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Enterprise Journal

Bringing home the gold may become a tradition for first-time Osage cross country athlete

Nov 06, 2020 11:56AM ● By Theran Goodale, Savannah Howe
When Osage 7th grader Scarlett Byrnes decided to try her hand at cross country this year, it wasn’t with much enthusiasm at first. 

That is, until she came home with a gold medal finish in her first State 2A Middle School Girls cross country championship at 13. 

“I actually didn’t even want to [go out] at first, but my parents supported me and thought I would be good at it,” Byrnes told Enterprise Journal. “I tried the first practice and found it very fun! I am so happy I decided to stick with it!”

In a teary-eyed mixture of excitement and disbelief, the teen celebrated her win with fellow cross country runners—but not just the Green Devils. The support that she received from the other athletes meant a great deal to Byrnes, not just from her own team, but from multiple teams.

“Girls from my team gave me hugs and girls from other teams cheered for me and gave me big hugs too,” she said. “It was just really nice to bond with other girls through cross country.”

While she did enjoy practices and competitions, Byrnes never expected to win the state title. She said instead she was just hoping for a top ten finish, a goal that she far surpassed within her first season.

“There are some really crazy good girls out there so I didn’t want to get my ego too high,” Byrnes joked. “Then I ended up going to state and winning it!"

Byrnes practices daily, sometimes twice a day, but it’s not always to get better—the sport of running, she said, is just super fun, despite the nerves of competing. "I do get extremely nervous. I guess I kind of just have to breathe and remember that it is super fun after running. I just have to have fun with it.” 

For Byrnes, running is as much a mental stimulation as it is a mental one. Byrnes’ dad, Josh, said that his daughter works hard, and isn’t inclined to give up on anything she does.

“She is determined at everything she does and doesn’t like to fail,” he continued. “She is the type to do more if offered the opportunity. There is no 50% in this kid’s DNA. 100% or nothing.”

When Scarlett was just yards away from the completing the race, Josh was sprinting to the end to watch her cross the finish line.

The Byrnes family, from left to right: Alex, Josh (back), Scarlett, Colleen and Nolan.

“I couldn’t see from my angle if she won,” he recalled. “When I got there, I was told she won it, and I didn’t know if I should pass out, cry, or laugh. I just started laughing. It was surreal.” Byrnes said he has been on the coaching end of a state championship before, but never the parent, and the feelings are worlds apart. “I was looking for my wife, and she was about 10 yards away and having what I am calling a ‘mom seizure.’ She finally was able to come over and had tears of joy. It was also pretty cool as both her older brother and sister were there to be part of it as well.

“My son’s girlfriend plays volleyball for Ankeny and she was also there.. We told her the bar has been set, and we expect another state title from her, since they are in the championship game in class 5A! Funny story is that my son’s girlfriend took Scarlett’s ‘hair bopper’ from state cross country and has been wearing it for good luck at state [volleyball]! It’s worked so far!”

Scarlett does not plan on resting with this year’s accomplishments, though. She told Enterprise Journal that she plans to continue running in 8th grade and high school, citing the peace of mind running gives her and friendships with her teammates as two main reasons. She may also try her hand at track and basketball, as well.

Josh feels that cross country is a beneficial sport for young athletes.

“I have coached about every sport there is and I love cross country,” he said. “Cross country is a sport where it’s just you and the clock. Little to no politics, in cross country and it’s just you and the clock. The other great thing about cross country is everyone supports each other. Fans from every town support each other from beginning to end. What other sport do you see parents actively engaged by running from spot to spot? It’s a blast.”

It seems Osage may need to make some space in its trophy cases for Scarlett in the years to come.