Taylor Word

At age 7, Taylor Word, a second grader at Bay Area Christian School, is a back-to-back Amateur Athletic Union national cross country champion.

LEAGUE CITY

At only seven years old, League City’s Taylor Word is now a two-time AAU national champion after winning her second straight national meet gold medal in cross country over the weekend in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Competing against the best seven-year-old long distance runners in the country, Word, a second grader at Bay Area Christian School, posted a time of 9:28 in the 2,000-meter run to win the cross country event, following up another gold-medal performance last year in North Carolina. Last year’s gold medal was Word’s first-ever national competition.

On the way to nationals both years, Word excelled in five to six qualifying events to earn a spot on the big stage. With a larger and more talented field, Word, who was seeded fourth at this year’s event, said she was actually more nervous this time competing at nationals than she was last year in her debut on the national stage.

“I thought I was going to get fifth,” Word said. “I was probably a little more nervous because of how many kids there were. … I thought they’d leave me in the dust.”

Instead, it was Word who left the field in her dust (or rather mud, in what were sloppy weather conditions for the race), as she was a full 40 seconds better than the next-best finisher.

“I felt stronger than I thought I was going to be,” Word said.

Word said she tried other sports, such as gymnastics and swimming, in her initial introduction into athletics, but running was the only one she to which she was drawn.

“I started doing lots of sports, and I figured out that one was the right sport for me to do because I didn’t like all the other sports,” Word said.

Word’s mother, Jessica, said she first noticed Taylor had a talent when she competed in a 1K kids fun run at age four.

“When we saw her run that, we were like, ‘OK, we need to take her out of swimming and gymnastics, and we need to take up running,’” Jessica Word said. “It was pretty much from that point forward that she started running.”

Taylor Word trains at Walter Hall Park with the League City based AAU track team, the Texas Cyclones, and practices three days a week to continue to improve. She said she hopes to continue to compete in AAU events and eventually run in high school, as well.

James LaCombe: 409-683-5242, james.lacombe@galvnews.com or on Twitter @JamesAtGalvNews

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