Baylee Stafford (center) has committed to run cross country and track at the University of Wyoming next year. She is pictured with (from left) coach Maggie Kirkham, sister Ava and parents Jason and Jana Stafford.

Cody High School senior Baylee Stafford wasn’t sold on running in college until just a few weeks before she signed to compete next season for the University of Wyoming.

Stafford ran cross country and did indoor track her junior and senior seasons for the Fillies. She’s also a three-time All-State soccer player who loves that sport and will still play for defending state soccer champs this spring. She considered doing soccer in college, but said she came around to the idea of taking her distance running to the next level.

“I’m excited to see what it’s like,” Stafford said. “It’ll be interesting running all year long.”

The Cowgirls track coaches recruited her in the fall during cross country season, when she finished third individually to help lead the Fillies to a state title. Stafford also took third as a sophomore and junior, and finished seventh as a freshman, earning All-State all four years.

“The cross country team chemistry is awesome,” she said.

Stafford also recently finished up indoor track. At state she came in 15th in the mile and ninth in the two-mile.

“She’s good because she’s so coachable and she will do whatever you tell her to do to perform at her best,” Cody distance coach Maggie Kirkham said. “She’s not afraid to hurt. To be a good distance runner, you’ve got to be able to hurt.”

Stafford started running competitively in sixth grade, following in a family tradition – her dad competed in college.

Her little sister Ava is already following in her footsteps as a high school runner.

“It’s kind of the culture of our family,” Baylee said. “We all run.”

Still, Stafford said running at the college level hadn’t been a consideration for her for that long.

It was when she decided to attend the University of Wyoming that she thought more seriously about the chance at a scholarship to run for the Cowgirls.

“I figure I’d give it a shot,” she said. “I’m excited.”

So are her soon-to-be coaches who, she said, recruited her for her distance running ability.

“I have a lot of endurance,” Stafford said. “I have quick twitch muscles so I can sprint, but I’m better at distance because I have a lot of endurance.

“I can go for such a long time and I’m very consistent in pacing.”

Now she’ll have to adjust her pacing as she prepares for longer college distances.

Her high school coach isn’t worried about her making the transition.

“A good runner can hurt and keep going,” Kirkham said. “Baylee will just run through it, and she’s an excellent teammate.”

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