Former soccer player Lindsay Payne finds success in distance running
Glenbard West High School's Lindsay Payne has been dominant since she started running.
Last year, as a sophomore, she won the state championship in the 3,200-meters, and she was all-state in the 1,600-meters, finishing ninth. To top it all off, she was state runner-up in cross country running as well, running the fifth-best time in school history, finishing with a time of 16:16 for the 3-mile race through uneven terrain.
But she hasn't always been running competitively. She actually got her start on the soccer team, before eventually switching over to full-time running. But despite being relatively new to the sport, Head Coach Paul Hass said, Payne took to competitive running immediately, and it was mainly due to her strong work ethic.
"Watching her run, there is just one motivation for her, and that's just to be good at whatever she does," Hass said. "That's the heart of a champion right there. Whether it be practice or workouts, she gives 100 percent in anything that she does. She's one of the last team members to leave practice and then she just gets everything done. So all of the things that you read about what makes a champion, she is fulfilling that with her work ethic. To see how that translates into her races — she's just outstanding on the course. I don't expect anything less from Lindsay than 100 percent."
Payne has carried that same work ethic and success over into her junior year. She won the first cross country invitational of the season at Red Devil, helping Glenbard West to a team victory as well, then she followed that up with a second-place finish in the team's next meet. She actually lost to one of her teammates, freshman Katelynn Hart, by a mere 2 seconds. Glenbard West ended up winning that meet as well. Hass said the team's success owes a lot to Lindsay, and it's not just due to her running.
"As much as a contributor on the course she is for us, this year as a junior upperclassman, she is probably more valuable to our team as a leader," " Hass said. "She's one of the first junior captains in our program's history because of that leadership. She has really taken some of these young kids under her wing. We have a really good freshman who beat her in our last meet, and there are some people who would see that as a threat, someone you don't want to help. She was the total opposite. She couldn't have been more welcoming. As much as she contributes on the course, she is definitely a leader off the course and that in many ways is more valuable to us, what she has done away from the course."
Being so new to running and still just halfway through her high school running career, Payne is still learning some of the more advanced nuances of how to run effectively, and that's one of the things Hass has been working with her on as she heads into her days as an advanced runner.
"She kind of runs like a soccer player," Hass said. "What I mean by that is that sometimes her arms are out more to her sides because in soccer you're trying to protect the ball. So we're trying to work with her to bring her arms in a little more and drive them forward. It's not easy to change someone's form. There are just some things we're trying to work with her to become a more efficient runner. You get more efficient, which means you use less energy. You use less energy, that means you get even faster."
Payne getting even faster is a scary thought for her opposition. She's already the 22nd-ranked runner in the nation, according to some publications, which means she's already one of the best around, even as she's still learning. It's that talent combined with her work ethic and leadership that already have her on the radar of several colleges.
"When you're ranked that high, the colleges come calling," Hass said. "She's running very well, and she'll get better as the season goes on. She is 100 percent dedicated to running. She wants to run in college, and if she keeps on pursuing this, she's going to have her choice of colleges, and some very good colleges at that. She has colleges calling already, and she's listening and waiting for the right opportunity. And when the time comes, she'll choose the college that's best for her, but that's definitely something she's going to pursue in the future."
In the meantime, Hass just wants Payne to keep doing what she's been doing. If she keeps up the hard work, he said he expects all the dominoes to fall right into place, both for the remainder of her high school career and whatever comes after.
"We emphasize that every season is different and that you just do your best," Hass said. "You can't control anyone else and what they're doing. There are other amazing runners in the state and certainly on our own team. She just has to be herself. So as long as she has confidence in that and is at peace with that, she'll do just fine. If she's just focused on being the best Lindsay Payne she can be, things will work out just fine."