Running wasn’t Emma Moon’s thing, especially long distances.

“I hated track in middle school,” Moon stated, her voice convincingly showcasing her past distaste for the activity. “I told the coach I would quit if she made me run the mile.”

While W.F. West High School cross country coach Amber Cruzan says it’s rare, every so often a student will come along who initially hates the sport before doing a complete turnaround and fall in love with it. Whenever this occurs Cruzan will use the athlete as an example for other runners who are on the fence about cross country.

If that’s true, Moon is going to be Cruzan’s case in point for quite some time.

The girl who used to frown upon four laps around the track now sees that as a simple warm-up.

One of the state’s top 2A runners in the 3,200 meters during track season, Moon added cross country to her resume following a decade-plus of soccer last year. She is now one of the 2A Evergreen Conference’s best.

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WF West senior Emma Moon won the 2A Evergreen Conference Championship and finished third at the District Championship meet during her first season of cross country. Photo credit: Grant Clark

“You don’t get a lot of them,” Cruzan said about athletes embracing running after previously disliking it, “but I think Emma got sucked into the sport because of the team aspect of it. It really is just a big family here.”

When Moon entered high school, soccer was her top athletic priority. Even though she had never played before, she initially was going to give tennis a try during the spring of her ninth grade year as she still harbored ill will towards track and running.

Things didn’t quite pan out that way, however.

“I got convinced at the last minute to turn out (for track) by the coach,” Moon said. “I figured I would do it to get in shape for soccer. I knew sprinting wouldn’t really help with soccer. We play 80-minute games. I needed more endurance, so I decided to try long distance (running), and then things started going really well for me.”

A year before Moon couldn’t image running one mile and now she was not only surpassing the three-mile mark, and excelling at the event.

During her freshman campaign, Moon won the 3,200 at five different meets, including a victory at the 2A Evergreen Conference Championships. She also finished third at the 2A District 4 Championships, where she crossed the wire in a time of 11:50.27, and placed 14th overall at the state meet.

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WF West cross country coach Amber Cruzan (left) and Emma Moon pose for a photo. Cruzan, a 1986 WF West graduate, is the school record holder in the 3,200 – a record Moon will be attempting to break this upcoming track season. Photo credit: Grant Clark

After another stellar track season the following year, which included a second-place finish at the district meet and a second consecutive top 15 pacing at the state meet in the 3,200, something strange began to happen with Moon – running was starting to surpass soccer as Moon’s favorite activity.

Between her high school slate and her club team, Moon was logging some seriously lofty minutes playing soccer. She admits to being burned out and was ready for a change of scenery midway through her high school career.

The logical choice was to swap the fall soccer season with cross country.

“I’ve known Emma for a while,” said Cruzan, who was Moon’s sixth grade teach at Chehalis Middle School. “We’ve been trying to get her out here for a couple years, but she was always playing soccer. I think (assistant coach) Rob Sande, who coaches her in track, had a little play in convincing her to try cross country. I think she realized the success she’s had in track parlays really well to the 5K.”

A third-place in the always ultra-competitive Capital Invite in her first ever cross country race confirmed how true that statement was.

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Moon is already off to a strong start to her senior season. She has won a pair of Evergreen Conference meets and placed fifth at the Capital Invite. Photo credit: Grant Clark

“My teammates told me what to expect and what to be prepared for beforehand,” said Moon about her introduction into cross country. “I knew the courses are different, and there’s hills, but I like running hills. The biggest challenge was uneven ground, but it’s definitely fun.”

The goal for Moon, a 2016 state cross country meet participate, this season is to break her top time of 20:14. She has circled 19:30 as the target.

“In cross country you have to be more tenacious (than in track),” Cruzan said. “You have to be pretty strong. It’s not just jumping laps. You’re jumping things and pushing people around at the start. Not on purpose, but it just happens. You have to be totally mentally tough and she is mentally tough.”

Moon will also be looking to set a new school benchmark this upcoming track season in the 3,200 – a record that has stood for 31 years and is owned by her coach.

“Everyone asks me, ‘Do you want her to break your record?’ Yes. Of course, I do,” Cruzan said. “Who doesn’t want the runners they coach to successful? She has that goal in mind to break it. I hope she does. It’s been there too long.”

And what about soccer?

“I’ve never had any regrets,” Moon said. “I’m a runner.”

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