Kaylyn Holman has left her calling card all over Southern Indiana this fall. Where she has been invited to run, she has won, her achievements almost melodious in recitation.
Salem and Scottsburg, Pekin and Paoli are some of the places where the Crothersville junior cross-country runner has trod with her fast footsteps. And New Washington, too, all locations where Invitationals to the Tigers resulted in Holman victories this season.
Opponents know her name and their scouting reports for Saturday morning’s 1A Sectional at Austin no doubt feature her. The route to the individual title runs through Holman, or past her, if they can pass her.
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On several occasions, Holman has put more than a minute’s worth of distance between her and second place at the 5-kilometer racing distance. She set her personal best of 19 minutes, 14 seconds freshman year and despite the passel of wins did not approach it this year.
Now she feels it is time to run fast as well as run first. The 19:40s is good enough for most circumstances, but dipping under 19 minutes sets a girl apart.
“I’m hoping to go under it,” Holman said.
Crothersville coach Carl Bowman believes Holman has a lot in reserve, more than she has shown, because she has so rarely been pressed in races this season.
“It’s hard to get your time where you want it to be when you’re not pushed,” Bowman said.
Holman’s mother Winter was a state champion middle-distance track runner for Brownstown Central, but her daughter said mom never forced her to run. She got interested in the sport in sixth grade and took it up on her own.
Kaylyn likes the physical feel of running, but also likes the mentally freeing process that takes over her head.
“It gives you a break from everything else when you focus on just one thing,” she said.
Nor does mom bombard her with coaching advice. Sometimes Kaylyn receives simple in-house pep talks, though.
“She lets me do my thing,” Kaylyn said. “She gives me tips. Sometimes she’ll say, ‘You can beat them.’”
The younger Holman is as slender as a long-distance runner is expected to be and wears her brown hair in braids. What winning often has done for her is build inner steel.
“She’s not intimidated,” Bowman said. “She doesn’t go out there and think, ‘Oh, those are big schools.’ There’s no fear. No, not at all.”
If there have been any shaky moments during Holman’s high school running career they came last year as a sophomore. She dealt with an ailment in her knees that was an offshoot of growing pains, she said, but she also has exercise-induced asthma and keeps an inhaler at hand.
“Oh yes, it was really frustrating,” Holman said of last year’s limits.
Holman has seemingly completely adjusted. The Tigers only have four girls on the team, not large enough to score as a group at the invitationals, so it is a much different scenario from practice when a herd of runners erupts with the starting gun at big meets.
Seasoning in events that might have 100 or more runners, however, has taught Holman instinctive strategy in how to cope with large fields and how to handle the competition.
At times Holman has gone head-to-head at the front of the pack with a runner who is a stranger and at other times she has seen the top competitor before and reads reactions by throwing in a surge.
Holman separated having sprinter’s speed and a good kick, an acceleration power that is a residue of strength.
“I cannot sprint,” Holman said. “I can get them in the kick. The moment comes when you’ve just got to know when to go. I’d rather have the lead, but (a pack of nearby runners) definitely does help because you’re going to try to catch them. It makes your time faster.”
Under Indiana High School Athletic Association rules, the top five teams in a Sectional advance to the Regional, but Crothersville won’t without a full girls team. Otherwise, the top 10 individual finishers advance and then can advance to Semi-State and State. If she does well, Holman can still have miles of running ahead of her this season.
“Sectionals, maybe I can win that, maybe I have a chance at that,” Holman said.
Bowman said Holman is not making predictions.
“She goes out and gets it done,” he said.
Kaylyn Holman already has one goal set for senior year next year, however. She is recruiting friends to fill out a group of five for a complete Tigers squad.
“Next year, I’m going to have a team,” Holman said.