MANLIUS — Dale Donner says one race won’t define Haley Weidner’s legacy at Bureau Valley High School. Nor should it.
While Weidner’s last cross country race in BV columbia and navy wasn’t quite up to speed, she certainly left her mark on the Storm program for years to come. All future Storm runners will be chasing it.
There has been a long list of strong talent to grace the All-BCR Female Cross Country Runner of the Year list since the honor was handed out in 1997.
The list includes Trisha Lengfelder (1999, 2000) and Bekka Faber (2001, ‘02) of Princeton and Molly VonHolten (2004, ‘05) and Regan Weidner (2001, ‘12) of Bureau Valley, who won the award twice outright or shared, and Alisa Baron (2004, ‘06, ‘07) of Bureau Valley and Liz Mosbach (2008, ‘09, ‘11) of Hall ,who won shares of the award three times.
No one won the award four times until Weidner came along. She ran down the top BCR honors for the first time as a freshman in 2014 and never let go of it.
She went out on top at the state stage to finish her career, taking her fourth BCR Runner of the Year with her.
Weidner is amazed by that feat.
“It’s quite an accomplishment, because our area has some pretty top-notch runners,” she said.
One of those former Runners of the Year, her sister, Regan, has always been her biggest fan.
“She’s like my No. 1 supporter,” Weidner said. “All week leading to state, she was texting me and making sure I believed in myself. She’s always been there. It’s great to have a sister like her.”
Weidner led the Storm to the Three Rivers Conference championship with a second-place finish. She claimed a seventh-place finish at the Rock Falls Regional and qualified for state for the third time by pacing eighth at the Oregon Sectional.
Then came last week’s state race. Weidner, who achieved All-State recognition as both a freshman (24th) and junior (18th), never got going with the lead pack this time. Her time of 18:54 was 49 seconds slower than last year (18:05), and she knew it.
But she was OK with it.
“When I finished, I knew right away I wasn’t even close to top 25,” she said. “I just let go of it. I was pretty chill with it right off the bat. At least I wasn’t close to it, like 26th or 27th. That would have been really disappointing. Being 47th, I look back it, and I was like, ‘Dang that stinks.’ I’m cool with it. I’m just going to use it as motivation. Nothing you can do about it now. Just got to work harder, I guess.
“I’m proud my team was able to win conference. It’s been a good season and I can’t wait for track.”
Along with her past All-State finishes, Weidner’s ranks one of her most memorable experiences as winning the Three Rivers Conference championship as a team this year.
“In order to have a good team, you have to work well together. We had a lot of girls improve this year, this season,” Weidner said. “We were kind of a little underrated coming into to it, because usually we get third or fourth. Being able to win it this year with coach Donner retiring, I think that was special.”
Donner said Weidner was always all about the team.
“She wanted so bad to have a team qualify this year for state, and I wish we could have made that happen,” he said. “One of our main things we push in our track and cross country programs is striving to succeed as a team, and when your best runner preaches it also, it makes our job as coaches a lot easier.
“Haley has been a great influence to our kids in our program. She has a tremendous work ethic, and is very competitive, but what I am most proud of is that she always puts her team accomplishments in front of her individual achievements.”
Weidner can’t believe her high school cross country career is over.
“It’s really crazy,” she said. “Freshman year seems like (just) a year ago. I remember my sophomore season being done, and thought, ‘Wow I’m halfway done.’ Now I’m done. When they say it comes by fast, they’re definitely not wrong about it.”
She was happy to have been able to run for Donner, who follows Weidner out the door, retiring after 20 years as the Storm cross country coach.
“He’s been like the best coach ever. He’s a father figure in a way, like a second dad,” she said. “I’ve known him since my sister was in high school. I was around them when I was in sixth grade. I saw how he made an impact on my sister’s running career. I saw how much she loved it and how he made her love it. I saw that at a young age and I think that’s where I found my love for running, even thought I hadn’t been coached by him yet.”
Weidner was going to try to force herself to take a week off and then get back to hitting the pavement next week. She’s targeting running 60 miles a week until the indoor track season starts up in January.
Beyond high school, Weidner is undecided at this point and said she has a lot to think about. Wherever she goes, Weidner will get there just as fast as she can.
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The Haley Weidner File:
• First four-time BCR Runner of the Year winner
• Three-time state qualifier
• Two-time state medalist
• Three Rivers Conference runner-up