October 25, 2017

PHS Girls’ Cross Country 2nd at County Meet, Lifted by Stellar Effort From Senior Star Taylor

TAYLOR MADE: Princeton High girls’ cross country runner Chloe Taylor shows her form last Friday on the way to taking second in the Girls’ Varsity race in the Mercer County Championships at Thompson Park. Senior star Taylor’s performance helped PHS take second in the team standings behind champion WW/P-South. The Little Tigers are next in action when they compete in the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional on November 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Coming into the fall, Chloe Taylor realized that she needed to set the pace for the Princeton High girls’ cross country team.

“I am the oldest now, before there used to be a lot of older kids there,” said senior Taylor. “There is more pressure on me to lead the team.”

Taylor has thrived under the pressure of being the squad’s frontrunner, producing a number of stellar performances, including a first place finish in the Girls’ Large School division at the Fall Classic on October 14.

Last Friday, she stepped up again, taking second in the Girls’ Varsity race in the Mercer County Championships at Thompson Park in Jamesburg, clocking a time of 19:41.22 over the 5,000-meter course, trailing winner Devon Hoernlein of Allentown by nearly 47 seconds.

Taylor’s heroics helped PHS take second in the team standings with a score of 91 behind champion WW/P-South, which had 34.

In reflecting on the race, Taylor enjoyed her duel with Hoernlein. “I am really good friends with her; we are always very competitive with each other,” said Taylor.

“I didn’t have a time in mind, I was taking it out slow and looking to finish strong. It is pretty awesome being second, I came in fifth the last two years.”

Putting in some strong training in preparation for the fall has helped Taylor a big senior campaign.

“The summer before I was hiking and running four miles a day,” said Taylor.

“This summer I could focus more on training, so, running 35 miles at most some weeks.”

PHS head coach Jim Smirk likes the focus Taylor has been displaying this season.

“Chloe and I had a sit down at the beginning of the summer and she did a nice job of articulating what her goals were and she has stayed consistently to that,” said Smirk.

“She has recognized what her deficiencies were as a competitor. She put in more mileage but in addition to that, she took a look at what am I doing strength-wise and how come I am getting beat late in races. She was able to dig deep and do that kind of work day in and day out and stay healthy.”

Taylor’s good work as a leader has been a key factor in the progress shown by PHS this fall.

“She has been a great captain for us, I can’t even express it,” said Smirk. “She has had great role models over the years in Lou Miahle and Annie Walker. She has really taken those lessons and she has said hey this is our team, this is who we are, this is how we do these things. We had to sit some people today and it could have been very easy for her to put the brakes on and say I am not really going to go for it today. She has got some stuff to prove to herself and I think she is doing that every time she laces up. Certainly we love having her on the team; we are going to miss her greatly.”

PHS got some great things in the county meet from junior newcomer Siena Moran, who took sixth with a time of 20:18.13, and senior Lauren Cleary, the 15th-place finisher in 21:06.63.

“Siena is showing how her training works for her; having more confidence every time; I am thrilled with her effort,” said Smirk of Moran, who moved to Princeton from London.

“Lauren Cleary was sitting in the wings last year, learning more about the sport, challenging what she believed she could do. She is a captain for us this year as well and she has carried that responsibility well and that has helped her race better. We are thrilled with that.”

Smirk was thrilled by how younger runners competed on Friday as sophomore Elizabeth Hare took 31st in 21:43.30 while a trio of freshmen, Chloe Ayers (39th in 22:04.31), Emma Lips (46th in 22:22.40), and Alana King (71st in 23:18.98), ran well.

“We rotated our team a little bit today on the back half and I am real happy with their effort today,” said Smirk.

With the Little Tigers returning to action when they compete in the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional on November 4, Smirk is looking for another big effort.

“We are still trying to solidify our team identity; we came a lot closer to that today,” said Smirk.

“We certainly ran tough. I am happy with what we accomplished today. It is not that we ever have a lack of toughness in our program; we are gritty when it counts.”

Taylor, for her part, likes the way things are going, in both the short run and long run.

“I wasn’t expecting the season to go as well as it has,” said Taylor. “The main focus is the team, getting healthy, and doing the best we can. We have a group of young girls and they are doing extremely well for us. In the future, that will be good for the team.”