Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year three times.
UA signee runs, walks to national honor
Taylor Ewert, who will be a freshman at Arkansas this fall, was named the 2019-20 Gatorade National Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
Distance running and racewalking usually don't mix.
"There aren't a lot of racewalkers that are runners," Taylor Ewert said. "There's a big stigma around racewalkers that the reason they racewalk is because they're not good at running."
Ewert, who will be a freshman at the University of Arkansas this fall, excels as both a runner and walker.
The graduate of Beaverton (Ohio) High School is so good that she was named the 2019-20 Gatorade National Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year on Tuesday.
Ewert will run cross country and track for the Razorbacks, and she also has qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials as a racewalker.
"I'm definitely a little bit of a unique case," Ewert said of her ability as a runner and walker. "But at the end of the day, racewalking is just another track event."
Ewert is the first Gatorade national track and field winner to sign with the Razorbacks.
"Taylor is certainly very deserving when you look at everything she accomplished in high school," Arkansas Coach Lance Harter said. "She's so versatile."
Ewert holds seven national high school and Under-20 records in the racewalk. She qualified for the U.S. Trials -- which have been rescheduled for June 2021 in Eugene, Ore., after being postponed by the coronavirus pandemic -- in the 20-kilometer racewalk after setting an American Under-20 and national high school record of 1 hour, 38 minutes and 55 seconds at the 2019 USA Track and Field Under-20 Championships.
In the 2020 indoor track and field season, Ewert defended her Ohio state titles in the 1,600 meters (4:52.02) and 3,200 (10:34.79) while running indoor career best times of 4:30.98 in the 1,500, 4:50.07 in the mile, and 10:18.94 in the 2-mile to rank in the top 10 nationally.
During the 2019 cross country season, Ewert defended her state individual title in Ohio, finished second at the Nike Nationals, and placed sixth at the Foot Locker Nationals. In 2018, she won the state title, was third in Nike Nationals and fourth at Foot Locker Nationals.
"She has such range as a distance runner," Harter said. "She can run the mile, and she definitely can run a good 5,000. I think eventually she could run a really good 10,000. She has that endurance component."
Ewert, who also can run the steeplechase, was doing a TV interview Tuesday at her family's home when her mother surprised her with the Gatorade national trophy.
"It means a lot," Ewert said. "Not only does it represent me as an athlete, but who I am in the community with my academic achievements. I'm really grateful to be able to add my name to the list of people who have won this trophy."
Other winners in the 20-year history of the award for girls include Allyson Felix, Marion Jones, Joanna Hayes, Sanya Richards-Ross, Bianca Knight, Chanelle Price, Kendell Williams and Sydney McLaughlin.
Harter said he's looking for Ewert to make an immediate contribution in cross country after Arkansas lost five seniors from last year's NCAA championship team.
"We need a healthy Taylor Ewert to be in the lineup," he said. "She's that good."
Harter said Ewert's running complements her racewalking.
"She gets a lot of her racewalk fitness from track training," he said. "She probably trains more supplementally as a racewalker than she does as a track runner.
"Her strength and confidence comes from her track training, and then she carries that over to racewalking."
Ewert said she mixes her training effectively.
"My training is easier than some people would think," she said. "A lot of times runners do cross-training on the side. So instead of going biking or swimming, I'll go and racewalk for a certain amount of time."
Ewert chose Arkansas over scholarship offers from Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico and Michigan.
"There are a lot of things I loved about Arkansas," Ewert said. "Not only does the program have a lot of history and a great legacy, but Coach Harter is such a great coach, and I really connected with him. I can see myself growing in the program."
Ewert said she began racewalking when she was 8 years old while attending a track and field camp.
She said she never considered giving up racewalking after developing into a high-level long-distance runner.
"I saw I had a lot of potential in the racewalk, and it could probably take me places," she said. "When you realize you can possibly go to the Olympics, that's not something you want to pass up."
Harter said Ewert's experience in international competitions makes her more mature than the average college freshman.
"Taylor's been on multiple USA junior teams and has traveled to different parts of the world," Harter said. "She just has that worldly aura about her. She's a super kid and a really good student.
"She's the perfect fit for our program, and obviously we're elated she's coming to Arkansas. She's the complete package."
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