From his first meet of the cross country season to his last, Mount Vernon runner Mason Taylor was focused on a set of goals.
With some help from coaches and teammates — and a grueling and ambitious training regimen — Taylor methodically checked every box on his list.
For his consistent performance and improved finish at the Class 4A state meet, Taylor is the Skagit Valley Herald Boys’ Cross Country Runner of the Year.
Taylor said he began the season with three goals in mind: to repeat as Skagit County boys’ cross country champion, to help his team repeat as county champion and to improve his showing at the state meet.
He accomplished all three.
At the county meet at Sedro-Woolley’s Riverfront Park, Taylor finished the 5,000-meter course in 16 minutes, 51 seconds, to claim the overall crown. He was the only runner to break 17 minutes.
While Taylor is proud of the performance, he’s even more excited by what his teammates accomplished as they rolled to their second straight team title.
“Andre (Knudson) had a great race,” Taylor said, noting the sophomore’s second-place finish in 17:17. “He passed (two other runners) to move into second ... that was motivating for me.”
Taylor was also enthusiastic about Rainnier Bozung’s late pass to finish seventh.
“Everyone had a great race, and that got us the win again,” he said.
At state, Taylor finished 80th (16:40), an improvement on a revamped course over the previous year, when he finished 120th.
“Last year, it was freezing,” Taylor said. “This year it was fun. Experiencing one of the biggest races in the state is fun.”
Mount Vernon coach David Mitchell said, “He dropped 40 places at state under the same kind of competitive pressure. Last year I figured it was the fastest 4A race ever, and this year it stayed about the same. But he got faster.”
Mitchell said he wasn’t surprised by Taylor’s dramatic improvement.
“Mason’s right up there with the hardest working guys in the county. You’ve got to have a gift and work at it, and he does both,” he said. “He ran out to my house this summer. I wasn’t home but my wife met him at door. He said he wanted to meet (with) coach. He was in the middle of a 20-mile run. He’d started from the high school and I live in Conway.”