MANLIUS — Haley Weidner had some pretty big shoes to fill at Bureau Valley High School. When she kept them on, she filled them very well.
Following in the footsteps of senior sister Regan, the Storm freshman made a big name for herself right away this past cross country season.
She won the Three Rivers Conference championship, was a regional runner-up and placed fourth at sectional. She capped her freshmen season with All-State honors, placing 24th in the Class 1A state finals in Peoria.
And now she earns another honor as the 2014 BCR Female Cross Country Runner of the Year.
For now, Haley seems to be known as the girl with one shoe, having had her left shoe fall off early in the state finals.
“I still have people come up to me congratulating me and talk about my shoe,” she said with a laugh.
So what about that shoe incident? She said right after the mile mark she had a girl from behind spike the back of her shoe and nearly knocked it off.
“I went like 10 feet and I had to kick it off because it would not hold on,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘should I stop and quickly slip it back on,’ but I knew that would take too much time.”
Weidner said going up the last stretch, she knew she was 27th, “so I really had to kick it.” Even before the season started, Weidner said the Top 25 finish was “my main goal and something I really wanted to get.”
Having a successful older sibling is not an easy task for any athlete, especially Haley Weidner. Her sister, Regan, was the 2012 Class 1A State runner-up and BCR Runner of the Year. They were indeed big steps to follow, but Haley tried to take it all in stride.
“Yeah, I felt a little pressure, but it was not too tough. I kind of forgot about it,” the younger Weidner said.
It was nice to have Regan on the team to help the new kid fit in.
“It was good to have her for my first year, so I could be ready for next year since she won’t be there. She kind of helped me get the feel of it,” Haley said.
And having her big sister at state was a calming influence since Regan had been there before,
“I liked having Regan there. All the people there can be overwhelming. She helped calm me down a lot,” Haley said.
BV coach Dale Donner said there is no secret to Weidner’s success — she works at it.
“Haley’s strength in running comes from her work ethic,” Donner said. “She is a hard worker who understands to be a good runner it takes a lot of work. Her competitiveness is what drives her to keep working and continuing her improvement.
“Those who think good runners are just ‘naturally good’ are vastly mistaken. They are made through hard work and a lot of sweat. Haley has put in a lot of work to get where she is.”
The Storm coach said the younger Weidner was helped having Regan teaching her what it takes to succeed.
“They ran many workouts together, beginning over the summer, and shared a lot of their success with each other,” Donner said. “I know people ask what it is like to be in Regan’s shadow, but we all understand, they are two different people, and we do not compare them. They compete against each other just like others on the team.”
Weidner got her cross county season kick started on the local summer race circuit, winning races at Buda, Wyanet, Galva and Toluca and taking second at Annawan. Having placed second in the IESA mile and seventh in the 800 meters, Weidner said those races helped her prepare for the longer distances coming up.
“Three miles is a lot different than a mile from track. Having to run those races over the summer really got you ready for cross country,” she said.
Weidner said she’s getting ready for the upcoming track season, but “I’m real excited for next year’s cross country season, striving for a Top 15 finish or better.”
And this time, she’ll try to keep her shoes on.
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