Saige Peterson has her life on the right track both literally and figuratively.
The 16-year-old sophomore at Smith-Cotton High School has been running track since she was 4 years old and is currently a standout on the S-C team as both an individual runner and a member of three relay teams.
Last season she, along with teammates Monique Grant, Keba Nash, and Mariana Ward, competed at state in the 4 x 100 meters. Peterson came within .o1 seconds of competing in the 800 meters at state as an individual runner.
Although she did not qualify for state, she did break a Smith-Cotton record in her run at sectionals.
“It’s going to be hard to top last year,” Peterson said. “I was a freshman and we did incredibly well.
“Mariana graduated but we have a new member on the team (Nia Hawkins) and we are already looking forward to this season,” Peterson added.
Peterson conditions both before and after school and she has an athletic conditioning class that allows her to work on her performance as a runner.
“I remember my first official race was when I was 4 years old at the Show Me State Games,” Peterson said. “I ran the last leg of a relay team and we were doing really well.
“I was running along the back straight away when I noticed my shoe was untied. I stopped to tie it when I noticed my mom and dad sitting in the stands cheering me on, so I stood up and started to wave to them.”
Peterson added that other runners went on to pass her and she didn’t win the race.
Since then she has never looked back.
“My mom and dad are my biggest supporters,” Peterson said. “They are always there to encourage me and help me in any way they can.”
Her father played football at Northwest Missouri State University and her mother ran track at Graceland University.
“My dad coached at Smith-Cotton and so he has motivated and helped me a lot,” Peterson said. “All of my coaches at school are amazing too.”
Brad Hagedorn is the head coach of the team who works with Peterson on her long distance running. Matt Clark and Chad Mulgrew are primarily responsible for her mid-distance training.
“I think the best part of track is that you become part of something bigger than yourself,” Peterson said. “We all become a family because we are all there to help each other and support one another.
“It really is like we become one,” Peterson added. “For me, I always feel like I am competing to improve myself and my personal times; I’m not in this to beat another person.”
Peterson said that while her family is one of her major sources of inspiration, she runs to glorify God.
“God has blessed me with so much in my life and has given me all the talents that I have been given,” Peterson said. “When I run it is to praise and glorify Him.”
Peterson has plans to continue her running after high school.
A straight-A student, Peterson said she hopes to receive a track scholarship to the University of Arkansas.
“It’s a dream of mine to run at Arkansas,” she said. “I went to a camp there this summer and I did pretty well.”
Peterson received the MVP award for her times in the 400 and sprint competitions.
The university also offers a degree program in reproductive endocrinology, which Petersen plans to study in college.
Staying close to home is a priority for Peterson in her choice of a college because she would like be near her family.
“My little brother, Drake, won second place in the pole vault at this year’s Junior Olympics,” Peterson said. “I want to watch him compete because he always comes to cheer me on.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484