Hayley 'O'

A record-setting distance runner, Hayley Oveson sits in dad Jeff's lap for a photograph. Photo by Rocky Wilson

15-year-old star athlete extends family tradition of setting track recordsIn ways, Hayley Oveson is a typical teen-ager. At 15, she wears braces, loves to shop and thinks that Ding Dongs are the best food God ever created.

In ways she is not.

The slender freshman who set two1A track and field state records last week seems strikingly mature for for her age. Her voice is slightly high pitched like a young teenager, but her answers to questions are free flowing and comfortable, and she smiles often and one does not notice the braces.

"You are a freshman in high school. You have just won the state 1,500 meter and 3,000 meter titles in the state 1A track meet, both in record times. Where do you go from here?" is one question many would like to ask her.

She thinks for a while, then responds, "There will always be another freshman coming up. I guess I will just have to work harder."

Her father, Jeff Oveson, says that the pivotal point in her freshman track season (she placed second to senior Neoma Palmer of Catlin Gable in the state 1A and 2A cross country championships last fall) came when Wallowa High School track coaches Dawn Crow and Jess Turner authorized parents Jeff and Nancy Oveson to consult with an outside distance specialist. Bob Williams of Sports Lab Training in Portland was consulted and her workouts changed dramatically. Instead of running harder many days of the week, she was held back with harder workouts on Mondays and Wednesdays and much less running the other practice days. Williams, consulted by telephone and e-mail, said, "Hayley needs to know that recovery is part of training."

The young distance runner who first says she weighs 92 pounds, then laughs "it's really closer to 90", explains that the tougher workouts tear down one's muscles and one needs to rest to restore them to proper health.

Williams, who was an all-American steeplechaser when he attended the University of Oregon, stresses the quality of a workout over the quantity.

Mother Nancy is the one who makes certain that her daughter eats properly. Hayley eats one or two ding dongs each day on her own

Hayley Oveson is not running during the month of June, but will start up again in early July to prepare herself for the Steen Mountain Running Camp in early August. She attended a running camp at Stanford University last summer and the 4.0 student professes that she would like to attend Stanford when she graduates from high school. She hopes to run at the collegiate level.

Both parents Jeff and Nancy are of slender build and, says Hayley, developed later in life. She hopes to improve on her state record times in the years to come.

Track champions are not new to the family. Jeff ran an anchor leg on a Wallowa High School mile relay team which set a new state record in 1970 and won the Pac-8 (prior to the Pac-10 when Arizona and Arizona State were added) intermediate hurdle championships in 1973 while running for Oregon State University.

Admitting that track and field is his favorite sport, the father says, "I never had more fun in a race that I did watching Hayley at the state meet."

To Wallowa residents it is a common sight to see the small runner with the peaceful stride heading out of town for a run. She regularly runs for three to five miles and has run as much as 11 miles at one time. The Lostine Fun Run appeals more to her at this stage of her career than does a marathon.

It was the parental fear of "burning out" their daughter at an early age that caused Jeff and Nancy Oveson to consult with Williams. They, including Hayley, are more comfortable now with the professional advice. She really likes to run presently and hopes to remain physically and emotionally healthy in the years to come.

Hayley's first inclination toward being a distance runner came in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades when her classes ran a mile for physical education. She always won the girls races. She continued to excel in junior high school where the longest races she could run were the 800 and 1500 meters. But her successes in track and field do not deter her from saying that cross country is her favorite sport.

The slender frosh, who speaks highly of her teammates as friends and quality athletes in their own rights, played junior varsity basketball at WHS, laughingly saying that basketball is only for fun. She adds that younger brother Nathaniel is the basketball player in the family.

Keeping his young daughter's accomplishments in perspective, Jeff Oveson says, "If Hayley never ran another race we'd still think she is pretty special."

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