LAKEWOOD - A few days ago, Peyton High’s senior star Kaylee Kearse examined the schedule for Colorado’s high school track meet. This was a calm examination until she noticed a horrifying detail.
The schedule said she would have to run solo, as the favorite, in the 800 meter final and less than 30 minutes later take the baton as the anchor in Peyton’s 4 x 200 relay, also the favorite to rule Colorado.
If you don’t run competitive track, and virtually all Gazette readers fit into this immense category, it’s hard to get your head around the brutal fate that awaited Kearse. The 800, a vicious race, demands speed and endurance. Competing at the highest level in the 800 can leave you feeling cranky and exhausted for a week.
Kearse had to recover in 25 minutes.
Disaster and disappointment could have engulfed her.
But – good news! - disaster never arrived. What happened instead revealed the power of sisterhood and the deserved result of Kearse’s devotion to her craft. For the past several years, she's spent hundreds of hours running the streets and fields near Peyton. If you often drive in the area, you’ve probably seen her. Her work ethic earned her a scholarship to Wyoming.
She was, during those hours of solitary running, preparing for these 30 minutes.
Kearse won the 2A 800, as expected, in 2:18.20. She trotted to the fence surrounding the track to hug Debra, her happily weeping mother, and wave at a large collection of family and friends. She stood as the 800 victor at the medal stand.
Then she moved quickly to Peyton’s tent, where her relay teammates – freshmen Baylee Faris and Madeline Schuemann and sophomore Annika DeAnda – were waiting. They massaged her legs and offered non-stop encouragement.
“You can do this, Kaylee!” the trio shouted. “You can do this!”
These were not mere words. The trio truly believed what they were saying.
“Speaking for all three of us,” DeAnda said, “we knew Kaylee could do this. Our goal, because she’s just that supportive and loves us that much, was to give her the baton with nobody near her. This was in all three of our minds: ‘We need to give her the baton with some room.’”
The weary Kearse stood in an ideal spot to watch her teammates. As she watched the race unfold, she swears she wasn’t worried.
“I wasn’t scared,” she said. “I knew I would get the baton where I needed to get it. They knew I was hurting.”
Peyton’s youthful runners kept their promise, dominating the first three legs. When Schuemann handed Kearse the baton, Peyton had a comfortable lead.
Kearse, of course, did the rest. She ignored all signs of exhaustion and pushed herself relentlessly to the finish line.
A few minutes after winning her second race in a remarkably – and unjustly - brief time, Kearse reflected on the instant she was hugging her mother.
“Oh, my goodness,” Kearse kept saying as she embraced her mom. “Oh, my goodness.”
A few days earlier, she had looked at that schedule and wondered if she could defeat time, in more ways than one. As she held her mother, her worries intensified.
Turns out, she had nothing worry about.
Her young teammates believed in her. They believed so completely and so intensely that they lifted a drained senior to victory.