NIWOT, Colo. (BVM) — Many high school track and field athletes excel in one or two events.
Few have the range and versatility of Taylor James.
The Niwot rising senior has earned five state titles in two seasons of high school competition. She’s captured gold in the 800-meter run twice and placed first in the 200 and 400-meter dashes and was part of the Cougars’ winning 4×400 relay team at the 2019 state meet. She even had Colorado’s best time in the 1,600 last year, but opted not to compete in that event at state. And according to Niwot head track and field coach Maurice Henriques, James can also clear 5 feet, 8 inches in the high jump and has the ability to excel at hurdles if she wants to.
“She’s a special individual,” Henriques said. “She’s just a gifted athlete who is really unique.”
James’ talent has been handed down from her Czechoslovakian grandparents. Both of her parents ran track in high school, but her grandmother, Jana Veverkokia, used to own the Czech Republic national record time in the 200 and the 4×100, and her grandfather, Zdenek Veverkovia, once held the triple jump national record.
“The joke in our family is that it skipped a generation,” said James, who has dual citizenship in the United States and the Czech Republic. “I definitely owe a lot of my speed to my grandparents. We love talking about it, that we have this track family and that I can relate to them in that way.”
James, who broke the state meet record in the 800 as a sophomore, is already clocking times that are placing her among the top runners in the country. Last year, her season-best time of 2:05.83 in the 800 was the No. 7 fastest among all high school athletes. This past winter, she also recorded the No. 8 U.S. time in the mile, finishing in 4:49.75.
— Niwot Athletics (@niwotathletics) May 17, 2019
James missed out on her junior season with the Cougars due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but her prior accomplishments earned her Gatorade Colorado Girls Track & Field Athlete of the Year honors for the 2019-20 school year.
“Just continuing the legend at my school of track and cross country athletes is so special,” James said, “and being able to have a banner come up in my school next to Elise Cranny, it’s just so exciting and I’m really honored.”
Cranny, a 2014 Niwot grad and a former Gatorade Colorado Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year, went on to become a 12-time All-American and a two-time PAC-12 champion at Stanford.
James will undoubtedly land with a big-time NCAA Division I program as well, but she’s still uncommitted, having only narrowed her list of top choices down to six schools. Meanwhile, she’s still committed to a strong finish with her Niwot teammates next year.
“As a team, we’re just ready to get out there and really just do the best we can,” James said. “I’m excited to see where that passion for the sport is going to take us after missing out on the last season.”
James will have a good shot to add to her collection of gold medals next season before turning her attention to the college level — which is not the highest level of competition she’s capable of reaching.
“I definitely have some dreams that I think about here and there,” James said. “I do want to run in college for sure. That is something I’m striving toward and with the help of coach Mo and the support of my teammates I’m thinking I’ll be able to do that. From there, we’ll see. Obviously every runner’s dream is to go to the Olympics at some point so that would be very amazing.”