36 • FEATURE
FRONT OF THE PACK Athletic phenom Soleil Gaylord is off and running By Martinique Davis
group of elementary school girls sat huddled on the Telluride Middle/ High School field one brisk afternoon last fall, squirming in closer to hear what their guest Soleil Gaylord had to say.
These young runners, who were part of Telluride’s Girls on the Run program, couldn’t get enough of the tall, gazelle-like Gaylord, who had just won the prestigious and highly competitive Wendy’s High School Heisman award honoring her myriad accomplishments as a student athlete and community role model. The girls, many of whom were preparing for their first-ever 5k race, wanted to know how far Gaylord could run, how many competitions she had won, and how she could possibly get up so early before school to train. But characteristically, the articulate, serene Gaylord underplayed her many accomplishments—the numerous state titles in track and cross country, her adventures across the globe as a member of the U.S. Mountain Running team, and her various scholastic and community service awards. Rather, Gaylord gently steered these young runners toward a different dialog about the sport and why she puts so much of herself into it. In her words: “I just love to run.” Gaylord, who graduated from Telluride High School this June, was raised amid a www.TellurideMagazine.com
culture of athleticism, both from within her family as well as from Telluride’s entrenched ethos of a highly physical lifestyle. She started running with her father, Telluride Medical Center physician Kent Gaylord, when she was barely old enough to ride a bike, and was subsequently swept up into the sport through her participation with Telluride’s Girls on the Run team, and later the Telluride Schools’ cross-country and track teams. Longtime Telluride track coach Keith Hampton mentored Gaylord throughout middle and high school, and says that while she exhibited aptitude from very early on, what set her apart was her stringent work ethic. “People think Soleil’s successes have come easy for her because she has so much talent. But any success she’s achieved is because she’s worked hard. Talent helps, but she has put the work in,” he says. Gaylord can frequently be seen running on the bike path along Highway 145 outside of Telluride during the winter, getting her speed workouts in at all hours of the day
and in every weather condition. And the two-time snowshoe World Champion also trains on the snowy trails around Telluride (typically toting a headlamp for those dark winter afternoon sessions). Come summertime, she hits the trails around Telluride, often scaling numerous peaks and passes as she runs for multiple hours at a time. Gaylord toggles effortlessly between sports, moving from cross-country running competitions in the fall, to the winter snowshoe season, into trail running events throughout the summer months when she travels to such faraway locales as Bulgaria, Italy, and Spain for competitions. This style of complementary cross training has helped Gaylord achieve big-time results: She’s won five state track and field titles and two state titles with the Telluride cross country team, was a member of the silver-medal winning U.S. team at the World Mountain Running Championships last year, is a World Champion snowshoe runner, and was named Colorado Sportswoman of the year for 2018.