.
Sapulpa Chieftain Cross Country Meet – 5:32 in the one-mile race. There were 65 runners.
Broken Arrow Tigers XC Meet – 9:34 in the 2500m race. There were 147 runners.
Holland Hall XC Invitational – 5:23 in the one-mile race. There were 181 runners.
Yukon/ENDURO XC Classic – 12:05 in the two-mile race. There were 90 runners.
The team has come in first in all the competitions except for Holland Hall where they finished in second place.
“I’ve definitely seen her (take on) more of a leadership role this year just with the way she carries herself during the race. One thing about Stailee, she’s super calm, so other girls need that sometimes,” said Junior High Coach Jeremy Lusk. “She’s not super, super vocal but she leads by her you know, her work ethic and other things so it’s great to have her out there as our leader.”
Stailee also said her work ethic is what’s helped her. She said she wasn’t in the shape at the beginning of the season that she is now, but during training she runs with the fastest runners to help push her.
“It’s working pretty well.”
Training with fast runners can be intimidating, but not as much as the start of the race when you’re lined up with a hundred other competitors waiting for the starting pistol.
“Nerves get me at the beginning like bad and I just think about do your best and don’t worry,” Stailee said.
“Couple weeks ago I could tell she was a little more nervous than usual and I just said, “Stailee, you know what you can do, go do your thing they’re not gonna catch you on the kick. You have a great kick,” said Coach Lusk.
She needed every bit of that kick, as well as a different kind of kick, during the Holland Hall meet, which coincidentally is Stailee’s favorite race because of the course.
Shortly after the gun went off to start the race, her shoe came untied. As the race went on, the shoe got looser and looser. Stailee found herself trailing a strong runner.
“She wins a lot of 5ks. She’s probably one of my best competitions.”
Despite the loose shoe and the tough competition ahead of her, Stailee had her right where she wanted her.
“I usually like to have a runner in front of me just so I can pace myself and usually ’cause if I don’t have a runner in front of myself, I’m just coasting.”
She definitely wasn’t coasting as the runners drew closer to the finish line but the loose shoe wasn’t helping matters.
“Near the end right before I finished on the track, it started, that’s when it came off. It was comin’ off so I just kinda kicked it off there.”
“She lost a shoe and she had the girl about 100 meters left and Stailee kicked, then this girl kicked,” Coach Lusk recalled.
“She was probably like two to three feet in front of me and then I just kept her in my sight at a close distance so that I didn’t have to work so hard to keep up with her, so I just kept up with her and I kicked at the end.”
“Stailee out-kicked her at the end and by a foot or two beat her at the end. It was great, yea,” said Coach Lusk.
“I beat her by a second,” said Stailee. “It was pretty amazing.”
To see her kick off her shoe and then kick up her speed was nothing new for her coaches.
“I always say beast mode with Stailee, that’s kind of a phrase we use. She knows what that is. She’s always got enough in the tank. I’ve never seen her not have enough in the tank to do what she needs to do to win.”
Stailee and her teammates have two more races this season, with the first one coming Oct. 10 in Bartlesville for the Frontier Valley Conference Meet.
Two shoes or just one shoe, it doesn’t matter to Stailee. She’s on a roll and ready to unleash more of that beast mode mentality.
“I feel pretty confident,” she said. “I’m ready to run.”