Growing up with two runner parents can either be a blessing or a curse. For Northwest Christian High School (NCHS) senior Elizabeth Weber it has turned into a blessing. Elizabeth has taken the best traits from both of her parents, added her natural abilities and solid work ethic, to lay down the foundation for success and running excellence. Elizabeth and her dad Larry not only share the same runner DNA, but Larry is Elizabeth’s coach at NCHS. Coaching your child and being coached by a parent can be difficult at times, but the Weber family exemplifies what can happen when it all works out for the best.
Elizabeth came storming on to the running scene as a fierce fifth grader, making her debut at the Capital City Kids race. She had asked her parents if she could run it with a friend, and with very little training she finished well ahead of the other girls in the race. In the final stretch she ” instinctively tried to catch the final boy at the end of the race and nearly passed him at the finish line” as her dad remembers. Even at an early age, she showed her competitive nature and her natural ability. Her positive experience at this first race made running fun and cool!
She started running track in the fifth grade at Evergreen Christian School and joined the cross country team in the sixth grade. She won the district 1600 meter championship all four years at Evergreen—the first runner ever to win four consecutive district championships in the 1600 meters. Elizabeth set the all time school and district records in the 1600 and 800 meters while at Evergreen (she still holds the school and district records (5:38 and 2:32). As a middle schooler her parents were very cognoscente of keeping her mileage low, and to this day Larry’s approach as dad and coach is to take the long term approach to running development.
Before I forget to mention this, Larry is not only a coach at NCHS, but a coach to individual runners of all levels, abilities, and goals. So, when he remembers Elizabeth’s early years of running, he views it not only from the eyes of a father, but as a coach. “We did not want to burn Elizabeth out on running so we never entered her in summer running events like the Junior Olympics or other off season running programs. We just stuck to races during the school seasons.”
As Elizabeth told me, she did a lot of sports growing up, “but I was best at running.” Her parents made the conscious decision to have Elizabeth try all sports and other activities. She played soccer, baseball, a little basketball, and even tried cheerleading one season. “We wanted to expose Elizabeth to many different sports and activities when she was young and to find her own niche.”
Elizabeth is truly a blend of the best from both parents. Her mom, Julie, has always emphasized the relationships you develop running, and the fun the sport can bring you. You can see that part of Elizabeth in how she describes her teammates. “My friends are my running partners. I love the camaraderie of running, watching my teammates, cheering for them, and helping them out. Even when you race and you’re having a bad race a teammate will help you along – encourage you along the way.” Add to that the competitive fire and intensity of her dad. The combination is phenomenal – a gracious, fun and competitive athlete!
During her Freshman and Sophomore years at NCHS her head coach was Bill Kehoe. Her dad has been at the helm for her Junior and Senior years. “The best thing about coaching your child is that you get to spend a lot of time with them and be an active part of their daily life. You get to see your child mature and grow up as a person up close and personal. I would not change this experience for anything. The hardest part of coaching your child is making the transition each night from coach to dad. I have a tendency to talk too much about the running. I’ve had to learn to take off my coach hat and put on my dad hat. Sometimes the lines get a bit blurred between dad and coach.”
Both coach and athlete have big dreams for this upcoming track season. Elizabeth hopes to place higher at State and to really focus on the 2 mile. She likes the longer distances because they give you time to strategize and think about the race. The girls NCHS track team will be fierce competitors and have a very good chance of placing high in the state track meet as a team. There are several runners turning out for track this season from their state championship cross country team. “We don’t talk a lot about championships at NCHS, we talk about doing the daily work required for excellence and a lot about how our Christian faith aligns with our athletic goals. We focus on developing each athlete’s spiritual life and helping them attain personal bests. Championships are byproducts of the daily work.”
What does Elizabeth like about running track? “You get what you put into it.” You’ve got the team and social aspects to help you along when it’s hard to be motivated, but it is the sense of accomplishment after a workout that has elevated this team and Elizabeth. Starting February 27th and training steadily till the state meet the last weekend of May, you can find these athletes out at St. Martins training. What does a typical NCHS track workout look like? Warm-up is 20 minutes out on the trails at St. Martins. Stretching and drills follow (high knees, butt kicks, strides, etc.) Then comes the real work. It can be anything from 1000 x 6; 1600 x 4; and closer to state they will do shorter intense speed workouts like 200 x 20 or 400 x 12. Then it’s time to cool down and stretch.
Coach Weber keeps the team healthy and injury free by integrating a Pilates workout a few days a week. “We were very consistent with the Pilate exercises during cross country and had no injuries to speak of during the season. We work on the core a lot and have a wonderful Pilates instructor—my wife Julie.” They also focus on running drills and plyometrics to help prevent injuries and take care of small aches and pains right away before they turn into a larger problem.”My dad is great at knowing the balance of when to push through pain and when it’s an injury.”
Fueling your body for optimal performance is also key to success. Elizabeth loves food, like any good runner! She and her family eat lots of pasta and red meat (she was anemic and had an iron deficiency her Junior year) and during the track season she cuts out her favorite treat, ice cream.
This final year of high school is not the end of running for Elizabeth. She is currently be recruited by several colleges at the NCAA Division I, 2 and NAIA levels. She is assessing all of her running and academic options. “My prayer is that Elizabeth makes a choice that supports her faith, future career, and her relationship interests. We are so proud of the young woman she has become that is way beyond the sport of running. Running is just one part of Elizabeth’s life. She has many other abilities and interests outside of running so I’m sure she will have a good well rounded college experience.”
Running has given so much more to this family than individual accomplishments and achievements. Elizabeth has nothing but a future that is bright and full of opportunity. Her mom has taught her the sunny side of running (tough to do in the Pacific Northwest), that the friendships that you develop working and sweating together day in and day out are stronger because of the perseverance and accomplishments you obtain together. Her dad has taught her to appreciate hard work, competition, and the spiritual rewards of running. “Julie and I are so blessed to have such a great daughter. I have full confidence that Elizabeth will make a good choice for this next chapter of her life. We have so many great memories of her growing up. I love her as much as a dad possibly can. Elizabeth will always be with us in heart and spirit no matter where she goes to college or decides to live. She has made our life incredibly joyful and meaningful and we are going to miss her greatly but are excited for what the future holds for our precious girl.”
When I asked Elizabeth how she does it all – the balance act of school, sports and life as a teenager she just smiles and said “hard works pays off.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. You’re going to go far Elizabeth!
The NCHS girls team have won 6 consecutive State championships, the first girls team in Washington State cross country history to do so. More about NCHS http://www.northwestchristianlacey.com/