The cross country season officially ended for all high school teams in Oklahoma this past Saturday.
Runners tied up their shoelaces for the final time until next fall. Sweat dripped on the bodies of the runners. State titles were captured. Medals were awarded.
Some even said goodbye to cross country as the state meet marked the final time that high school seniors ran in a prep meet.
Taylor Lloyd, included.
Actually, it was two weeks ago when the Plainview senior ran in Shawnee.
And for the first as well as the final time, he got to run in the Class 4A state meet with his two younger siblings: sophomores Faith Lloyd and Taylor Lloyd.
Consider it a proud, and emotional, family moment.
Especially for their parents, Angela and Billy Lloyd.
Each second that passed made them realize how important those precious this day was. Not again will they get to see their three youngest children run in a state cross country meet. Taylor will graduate next May. That leaves Faith and Michael.
In the moments after the conclusion of the boys race, Michael recalls the emotions getting the best of his mother.
“It was definitely a proud moment for mom and dad,” Michael said. “I remember my mom started tearing up because she look her last picture with us running cross country.”
The closeness of their family dynamic never leaves the three siblings, even when they are running.
Faith, Michael and Taylor, like they do before the start of every meet, prayed with each other. They asked God to allow them to run safely, for all that he has given to them and to perform well that day.
Michael and Taylor will warm up for their race but have always watched Faith run and cheered her on.
Faith returned the favor.
“It’s kind of our ritual,” Taylor said.
Running cross country always presents its set of challenges. Every course is different.
For Taylor, the mental and physical challenges had extended beyond the course.
As a fifth grader, he weighed 195 pounds and was a shot put thrower.
When he shows classmates and friends pictures of him in the school yearbook, he said they didn’t recognize him. He has dropped 40 pounds and replaced the bulge with muscle.
“The seniors will go through the yearbook and no one can ever find me,” Taylor said.
Taylor described the decision to try cross country as “a life-changing experience.”
One day in practice, Plainview coach Kelly Gordon asked Taylor to run with the school’s cross country team.
Initially, Taylor was surprised by Gordon’s question.
“I thought she was nuts,” Taylor said. “Normally, they run at Regional Park and thought it would be fun for me to do it. That summer, it got up to 116 degrees. It took me about one-and-a-half hours to run almost 10 miles. It felt like an eternity.”
Taylor has stuck with cross country and was rewarded this season with a state qualification.
“He was really committed,” Faith said. “He ran every single day. I saw a change in him. He was tired of being that weight.”
Faith said she began to take running seriously in the seventh grade.
“I was tired of getting beat,” she said. “When I first started running, I got 65th. I started getting first in the seventh grade.”
Faith has always been self-motivated.
In middle school, she would train with the high schoolers. Her goal was to keep up with the team’s top runners, including Bailey Sutherlin, Darian Barnes, Kyleigh Norris and Jessica Woods.
“Plainview is such a great program because they have a great coach who pushes us,” Faith said. “He (Jerry Naylor) wants kids to get better and perform to the best of their abilities. He puts the time and effort into us.”
For as seriously as Faith takes cross country, she is glad to have someone like Michael, who she says can keep her relaxed and upbeat.
“Michael is really funny,” Faith said. “He takes the situation and makes it funny. He likes to make people smile.”
“I always try to the lighten the mood,” Michael said.
But Michael gets serious when it comes time to focus in practice or at a meet.
Michael was ecstatic to run with Plainview at the state meet for the first time after not competing there his freshman season. Only the top seven runners from each team will run in the state meet. He was the eighth runner a year ago.
Michael was very understanding.
“Coming in as a freshman, I knew that I had better teammates and that giving up spots would not be likely,” he said.
“He would have made varsity on most teams around here,” Taylor said. “That’s how competitive the program is here. Coach Naylor wished he could takes us all but can only take the top seven.”
Taylor said Michael, this season, has “stepped up, gotten more focused and matured like every guy in high school.”
Taylor has provided Michael with some good tips, including lowering his shoulders and to extend his stride while running downhill and to make quicker strides while maneuvering up a hill.
“He has always been there for me through thick and thin,” Michael said of Taylor.
Running in the state meet, the Lloyd siblings put their best foot forward. Faith placed 22nd (12:40.94). Taylor was 50th (18:12.88). Michael finished 66th (18:25.18).
“We all performed to what I believe our expectations are,” Michael said. “Our guys weren’t as successful as some other teams that we have had but the guys were okay with that. We were predicted to finish sixth or seventh, and we did that. I was pretty happy about that.”
The biggest thrill for Taylor was getting to run with Faith and Michael in the state meet.
“It was really fun,” Taylor said. “It was kind of like a gift. Not too many people can say that three siblings run at state in the same year. It was a good memory, for sure.”