Montrose High School graduate Kendall Cox’s collegiate running career seemed over after she stepped away from cross country following her freshman year.
The Western Colorado University runner said she felt “burnt out” after doubling her weekly mileage in a matter of a few weeks. Running wasn’t pleasure anymore and instead “seemed like a chore,” she added.
“It was pretty rough at first, coming straight from high school to college,” said Cox, an MHS 2014 graduate, who qualified for state in both cross country and track and field during her time in high school.
But running in college was always one of her goals.
She recalls that joyous day when she inked her letter of intent to compete for Western’s cross country team. She was surrounded by her family and cross country coach Brian Simpson and track coach Josh Netting.
What she ultimately signed on for didn’t last long.
Within three months after Cox’s decision to leave cross country behind, a friend convinced her to try trail running.
Her first attempt at the sport happened to be a competition outside of Fruita. It wasn’t the most enjoyable experience because she had to run up a big hill, but in the end, walked up most of it.
“I felt so bad about myself because I have this background in cross country where you don’t walk up anything,” Cox said.
And yet, she finished the race and won in her age group (which is still a mystery to her).
By taking first place, Cox said it gave her newfound confidence in trail running and a new focus in life.
Shortly after, she joined Western’s trail running team. There she reunited with her former WCU cross country coach Josh Eberly. Having someone she was familiar with helped her ease into the sport.
Cox enjoyed success along the way but had to step away from trail running for a year before getting back into it last fall.
It doesn’t seem like she missed a beat — she had a few top-10 finishes over this past season. Now, she and a few Mountaineers teammates qualified to compete in the Adidas Infinite Trails World Championships in Bad Gastein, Austria, in June.
According to the infinite trails’ website, the race format has pro and amateur runners compete side by side as relay teams of three. First, the runners complete a joint prologue to decide their start slot for the relay race, which commences with a chasing start.
Each team has to race on a 120km-plus long course consisting of three distinct loops. The time stops when the relay runners have zipped through the final kilometer together and cross the finish line as a team.
Cox, who is about to graduate from Western, is no doubt excited about competing overseas for the first time in her career and called the trip a once-in-a lifetime opportunity.
“It’s really good timing, too,” she said. “I’ll be fresh out of college at that point. It’s kind of the best time to travel someplace new.”
Cox thought when she went to college she had her plans all set out in front of her. If her collegiate career could be put into practice for future high school graduates, then she would advise them that “you don’t have to have it all figured out.”
“When I went off to college, I thought I knew what my major was going to be. I thought I was going to be a cross-country NCAA athlete,” she said.
“That plan changed. I changed my major three different times. … I ended up on the trail running team. It’s still running but it’s not your typical NCAA sport.”
Andrew Kiser is the Montrose Daily Press’ sports/business writer. Follow him on Twitter @andrew_kpress.