Lily Meyer, Taryn Compton blaze trail for Central Heights cross country

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald

The Central Heights cross country program will have a different feel and look next season without two of their seniors.

Central Heights seniors Taryn Compton and Lily Meyer have been leaders and the backbone of the cross country program for seven seasons.

Lily Meyer and Taryn Compton have been a major part of the program since sixth grade. They are the only cross country participants in the program’s history to compete for seven years.

They have been more than team members, but leaders and mentors of teammates through the years.

“They are definitely the trendsetters,” Central Heights coach Troy Prosser said. “They obviously have huge support systems at home. It is a commitment. They have been committing to six days a week during the season and summers.

“I can’t be any more proud of everything they do. It gives me maybe a little bit of a sense of what it is like being a parent. I don’t have my own kids. If I had children, I would want mine to be like them. They share each other’s successes. They share each other’s heartaches and injuries. It is not just one of them, you see it through all of them. These two especially. They’ve been part of blazing a trail out here that [coach] John Schultze started.”

Through the years, the Viking girls cross country program has sputtered with not much success. All that changed with Compton and Meyer leading the way.

They recruited others to join them during their sophomore season to form the first girls team in a couple of decades. That team finished third at state.

Last year, Central Heights was down to three girls again. The duo recruited runners to compete as a team this season.

With their leadership, the Viking girls opened the season with a meet championship and a runner-up finish.

Prosser said Meyer and Compton are the best leaders not only in cross country, but the school.

“The kids look up to them,” Prosser said. “They show respect and support. They lead by example in the classroom. They are fantastic students. In the hallway, they are fantastic people. There is no drama. They are the example of what you really want to have for your team.

“These girls are on the dance team, play basketball, in track...they have tried other sports. They are in clubs. They are homecoming queen candidates. They are class officers. They do everything.”

The high school boys cross country success spurred the pair to wanting the girls to achieve the same success and goals.

“Having not as many girls and the boys pushing us, really helped,” Compton said. “It made us want to have more girls out because the boys showed us what team aspect could be like. We got them out and we had success.”

Meyer looked up to the high school boys when she was in middle school.

“They were role models for us,” Meyer said. “My eighth grade year, I would be running with some of the high school boys and I beat some of them. They would make fun of each other. It pushed them to get better.

“When I was in middle school, my goal was to catch up to the high schoolers, try to beat the high schoolers. Having them there, pushed me even harder through middle school. I hope I can do that for other middle schoolers.”

Compton said the boys were mentors during their middle school years.

“They were definitely like our big brothers,” she said. “They were celebrities to us. We wanted to be like them. They really showed us what we should do if we want to get where they are. Them placing at state set the expectation. That is where you want to be and want to go.”

Prosser knew the importance of the middle school program and made them feel part of the high school team.

“I have seen the way programs are built successfully in previous places,” he said. “If you stick with this, you are going to be putting trophies in that trophy case from state championships in high school. That has worked on both the boys and girls side. These girls contributed to both of those, not just the success of the girls team. They have contributed to the success of the boys team as well.”

Compton said having the middle school and high school runners train and compete together is big factor in building the Vikings into a state power.

“It is great that we are one team,” she said. “It really helps the middle schoolers prepare for what they need for high school. It helps us not wanting the middle schoolers to beat us. It helps the middle schoolers to push themselves and shows them what they have to do to be successful.”

Prosser said Meyer and Compton have meant more than the eye can see to the success of every runner the past seven years.

“The special ones just step in [and lead],” Prosser said. “They look at their teammates as brothers and sisters. They want to pass on the things they have learned over the years. That is what makes you the best. We talk about making this more than a sport. It can translate into many aspects of life.”

The two had no idea of what cross country was or what it would mean to them as young sixth graders.

“When I was in sixth grade, I did not think about the future, what it could bring,” Compton said. “It was the first year they were allowing sixth graders [compete]. We decided that I would try it and if I liked it, I would stay out. I loved it.”

Meyer never thought about how the sport would mold her as she grew older.

“In sixth grade, I did not have any idea what the future would hold,” she said. “I did not know it would become such a big deal. When I was in sixth grade, my family went on a walk/jog. We ran for four miles. I knew my brother was going to do cross country. Maybe I will do it too because we were not allowed to play volleyball or any other sports yet. At first, it was a filler, then it became a passion.”

The Vikings used cross country to grow close to each other through the years.

“We need each other to do well,” Meyer said. “In practices, when one of us isn’t there, it feels off. Last year, when I did not make it to state and she did, I still went and cheered her on. I warmed up with her. It was nice to be able to do that and be there for her.”

Compton said Lily made her a better person and runner.

“I have always looked up to Lily because she has been the top runner,” Compton said. “She has pushed me every single year to get better and better. I love that she could be with me at state. This year, we hope we all make it.”

The duo eyes bigger goals as seniors, hopefully leading the girls team back to state.

“It would be really cool to have the whole team make it to state,” Meyer said. “We have some big goals set.”

Compton said, “We have a really tight-knit group. It would be so fun if we can make it to state together. If we stay together and healthy, the sky is the limit.”