Broomfield junior Maelynn Higgins finds there to be a profound sense of closeness when running, whether it’s listening to music with her high school teammates on training days or pinballing out of a crowd at the start of a road race.
As a lifelong swimmer, she couldn’t find that in the pool — instead, saying there’s a feeling of distance with your head under water and lane barriers between the competition — and that’s even as she proved to be one the area’s fastest in the water with the Eagles’ swim program.
“When you’re training for running, you’re hearing everyone breathing and you’re talking to each other,” Higgins said. “And then when you’re racing, you’re brushing up against each other. It’s much more intimate and the experience is much more fulfilling.”
Higgins said she has given up competitive swimming for dry land as she continues to work her way up the female high school ranks for Eagles cross country coach Greg Weich’s program.
Last fall, Higgins finished 20th at the Class 5A state cross country race — the best finish among area girls in the classification. And by the spring, she made another drastic leap forward, finishing second in the 5A 800-meter run and fourth in the mile at the track and field state meet in late June.
“She’s a high achiever, a really hard worker and just an all-around great kid to work with,” Weich said. “She’s very focused and a great leader for our team, for sure.”
The Eagles’ longtime distance guru believes Higgins’ progression won’t stop there, either. Expectations are that her cross country resumé will catch her track accolades.
“The fact that she ran 4:55 (in the mile) and 18:26 last year (in cross country) certainly would lend itself to believe that she has a much better 5K in her than she ran,” Weich explained. “She made a big jump from cross country to track. 18:26 relative to the 4:55 — 18:26 is quite a bit slower. With the mile speed, and the added miles she’s run, it’s pretty realistic she’ll run under 17:49 this year.”
Why 17:49 — and not 18, or even 17:50 — is because it’s the school’s 5K record. Weich said the mark belongs to former standout Madison Mooney, who went on to run at Wisconsin.
Higgins’ progression and work ethic, in the meantime, would infer that she’s not far behind. The junior’s past 12 months of training includes around 35-40 miles a week on the trails, and even some swim training. Higgins qualified for multiple state swim events for the second straight year this past spring.
“I really like the idea of having the school record as my goal because I’m really passionate about my school and that inspires me, and it’s something to work for every day,” she said.
She just isn’t fixated on it.
“I think cross country is definitely more of a team-oriented sport,” she added. “And I would say our biggest team goal is to overachieve.”
Higgins likened the team’s 2021 drive to what the Eagles saw from the boys’ side last fall. Breaking expectations, the boys, led by former standout James Thomas, surprised many on their way to an eighth-place finish at the state meet.
The girls, hoping to surprise some as well, bring back Higgins as well as 2020 state finishers Paisley Williamson (36th) and Norah Powers (61st), who were all part of a seventh-place team finish. Weich added that there will be a few strong young and upcoming runners in the mix as well.
“If our girls team is seeded decently in the state, just overachieving for the sake of each other is our biggest goal,” Higgins said.
There’s closeness in that, too.