Members of the Park City Running Club took second at the Junior Olympics in December
Within the Park City running community, they’re known as the “Fierce Five.”
But for Hadley Flach, Tatum Flach, Henley Wismer, Ella Stoughton and Avery Davidson, that name recognition could expand to other parts of the country following their performance at the United States Track and Field Junior Olympics competition in Madison, Wisconsin in December.
Combined the five 10-year-old girls took second place in the 9-10 age group. They finished with 73 points in the 3K race, a mere eight points behind champion Kokopelli Racing Team of Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“I was hoping for a top-10 finish, but as the training went on prior to the race, I started to think we had an outside shot at maybe a top-5 finish,” said Rachel Taylor, coach and founder of the Park City Running Club. “The girls were pushing themselves so hard and working so well together, that in the end, I wasn’t all that shocked by their finish. Because they had each other, they believed they could be powerful. … And they ran fierce, just like their nickname.”
Not only was it the highest finish in the short history of the Park City Running Club, it was also the best finish by any team from Utah.
“We are a really small team, racing against clubs and programs that have hundreds of runners competing for their spots,” Taylor said. “We already had to race against the best to even get our spot at the Junior Olympics, so knowing what we did against these big teams like Bowerman Track Club, it shows that we are onto something special here. Our future is bright.”
To help draw inspiration throughout the intense training sessions leading up the race, the girls and their coaches would write powerful words on their wrists and arms. According to Taylor, this helped serve as a reminder for why they were choosing to work so hard, and to provide the extra bit of motivation needed to podium in the largest youth competitive cross-country race in America.
It was a team effort for Park City as Taylor gives each of the five team members equal amount of credit for the success of the squad.
“The five of them have some really nice chemistry, and I think that’s how they did it by relying on and trusting one another,” Taylor said. “The top three knew what they had to do from a points standpoint and went out and did it. Ella brought the heart by battling through injury and Avery, well Avery was the comedic relief who kept everyone loose and ready.”
Leading the way for Park City was Hadley Flach, placing 12th and finishing in a time of 11 minutes and 46.44 seconds, earning all-American status for finishing in the top-25. Tatum Flach and Wismer also earned all-American status, finishing 15th and 23rd respectively, finishing in times of 11:51.87 and 12:05.90.
“This was huge for us as a program and huge for them as a team,” Taylor said. “The team victory means far more than any of the individual stuff they have, or may have accomplished. The older athletes challenged our younger athletes to be better, and then turned around and supported throughout the race.”
Stoughton finished 41st in a time of 12:31.80 while Davidson finished 82nd in a time of 13:02.40. Both the Flach twins and Stoughton set personal records.
Park City also had 10 other athletes compete at the Junior Olympics, led by Maddie McHenry’s personal-best performance in the 13-14 girls division.
McHenry, who is Taylor’s daughter, was the only other Parkite to finish in the top-100 of their respective race. She finished in 70th place in the 4K race, completing it in a time of 15:30.3.
“She joined (the program) out of duty to me and to improve her soccer conditioning, but after being part of the team I think she’s grown to love running,” Taylor said. “I love that I don’t directly coach her a lot, that falls on Nikki’s (Dotter) a lot of the time. It’s been really powerful to not only watch her overall as a coach, but to still cheer her on as a parent as well.”
To celebrate the Fierce Five and the other runners, Taylor helped organize a celebration run that took place on Wednesday. Not only did the girls receive their medals in front of all their families and friends, it was also treated as a season-ending celebration.
Taylor fully believes in multi-sport athletes, and encourages all of the club’s runners to take part in other sports. She says this is twofold, as it doesn’t burn the other runners out while also giving their legs a break from the intensity they face every time out on the trails.
“The main thing is that we want these kids to be kids for as long as they possibly,” Taylor said. “We want these kids to do Nordic skiing, to play basketball and all of those other winter activities. We will have check-in runs maybe once a month because we want to make sure we stay in their lives and let them know that we support them doing anything.”
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It’s been a rough season for Park City, but a taste of the postseason could pay huge dividends in the future.