By Steve Williams
On the way back from North Carolina and her final cross country race of the 2015 season, Rebecca Story and her mother and brother stopped by the Boyd Mountain Christmas tree farm in Waynesville and had a tree cut down to take home.
“I later baked oatmeal cookies – baking is my stress reliever,” noted Story, two-time KIL champion and one of the state’s top harriers. “Our tradition every year is to decorate a real tree, watch Polar Express and drink hot chocolate!”
With the rigors of a long season over – it began with preseason workouts in July – Story took a break from running. She admittedly missed her teammates but still had her finals to take as her sophomore year at Christian Academy of Knoxville reached the halfway point.
For relaxation, Rebecca did some baking – quiche and rum cake are her favorite dishes – and loved listening to four-time Grammy Award winner Michael Buble’s Christmas album during the holidays.
Story is well known on the local high school sports scene for her accomplishments as a distance runner in track and cross country, but she also has many other talents and interests.
In addition to baking, yoga and piano, she spends time hiking, lifeguarding and hanging out with friends.
“I certainly enjoy yoga after practices,” said Story. “I like going once or twice a week – stretch out, get relaxed and focused. It’s definitely good for the mind and body.”
As for hiking, Rebecca stated she and her family annually climb up to Mount Le Conte, the third highest peak (6,593 feet) in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and stay in the Le Conte Lodge.
“It is one of my favorite trips,” added Story. “My younger brother, Stacy, and I look forward to it every year. Last summer we ran into a bear on the trail, so we had to take our own detour in the woods to get around him!”
Story’s introduction to athletic competition actually began in the water as a 6 year old when she swam on her neighborhood summer swim team in Farragut – the Sugarwood Stingrays.
“I’m not the best at swimming,” she said. “I enjoy it. It gets me in shape for cross country and track.
“I like to go and swim on my own over the winter between cross country and track seasons. It’s great for the muscles and it’s not too hard on you. In the winter I just go to Fort Sanders and do some laps.”
Last summer Story started lifeguarding for Sugarwood.
‘Definitely my best friend’
“I have a dog named Murphy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel,” said Rebecca.
It’s one of the most popular breeds in the United Kingdom, called a “small spaniel” or “toy dog” by some.
“They are a really pretty dog,” said Story. “I think he’s 9 years old. I’ve had him since first grade. I brought him to Pet Day that year. I remember that very well. He’s the only dog I’ve had. Definitely my best friend. A great dog.”
“Definitely,” she said.
Take him out for runs?
“He’s a very lazy dog. He likes to lay around and sleep. I think if I took him out running, he probably would just lay down after the first half-mile and go to bed.”
‘Yes, I have straight A’s’
Rebecca really enjoys creative writing.
“I love English,” she said. “It’s my favorite subject. I love expressing myself through writing. That’s another thing I like to do. Probably not many people, I guess, would see me as a writer.”
Story said she’s taking a few honors classes this school year and an AP class.
“School definitely comes over running,” she added. “I try to balance running. Get a good night’s sleep so I can do my best the next day in school.”
Grades really good?
“Yes, I have straight A’s,” answered Rebecca.
Future and career?
“I have really no clue. I’m thinking about going into the medical field possibly, but I’m not sure though. I’ll have to see.”
Ties to Farragut and the Vols
“I am a third generation Farragut resident,” stated Story. “My mother, Mary Helen Little Story, grew up in Village Green and graduated from Farragut High School in 1988.
“We are also big Vol fans. My great-grandfather, Joe Little, was captain of the 1938 UT football national championship team. I have grown up going to UT football and basketball games!”
The 1938 team Little led held its last four regular season opponents scoreless to start a string of 17 straight regular season shutouts, which is still a NCAA record. That ’38 squad also blanked Oklahoma 17-0 in the Orange Bowl – UT’s first-ever bowl game.
“My grandparents, Joe and Becky Little, also live in my neighborhood,” said Rebecca. “My grandmother was an eighth grade Farragut Middle School teacher for years.”
‘That got me started’
“I first started running when my uncle (John Little) entered me in a triathlon in, I think, the third grade,” recalled Story, “and afterwards he thought I had the potential for running. That got me started.”
Story ran for the CAK Elementary School track team in KYA (Knoxville Youth Athletics) meets.
“I liked it, but I didn’t start getting serious until the seventh grade when I did the middle school KYA meets. That’s when I really started loving running.”
And still loves it today.
“Uncle John,” pointed out Rebecca, “ran a little bit in high school and actually ran in a recent Boston Marathon.”
CAK’s Tony Cosey has been coaching Story since the sixth grade.
“I think he’s the best coach I could have – a former Olympian in the steeplechase,” said Rebecca. “He really gets me prepared for the races mentally and physically.”
Story loves both track and cross country.
“In cross country you have to have a lot of endurance and be able to work the hills,” she said. “And track is a lot about time and speed. I look forward to both.”
Reaching a special goal
Story set a goal to run under 17 minutes in a 5K (3.1 miles) race this past season and accomplished it with a 16:57.44 performance to win at the Jesse Owens Classic in Oakville, Ala., on Oct. 3. She became one of a few Tennessee schoolgirls to ever post a time under 17 minutes over that distance.
Story also defeated rival Taylor Cuneo of Murfreesboro Central Magnet (17:30.75) for the first time ever that day. Cuneo too is a sophomore.
Story went on to repeat as KIL champion and win the Region 2 A-AA title before finishing second to Cuneo in a state showdown.
Story competed in two post-season events. In November, she ran in the Tennessee HOKA ONE ONE Postal Nationals, winning the 3200-meter time trial in 10:29.90, setting the HOKA ONE national record for the season at the time. The 3200 is her favorite track event.
She later ran in the NXN (Nike) Southeast Regional cross country meet in North Carolina but did not finish in the Top 5 to qualify for the nationals in Oregon.
As a freshman last spring, Story broke the 5-minute mark in the 1600-meter run and her time of 4:56.20 ranks among the best in TSSAA history.
Story also owns a PR of 4:54 in the mile, even though the mile is a little longer distance than 1600 meters.
As an eighth grader in 2014, she won the 3200 at the TSSAA state meet.
Story already has started preparing for the winter indoor track season.
“We might be traveling to New York for an indoor meet in February!” noted Rebecca. “Then CAK’s outdoor track season will begin!”