Mount Pulaski's Peyton Taylor finishes track and field career a State Champion

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[May 29, 2018] 

From valedictorian one Saturday to state champion the next, 2018 MPHS graduate Peyton Taylor is having quite the week. Taylor finished his high school track and field career on top Saturday as the no. 1 discus thrower at the Class 1A Track and Field State Meet in Charleston.

Taylor threw 177 feet 3 inches on his first discus throw in preliminaries on Thursday and that throw alone beat the competition by 20 plus feet. From that point on Taylor said he was just throwing for the state record. He scratched on his next two preliminary throws and also scratched during Saturday's finals but the SIU-Carbondale bound athlete had the 177 foot 3 inch throw to fall back on and it was more than enough to earn him the top spot on the podium at O'Brien Field.

"I got my first one in on Thursday at 177," said Taylor. "The technique didn't really feel all that good, but it was a good first throw. After that I was just going for that state record but I was just trying a little too hard and they weren't falling."

The state record for a discus throw in Class 1A is 193 feet 2 inches said Taylor and he's already thrown a record-setting 194 feet earlier this year at a meet in New Berlin. So it's no wonder he was gunning for the record. He did make history at MPHS as the first male track and field athlete to become a State Champion. Not a bad way to end his career at MPHS.

Peyton Taylor is surrounded by parents Marla and Greg at a reception honoring the 2018 State Champion.

On Saturday night Taylor and his family were guided back into town by fire trucks and even made their way to MPHS for a cake and cookie reception in the school's cafeteria. Taylor was greeted by his supporters and there was even a highlight video that dated all the way back to his grade school days. Those grade school days featured a much shorter and less-lean Taylor who at one time sported a blue mohawk. The 6 foot 8 inch trim athlete took the video in stride as the family and friends gathered couldn't help but giggle. He took some ribbing from his basketball teammates in attendance all the while just smiling.

The good-natured Taylor took everything in stride from the crowd, even his grade school track coach Rob Siebert's comparison of his track career to a movie.

"If I could compare your career to a movie," said Siebert, glancing at Taylor, "It would not be an action movie. It would be "The Princess Dairies."

The crowd laughed, but Siebert said he didn't say it to be funny. Siebert was alluding to the fact that in grade school Taylor really didn't want to be a track athlete. "In "The Princess Diaries" she doesn't want to be a princess, at first, and she has to be convinced, right?" said Siebert. "So I went to Peyton and he was a big eighth-grader and I knew there was some potential there. I didn't exactly know that he'd someday be a state champion, and that's awesome. You never know. So I asked him, and he really didn't want to do track because that involved a one-mile run to the track."

The crowd laughed as Siebert continued, "I assured him that he could in fact do it and he'd be just fine. It's always awesome working with Peyton."

Siebert then brought up his favorite memory of Taylor at the track located near the baseball field at Veteran's Park in Mount Pulaski. There was a crowd at the ballpark for a game and a junior high track meet that day, as Siebert recalled, and one of Taylor's discus throws went off course and straight for the parked cars along the cornfield.

"So of course there was a Mercedes and I don't know if it was a Jag or what but it was two REALLY nice cars with about eight feet in between," said Siebert. "And he threw it and it was headed right towards both of them. I'm thinking insurance. How do we do this? And it didn't bounce. He just stuck the discus right between the cars. That was like your best throw ever," Siebert said to Taylor as everyone laughed.

"So the cool thing is, you go back to "The Princess Dairies" and you got your fairy tale ending. Which I think is pretty cool. It's been awesome to coach you. You are a terrific young man and I wish you nothing but the best."

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Peyton Taylor in the top spot as the no. 1 discus thrower in Class 1A. (Rob Siebert photo)

Master of Ceremonies Gale Clark kept things rolling with interviews of Taylor's parents and it was dad Greg who spoke first.

"It has just been a total pleasure with both our kids, Jordan and Taylor, here at Mount Pulaski," said Greg. "We were faced with a real tough choice back in 2006 when I made the decision to leave Lincoln Christian College and accept a ministry in Clinton. We made the decision to stay in Chestnut and not move and the major reason why was Mount Pulaski schools. I don't know if that was the best move for me professionally quite honestly, but it was absolutely the best decision for our family. We have no regrets." Greg also thanked Siebert for talking Peyton into going out for track. Greg also recognized Kristin Rucks as one of the track coaches who influenced Peyton in high school, as well as numerous other people who helped to shape the younger Taylor's career.

"I can't imagine a better high school career academically or athletically than we've experienced here at Mount Pulaski High School," concluded Greg.

Greg then persuaded his wife Marla to speak in front of the crowd. "I am very very proud of him and just excited to see where God leads him in the future and that he keeps strong and keeps doing what he's doing and uses his glory for Him," she said.

Arete Throws Nation coach Lia Tulua is pictured center with her two state champions from Mount Pulaski - Peyton Taylor and Cassidy Clark.

Taylor's coach Lia Tulua also talked to the crowd and as coach for both Taylor and the recent junior high State Champion Cassidy Clark, Tulua admitted when she first heard the word 'Mount Pulaski' she had to look it up on the map. The former U of I track and field athlete was a Pacific Islander and she told the crowd that while this is her 10th year in private coaching, this is her first year for coaching school track. Tulua has coached up north she said, but she really likes coaching the smaller school kids. "There's something to be said for the hard-working class when it comes to those days when we are out there in the heat or out there in the cold. My parents came from the islands and we work hard. Both my parents are blue collar and I absolutely truly appreciate the hard work when it comes to those kind of days when they can push through and that's actually what a lot of colleges look for when they look for a thrower. Can they push themselves through a difficult meet?"

Tulua looks forward to working with more local track athletes in the future and is excited to focus on an indoor season for local youth.

She also commented on the support these local athletes get. "I truly appreciate the family atmosphere and the support you give your kids," she told the Hilltopper crowd. "I can't express enough to you kids that you truly should be grateful and appreciative of the fact that you get this kind of notoriety and acknowledgment and recognition with your sports."

Tulua also thanked everyone who supported Taylor and his family, and especially the Clark family. Tulua is also a multi-sport trainer and her track record literally speaks for itself. She's been involved in the life of two track athletes this past year in Mount Pulaski schools - Cassidy Clark and Peyton Taylor - and they are both now State Champions.

Finally the newest State Champion in the community ended with these words of wisdom. "Track isn't really about competing against each other. It's about competing against yourself."

When put on the spot about how it felt to be up there on the podium in front of 6,000 fans at the state track meet, Taylor smiled and said, ""I was really just wondering where we were going to eat afterwards. It really didn't hit me yet. I was asked a lot on the way up there how it feels to be a State Champion and I said, "It doesn't feel any different than it did ten minutes ago." It hasn't really hit me yet. It's exciting but I can't explain it. It's like butterflies and I don't know. Win State and then you'll see,"" joked Taylor.

Congratulations to Peyton Taylor on going out as a State Champion!

[Teena Lowery]

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