The Right Track
Following Kayla Beattie’s recent victories at the Junior Pan Am Games, Woodstock teachers and leaders reflect on her legacy as she prepares for her college career.
In Diane Tollberg’s chemistry class, Kayla Beattie remembers becoming so engrossed in a class problem that she finished before her teacher. Biology with Bill Donato grabbed just as much of her interest as she learned as much as possible about the production of lactic acid and the difference between aerobic and anaerobic respiration. Even in freshman algebra, her attention was drawn past the day’s assignment on the board to an upper-level calculus problem teacher Steve Erwin had told the class to ignore so as not to overload them with information.
“She said, ‘I’d like to know about that calculus thing,’” said Erwin, also Woodstock High School’s head girls track coach. “She has that thirst for going that extra step. She is very competitive academically, and her biggest competitor is herself.”
What Erwin refers to as Beattie’s ability, curiosity and drive has been at the heart of her outstanding accomplishments in her four years as a Woodstock High School Blue Streak. Her roles as valedictorian, National Honor Society vice president and member of the math team capitalized on the same characteristics that helped her lead the WHS cross country and track teams. Her equation for winning races and top grades is so calculated she leaves anyone who watches her work in awe of the intensity and humility that surrounds her.
Even with all of the national meets she traveled to throughout the last year, she still made time to add five AP classes to the four she completed as a sophomore and junior, including two additional online college courses in macro- and microeconomics. Yet she regards all of this hard work as just something any student would do to adequately prepare for college.
“Kayla is incredibly humble,” said WHS Principal Corey Tafoya. “She constantly is seeking improvement through advice from her teachers and coaches. She has an insatiable hunger to get better and knows the best help along the way is the advice and counsel of her teachers and coaches.”
“I’ve seen many students and athletes with a fraction of her talent not willing to listen to their teachers and coaches because they were already good enough in their mind. Her willingness to accept and embrace improvement goes back to her amazing humility.”
WHS boys track coach Matt McCulley said that example brought out the best in her teammates.
“The kids saw the way she handled herself every day and started to emulate that,” said McCulley. “Because of that, her team members reached potentials they never thought possible. It was so rewarding to see that smile when they would finish.”
“One of the biggest things I learned from Kayla is being confident,” said Phil Meyer, who with J.D. Fuller has been one of Kayla’s closest friends and training partners. “That’s one of the reasons she’s had so much success this past season. Watching her brimming with confidence when she goes to the start line, you know she’s going to have a great race.”
Those great races have led her to the top of national rankings at several distances — an indication of her potential.
“When you compare her times to pros at her age, she’s either ahead of them or just behind,” said McCulley, who notes her 5K road race time of 16:27 is just four seconds off the American Junior Road Record held by Molly Huddle. “She’s on the path to competing at a high level for a long time.”
“She couldn’t have done what she’s done without the community and those at Woodstock High School — her principal, teachers and coaches,” said Beattie’s mother, Deborah. “I know when she goes to her big meets, she always wears a Woodstock T-shirt and lets people know where she’s from. She’s just so proud of her community as they are of her.”
Woodstock Mayor Brian Sager feels Beattie’s example is something everyone can learn from, not just students.
“She reminds us all that you can do many things, and you can be successful in many areas,” said Sager. “She serves as a great example of what we can do if we commit ourselves to action. You have to commit. It’s a great lesson for all of us in the community of Woodstock.”
Once you commit?
“There’s really no secret,” reveals Beattie, who welcomes the interactions from people wanting to ask her questions about their own running goals, either on the street or at her job at Dick Pond Athletics in Carpentersville. “Go out and work hard every day. Believe in yourself and have confidence.”
And set goals. Beattie has goals for everything — every workout, every assignment, every season. Her primary running goal for a season, which she doesn’t even reveal to her parents, is tacked up on her bedroom ceiling as a daily reminder of her purpose.
“No matter what level you’re at, you can set your own goals,” said Beattie. “This season I’d look back at my training log and see that each workout I was improving. My confidence grew. I would run a 5:10 mile and say, ‘If I can run 5:10, why not a 5:05 pace?’ I just believed in myself and had confidence in my ability.”
Such was the case when Beattie recently joined Dick’s Fast Track Racing Team, her coach’s team, for a tune-up for her final meet of the season, the international Pan American Junior Championships July 22 to 24.
“She wants to hit her time and hit it every time,” said McCulley. “We did mile repeats and she hit three 5:13 miles one after the other. Regardless of the duration, she’s going to come in like clockwork each and every time.”
Beattie’s final event of her lengthy December-to-July track season proved no different. She won both the 3,000-meter and 5,000-meter runs at the Pan Am Championships in 9:30.63 and 16:48.44, respectively, logging two banner finishes for Team USA.
Meyer puts her reaching this goal into perspective. “[WHS] coach [Bill] Macaulay always said, ‘Set your goals high and enjoy the process of working towards those goals. Even if you don’t make it, you can look back and appreciate all the hard work you’ve done,’” said Meyer. “That mindset spreads into all other aspects of your life as well.”