South Tama County senior runner Taylor Ellenbecker finished her stellar career on the STC Cross Country team running on the state's biggest stage and against the best competition the state has to offer. Finishing in forty-fourth place, Taylor did not run her fastest time of the year but it was quite an accomplishment for her to even be running in this race. There are few who know or understand the struggle Taylor went through to get to this point, but for Taylor it has always been about the goal and the journey that gets you there anyway.
After qualifying for the State Cross Country meet in Fort Dodge as a freshman,
helping to lead her team to a second place conference and on the fifth place regional team finish, it seemed that Taylor Ellenbecker was on to a career as one of the state's best distance runners. It was shortly after Christmas that year that Taylor was diagnosed with diabetes. Her future seemed even brighter as she medaled at the state meet in the 3000-meter run that spring. The future looked very bright for Taylor Ellenbecker. According to Coach George Kuhter, "No one had any idea how good Taylor was going to be but again no one saw the struggles she was going to face after her freshman year. We looked forward to watching Taylor run at the state meet multiple times and even matching Rachel Wobeter's stellar career here at STC in cross country." The future looked very bright indeed.
Taylor Ellenbecker midway through the Ft. Dodge race.
The following fall Taylor began to struggle with her diagnosis, managing to control things related to her diabetes was difficult and she was not quite showing the promise of the previous fall. It seemed that after her second cross country season and another All Conference selection, Taylor was starting to struggle. After a mediocre track season as a sophomore, Taylor set her sights once again on the state meet that fall and she worked hard through the summer to regain the glory she achieved as a freshman. Learning to manage her diabetes proved to be a challenge that Taylor was going to overcome. "The hardest thing we had to overcome was how hard to push Taylor and seeing what her body would do under stress", said Kuhter. "It was really hard to see her struggle but we knew that she would come back."
Being named AllConference again as a junior and seeing senior teammate Kelsey Kupka qualify for state, Taylor fell short of her goal of the state meet but began to show some of the promise that she had seen her freshman year. Added Coach Kuhter, "Taylor worked hard through the winter and spring and despite her falling short of state in track and field in the spring, the fire was back." "It was good to see her back, she had that sparkle in her eye again. We knew that we were in for a good 'senior' fall."
As the summer turned to fall this year, Taylor continued to train hard. "She understood what the goal was. We ere not worried about the first eight races of the season; we concentrated on the last three! That's always been the goal and how we train." Kuhter said, "Too many people worry about the day but in cross country we worry about the journey. As part of the process, we concentrate on the long term and the long term was Conference, Regional's and State."
As in her freshman year, Taylor concentrated on the course in front of her. She was now standing on the starting line in Fort Dodge. Knowing she ran seasonal bests to get here, being named All Conference for the fourth time and finishing sixth at Regional's was all part of the process. Taylor Ellen Becker had reached the goal. "Standing at the starting line was very emotional for all of us that had seen Taylor struggle back to where she was as a freshman" said Coach Kuhter. "Knowing what she went through, she never complained, she never lost focused, always felt great for her teammate's successes, and believing in the long term goals, we somehow knew Taylor would be back. Her best days are in front of here and I am just proud to have been able to coach her. She never gave up on herself and all that she has achieved is well deserved." Kuhter added.
Considering where she started and what she went through to get there, Taylor Ellenbecker's last race, as a STC cross-country runner was probably her best. Although she did not run her fastest time, she concentrated on the goal at hand. Placing in the top twenty was Taylor's goal but in the latter stages of her last race, seeing that that goal was not going to be achieved, she continued through the finish line with a big smile on her face. She placed in the top third of the field and was happy with the journey around the course in Fort Dodge. Knowing that her last race in the STC 'Blue' uniform was at State was enough for Taylor.
For many seniors, Saturday's race in Fort Dodge at the State Meet might be have been their last but for Taylor Ellenbecker it was all part of the process. She had another goal to cross off the list. Taylor is not done racing. On Saturday, November 9th, Taylor will following in the footsteps of her brother Brady, teammates Brandon Nelson and Kelsey Kupka, and will be running in the IATC Senior Spotlight Meet in Des Moines on the DMACC campus. According to Coach Kuhter, " Taylor is not done running. She has her senior track season to go and then there is college. If she chooses, she could run at the next level. There are many college coaches who will come calling this winter and whoever she signs with will be getting a great young lady and a very goal oriented runner. We will miss here at STC but it is time for her to move on. We are just lucky to have been there when started and even luckier to watch her whatever she chooses to do in the future."