While recess at Prune Hill Elementary School, most children would play wall ball, dribble each other at the sign or crowd the swings.
Alexis Lyon ran.
As a fifth grader, she made rounds around the property of the Camas School. Not because she had to, but because it was fun.
She befriended a boy who also loved to run. It’s becoming a competition to see who can collect the most mile cards, which are awarded to any kid who runs that distance during the break.
By the end of the school year, Leon had run 100 miles.
Fast forward five years. Leon still runs many miles. It also still wins.
Leon, a sophomore, won a Class 1 singles title at the Cross Country Country meet on November 6 in Pasco. In doing so, she led the Seton Catholics to the first team championship in the nine-year-old school’s history.
For her achievements, Leon is the Girls’ All-Colombian Women’s Runner of the Year.
Leon’s father, Jason Leon, was initially apprehensive that his daughter was working so far at such a young age. As president of Portland-based Core Health and Fitness, he’s seen cases where long-distance running puts stress on growing bodies.
“First off, I’m not a runner, so I’m not sure where it came from,” Jason Lyon said. “Second, I work for a fitness company and running can put stress on my joints, so I was worried. I frustrated that for a few years.”
But Jason Leon did not want to deprive his daughter of something that brought her so much joy. This led the Leones to move to Vancouver-based Whisper Running and coach Dave Caldwell, who specializes in running programs for middle school-aged runners.
This is where Leon solidified its competitive drive. As an eighth-grader, she qualified for the US Junior Olympics in Cross Country, finishing second in the 14-15 age group in 14 minutes 47 seconds for the 4,000 metres.
“For me, the competition is really fun because you see where you are,” Leon said.
When COVID shut down athletics in 2020, running became the primary outlet for Lyon’s energy shared with basketball and softball.
Jason Lyon, far from the anxious father at first, studied every resource he could find about running.
“If I’m going to be a supportive parent, I need to know what’s going on,” he said. “So I started reading from the best. Books, blogs, newsletters. I learned very well the things we should be doing and started making a plan.”
But, after COVID restrictions shortened the freshman’s season, the virus itself threw a switch in the second year of Leoni.
She was one of several members of the team to contract the virus, which means the Seton Catholics didn’t start racing until three weeks later than most of the other teams.
Leon experienced symptoms that included shortness of breath and low energy that lasted more than two weeks.
“I struggled to manage most days of the week,” she said. “Just getting back to where I was, that was a struggle.”
Leon said she finally felt healthy at the Trico League meet at White Salmon on October 13. With the league championship only a week away, there was no room for error for the sprinter and Seton’s side who had aspirations to accept the title.
But if Leon has one uncommon strength, it’s her ability to move forward when the race gets tough. “Its driving is amazing,” said Jason Lyon. “Her will is over the top.”
This campaign has resulted in Lyon winning six of the seven races they have raced this season. She capped the state title, with Lyon’s time of 18:05 the fastest by any runner from Southwest Washington this season.
Only four girls from Clark County ran faster in the state meet. Alexa Ephraimson, a professional runner from Camas who set the state meet record in 2013, used to be Leon’s babysitter.
“She was a really good babysitter,” said Leon. “But I didn’t know she was such a great runner. When I found out who she was, I was really shocked.”
Inspired by the greatness and love of the joy that running brings, Leon is now charting her own path among the top high school runners in Clark County.
“Next year is a new day, a new season, and everything is new,” Leon said. “There’s always one place to get it, the top in Washington. If I can get to the top in Washington, you’ll be the best in the country. I know I’ll never be the fastest person alive, so there’s always another step I can take to become a better teammate.” And a better person.”
Girls all over the country
Runner of the Year – Alexis Lyon, Seton Catholic
rest of the team
Hanna Bailey, Columbia River
Junior placed 19th in the State 2A meet. He broke 20 minutes four times in 10 5K races, and had a season best of 19:28.
Sidney Boothby, Washougal
Junior was ninth in the State 2A meet and third in the district meet. Best season at 18:46 for 5K. He ran under 20 minutes in eight of the 11 5K races.
Danny Pottrell, Fort Vancouver
Junior led Fort to the first district title in program history and fourth place in the state. It was ranked 5th in the counties and 21st in the 2A State meeting.
Gracie Bozell, Camas
Junior was the 4A District Champion and runner-up in the Westside Classic duo. The personal best 5K ran at 18:15 on October 9 at Hole in the Wall.
Lara Carrion, Seton the Catholic
Senior finished seventh in the 1A state meet, helping the Cougars win the team title. The best season is 18:34 and he ran under 20 minutes per race.
Elle Thomas, Washogall
Sophomore placed sixth in the State 2A meet and second place in the district meet. He broke 19 minutes in six of 11 5K races, and was a better 18:25.