Skip to main content

Draper Journal

All-American runner helps team to national title

Jan 27, 2022 12:17PM ● By Catherine Garrett

Draper’s Teagan Harris helped her 11-12 year-old girls team to a national championship at the USATF National Junior Olympics in Paris, Kentucky recently. She placed 11th and earned All-American honors. (Photo courtesy James Harris)

By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]

Unstoppable. That was the theme for the Race Cats Elite team from Draper that took 39 runners to the USATF National Junior Olympics in Paris, Kentucky recently. And, amid freezing temperatures, tornado warnings, hailstorms, 40 mph wind, the Utah contingent proved just that.

Draper’s Teagan Harris earned All-American honors as part of the 11-12-year-old girls team that brought home a national championship Dec. 11. She placed 11th overall and came in third on the team.

“We got pulled off the start line and our race was delayed. It was crazy,” said Teagan. “It was such a hard race, but it was so fun.”

Also on the championship team were Maya Bybee, Adria Favero, Hadley Flach and Tatum Flach—who also earned All-American status—along with Lily Jameson and Tyana Lake. 

“This did not come easy to them. These girls travel from all over the state of Utah to practice with our team in Draper,” Race Cats head coach Michele Brinkerhoff said. “They practice three to four days a week together and travel from Park City, Salt Lake, Sandy, Taylorsville and Utah County. Some of them even choose to homeschool just so they can run on this team.”

Draper’s Ryan Brinkerhoff, who was an All-American in 2020, ran on the 11-12-year-old boys team who placed third.

“Hail was just pelting my eyes as we were getting prepared to race,” Ryan said. “But, we train hard and make it through practices, so I had been taught that I can do hard things. I can keep going through dark places, even through a tornado.” 

Ryan’s brother, Jake, ran on the 8-and-under team that came in fifth.

“It was very muddy, but it was good,” Ryan said. “I really liked the downhill and running in the rain.”

Ryan’s sister, Ava, competed for the fifth time at nationals this year as well. Last year, she finished in the top 100 and this time she finished 36th. “It was kind of crazy this year, but every year, I’m getting closer,” she said. 

Also placing at nationals were the 13-14 girls team, who came in seventh, while Kenneth Briggs, Cole Jameson, Bethany Mittelstaedt and David Webb also finished their events as All-Americans.

“We sent four full teams to nationals and they all came back in the top 10 in the entire country in their age division,” coach Brinkerhoff said. “This is an amazing accomplishment with teams competing from all over the United States.”

Other Draper runners competing at nationals were Gabby Beall, Cooper Hurl, Isaak Knutsen, Lucia Martinez, Max Martinez, Brody Meier, Isabelle Saley, Olivia Saley, Genevieve Turcotte and Cameron White. 

“Every single athlete finished the race, even though some had severe trauma and anxiety from the natural disasters. We are so proud of them. They travel from all over to compete and train together, sacrificing so much to be part of something special. And they are so special and deserve to be recognized for it,” coach Brinkerhoff said.

Teagan, daughter of James and Tanya Harris of Draper, has been running since she was eight years old. “I love the feeling you get once you finish and then you can congratulate your teammates,” she said. 

The sixth-grader at St. John the Baptist Middle School said running has helped her keep a “positive circle around me,” as she aims for a top three finish at nationals, knowing she has parents and coaches that will cheer her on toward her goal.

Ryan, Jake and Ava, the children of Matt and Michele Brinkerhoff, have joined in their mother’s love of running and found their own way.

Ryan, a sixth-grader at Draper Park Middle School, said he ran as fast as he could in his first race—which he ended up winning—and hasn’t stopped since. “I’m really competitive, and I love to run,” he said. “It just makes me really happy and I just try to stick with it. I’ve learned that if you just believe in yourself, you can do anything.”

Jake, who is a second-grader at Channing Hall, loves that running helps him “stay in the game longer” in basketball. “It’s pretty fun,” he said. “You get to work your body. My goal is to get to the Olympics and get first.”

Ava ran on the varsity team at Corner Canyon as a freshman this past fall, continuing on in the sport she has competed in for 10 years. “I like trying to achieve goals so I can keep growing and improving,” she said. “Running is a good way to do that.”

Matt Brinkerhoff sees the behind-the-scenes work that his wife has been putting in to running the Race Cats program the past few years. “The time and passion Michele has for these kids is incredible,” he said. “She memorizes their numbers and knows where each of them should be. Before nationals, she wrote an individual note to each runner. She doesn’t just give group speeches; she cares about the one.”

Coach Brinkerhoff is assisted by Draper’s Rachel Martinez, Jeremy Hurl and Amy Lyn Schmidt, along with Teren Jameson and Rachel Moody.