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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Sisters represent at USATF nationals

Feb 03, 2022 10:30AM ● By Catherine Garrett

Cottonwood Heights’ Tyana Lake (second from left) helped her team to a national championship at the USATF National Junior Olympics recently. (Photo credit Joanita Lake)

By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]

Unstoppable. That was the theme for the Race Cats Elite team from Draper that took 39 runners to the USATF National Junior Olympics in Paris, Kentucky recently. And, amid freezing temperatures, tornado warnings, hailstorms, 40 mph wind, the Utah contingent proved just that.

Cottonwood Heights’ Tyana Lake was part of the 11-12-year-old girls team that brought home a national championship Dec. 11.

“It was tough running in that type of weather and it was really cold, but it felt good to win,” said Tyana, who finished in the top 50.

Also on the championship team were Maya Bybee, Adria Favero, Hadley Flach, Tatum Flach and Teagan Harris—who also earned All-American status—along with Lily Jameson. 

“This did not come easy to them. These girls travel from all over the state of Utah to practice with our team in Draper,” Race Cats head coach Michele Brinkerhoff said. “They practice three to four days a week together and travel from Park City, Salt Lake, Sandy, Taylorsville and Utah County. Some of them even choose to homeschool just so they can run on this team.”

Tyana’s sister, Kayla, ran on the seventh-place 13-14-year-old team, while another sister, Mia, age 8, competed in her first nationals and placed 34th.

“People were slipping and falling and had water in their shoes,” Kayla Lake said. “I just kept thinking that it will be over soon and just kept going and then it didn’t really bother me anymore.”

Mia Lake said she had a good experience at nationals amidst the cold conditions. “I was running and saw one of my teammates up ahead and decided that I wanted to beat her,” she said. “I finally passed her late in the race. I was 34th and she came in 40th.”

Also placing at nationals were the 11-12 boys team, who took third, with the 8-and-under boys coming in fifth while Kenneth Briggs, Cole Jameson, Bethany Mittelstaedt and David Webb also finished their events as All-Americans.

“Every single athlete finished the race, even though some had severe trauma and anxiety from the natural disasters. We are so proud of them. They travel from all over to compete and train together, sacrificing so much to be part of something special. And they are so special and deserve to be recognized for it,” Brinkerhoff said.

Kayla, Tyana and Mia Lake, the daughters of Lindsay and Joanita Lake of Cottonwood Heights, began running last year when Kayla’s P.E. teacher at Albion Middle School approached her after clocking her times.

Kayla won her first race and Tyana, who is a year younger, both joined the school’s cross country team and began loving the sport.

Kayla said, “It’s been fun to work hard and know that I’m trying my best. My coaches inspire me, my mom creates opportunities for us to be better and my teammates push me to be better and faster.”

Joanita Lake said Kayla experienced a fall in her second race last year, but picked herself up and still finished among the top runners. “She has realized that there are going to be some good days and some not so good,” Joanita Lake said. “She can push herself on her own and works really hard to do her best and is so competitive, even on cool down runs.”

Tyana has seen her mental strength improve in a sport that was a little more of a social thing at first. “If you really don’t think about the cold or the weather and think about the end of the race and how you’ll feel, it doesn’t feel as hard,” she said. “Running has taught me to keep doing everything the best I can.”

Joanita Lake has watched Tyana grow since she began running. “She sometimes doubted herself, but now she has the confidence that she can do well in something,” Joanita Lake said. “It’s really helped her realize that she can really do hard things and she has been so consistent in doing a little bit every day to make that happen.”

Mia, a second grader at Oakdale Elementary, has been enjoying running like her sisters. “It’s fun for me,” she said. “I want to keep on running so I can go to the Olympics.”

Joanita Lake was concerned when Mia ran her first 1500 race, but the eight-year-old not only competed, but loved it. “Everyone was cheering her on,” Joanita Lake said. “She likes longer distances and wants to run further and longer, and be as fast as her older sisters.”

Joanita Lake said her daughters, who also play soccer and swim, no longer need encouragement with running as they have fallen in love with the sport. “The coaches make it so much fun for them and teach them life skills that go well beyond running,” she said.