CONCORDIA, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College track and field teams had a special guest in town on Monday as Kellyn (Johnson) Taylor was back on campus to speak to current T-Birds.
Johnson, a 2006 graduate from Cloud County, is an aspiring Olympian and was a perennial All-American during her college career as a cross country and track athlete in Concordia and at Wichita State University (2007-09).
"She had an outstanding career when she was here. She ran everything from the 4X400 relay clear up the longest distance races like the 5,000-meter," said Cloud County head women's track coach, Ted Schmitz. "She was a driven athlete that hated to lose. She'd do anything to win a race. I hope our kids take away that hard work gets you places. Sometimes you might have to face adversity, but if you have a goal you need to stay with it and pursue your dream."
Taylor, who met her husband Kyle Taylor while in Concordia, still owns the school records at Cloud County in the indoor distance medley relay (12:38.22), 1,000-meter run (2:57.9), mile run (4:59.5), and outdoor 3,000-meter steeplechase (11:25.9).
Her success continued at Wichita State where Taylor finished third at the 2009 indoor NCAA Championships in the mile, and 10th in the 5,000-meter outdoor championships.
Taylor, 30, is now a professional runner with the Northern Arizona Elite. She competed in the New York City Marathon two weeks ago, finishing eighth overall among female runners with a time of 2:29.56.
"It was my first time running New York and it was a really neat experience," Taylor said. "I enjoyed it and that's kind of rare, at least for me, during a race. I had a lot of fun and I think a big part of that was just the experience of running that marathon and being up in the front for a marathon where you're racing the best people in the world."
In between the hours of being a mom to an active seven-year-old, a loving wife, and certified firefighter; Taylor is still working toward the goal of representing the United States in the Olympics. She narrowly missed the cut in the 2016 Olympic Trials marathon, finishing sixth. And in the 10,000-meter Olympic Trial event held in Eugene, Oregon, Taylor placed fourth; one spot away from making the Olympic Team.
Taylor said Monday that she anticipates competing again in the 5,000-meter, 10,000-meter and marathon Olympic Trial events in 2020.
"I'll probably do all three events again next cycle, but ideally the marathon or 10,000 with the marathon kind of being the prized one," Taylor said. "Everything (training) builds up toward that, but I'm focused on some other marathons right now since I'll probably get two in before I start to build up for the Olympic Trials."
It's a busy lifestyle. But one Taylor said she started to prepare for back when she wore the black and gold for Cloud County in 2005-06. Concordia provided her the setting to "grow up" and mold herself into a well-rounded and productive student-athlete.
"Use your time wisely. You're only given so much here and it's such an opportunity to do college athletics," said Taylor, when asked what message she hoped current Cloud athletes took away from Monday's meeting. "If you are given the opportunity, take advantage of it. Do well in school and do everything you can to excel in athletics. If you want to go to a four-year school and continue on, this is kind of building the groundwork to get to that."