Byline: Morgan Taylor/Multimedia Producer
OKEMAH, Oklahoma – Callie Coon placed second at the Class 2A Cross Country State Championship with a personal record of 12:37 on Oct. 24.
According to Coach Melissa Turner, the freshman was the only Okemah Cross Country team individual to run at the championship meet.
Running the pre-state meet at the same course, Coon had placed 18th, so Turner wanted to make the goal attainable for the upcoming state meet.
“Our initial goal was top 15,” Turner said. “It doesn’t matter about the time; what matters at state is place. We will accept whatever time we get.”
Before the meet, Turner told Coon the most crucial thing was to enjoy her experience after making it this far. “Sometimes, as a coach, you don’t know what to expect and how the kids will react,” she said. “I told her just enjoy the experience.”
Emotions were high for Turner watching her young runner, “She didn’t get a good start,” she said, “I didn’t know what to expect.”
In a large crowd of girls, it looked as though Coon was behind the pack. Turner became teary-eyed when she saw Coon take over the race coming from the end to ninth place, which was above their original goal.
“I just tried to stay with the girls I thought I needed to stay with,” Coon said.
“There was one large hill,” Turner said, and that’s when Coon started passing more girls that were slowing.
Turner and Coon said that practicing hills gave the runner the advantage.
“That’s when I knew she had it,” Turner said.
Coon had well surpassed the goal she and Turner had set and even set a new personal record almost a minute short of her previous going from 13:28 to 12:37 for the two-mile run.
Turner said she has never had a freshman athlete do this well in her coaching career. As a coach, she was elated at Coon’s success at the meet.
“It was all about her strategy,” Turner said. “She worked her way up there from ninth to the third and, in the end, jetted past everyone.”
Coon said she kicked it at the end to make her time faster. Her dad typically hangs out at the end of her course to give encouraging words, which this time gave her extra energy to finish.
“My dad is always there to cheer me on at the end,” Coon said.
Coon received heavy support as she was preparing for the meet from the team, schoolmates, community, and even the MCN.
Turner claims that support always plays a helping hand and that she would like the community to become more involved as the program builds.
“There is not a lot of praise like there is in other sports like football and cheerleading,” Turner said. “You have to be a special person to run cross country. You have to have self-motivation and self-determination.”
Since the fourth grade, Coon has been a runner under Turners’ coaching at Okemah. During the season, Coon placed first at multiple meets.
“It’s just running to me,” Coon said. “I just like to focus on finishing and try to do my best.”
Coon is Okemah’s first female cross-country runner to achieve all-state status.
“She knows what she’s capable of,” Tuner said. “She knows she’s a good runner, but she’s humble.”
Coon enjoys running, but she enjoys her other sports, including softball and basketball.
Be on the lookout for Coon for the future as an Okemah Panther athlete.