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Taylor Dunning: Former CHS standout runner is making her mark at Webster University

  • Taylor Dunning runs the 6K course at the 2018 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships, in 12-degree weather. She finished 142nd out of 255.

    Taylor Dunning runs the 6K course at the 2018 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships, in 12-degree weather. She finished 142nd out of 255.
    Courtesy of Jim Dunning

  • Former Chester High School track and cross-country standout, Taylor Dunning, is the 2018 Webster University Cross Country Female Newcomer of the Year.

    Former Chester High School track and cross-country standout, Taylor Dunning, is the 2018 Webster University Cross Country Female Newcomer of the Year.
    Jim Beers photo

 
BY JIM BEERS
Contributing writer
updated: 1/23/2019 2:32 PM

Chester High School graduate and standout runner Taylor Dunning has been named "Cross Country Female Newcomer of the Year" at Webster University in St. Louis for the 2018 season.

A freshman at Webster, Dunning graduated from CHS in May 2018 and signed a letter of intent to compete in track and cross country for Webster. She trained over the summer with her collegiate coach Dan Graber.

"I like the dedication and loyalty of our athletes at the college level," she said. "All of our training routines are specifically designed for us individually. We lift weights, run and do a lot of core training."

Dunning said her summer workouts got her ready for the tough training in college.

"The workouts were harder than high school cross country workouts, but the plans made sense and were well-explained," she said.

"I went to Webster this fall in the best shape of my life and ready to compete."

Dunning received the Newcomer of the Year honor despite carrying 17 hours of classes her first semester, including Biology, Chemistry, Calculus, Sports Seminar and Global Citizenship.

She wants to attend medical school and specialize in pediatric medicine.

"I love working with kids," said Dunning, who worked at St. John Day Care during the summer. "My goal for the future is to treat children and continue to work with them."

Dunning is already listed as a sophomore, because she got 23 hours of college credit at Chester High School, completing her English and Composition requirements.

The daughter of Jim and Rhonda Dunning of Chester, Taylor attended elementary school at St. John Lutheran School, where she played softball and basketball, and ran track and cross country. Her grades were good, she played clarinet in the Chester Grade School Band and was president of the St. John Beta Club, which is a junior high version of an honor society.

At Chester High School she ran cross country in the fall, played basketball every winter and ran track in the spring.

Dunning was a member of the CHS Summit Chapter of the National Honor Society and served on the CHS Student Council. She performed with the CHS Marching Yellow Jackets, the CHS Pep Band and the CHS Concert Band.

She also acted in the CHS Drama Department musicals and plays.

As a sophomore she ran a personal best of 2:26 in the 800-meter run. As a junior, she set a personal best of 19.41 in the 3-mile race at the IHSA Cross Country Meet. That year she also set a personal best time of 5:47 in the 1600-meter run. She qualified for State in both her sophomore and junior years, first in the 800-meter run and in the 1600-meter (1-mile) run her junior year.

Now at a Division III college, Dunning says the expectations are much more rigorous. "We practice every day at 6 a.m. -- we run, lift and do core training till about 8:30 or 9," she said. "Then we go to class till about 3 or 4 p.m. Then I go back to my dorm and study all evening."

All that work has paid off. In her first collegiate cross-country season Dunning finished in the top five on the team at every meet, and set personal-best records for her 4K, 5K and 6K races. It culminated with the Gorloks' end of the year awards banquet on Dec. 6, where she received the Newcomer Award.

Now that cross country is over, Dunning has started training for the track season. The indoor season starts Jan. 25-26 at Principia College and the outdoor season follows in March.

Dunning expects that Track Coach Nicholas Niehaus will have Dunning focus on the 800 and 1,500 during the indoor season and add the 5K when the outdoor season arrives.

"I am excited to see what the track season brings," said Dunning.