Eighth grader Natalie Weiner has only been running for three years, but she has already placed seventh or better in five national events.
By Melanie Cane
Eighth grader Natalie Weiner has only been running for three years, but she has already placed seventh or better in five national events. She’s the top female runner on the Rye High School Girls’ Cross-Country team and has come in first in every varsity league meet.
In her first national race she came in ninth, missing All-American by 1 second. For Weiner, not doing well enough to stand on the podium was as devastating as it was motivating. “I was so upset that I decided I would never miss the podium again.” And she hasn’t. In 2013 she placed sixth in the cross-country nationals, third in the 800m indoor nationals, fourth in the 1500m indoor nationals, and seventh in the Jr. Olympic outdoor track and field 3000m. In 2014, she took third place in the 3000m indoor nationals.
Has Natalie always been goal-oriented? We asked her mother, Ani Weiner. “A week before Natalie turned 3, she told me she was going to swim the length of an Olympic-size pool on her birthday. I had my doubts, but she did it.” Mrs. Weiner added, “Natalie has a competitive spirit and a will to win that transcends running. She wants to win at Ping-Pong, Monopoly, and Clue as much as she wants to win at running.”
Natalie’s running career started serendipitously. By age 10, she was competing in swimming and tennis when a friend invited her to run in a relay race in New York City. Natalie had so much “fun” that she joined her friend’s track team, Tailwinds Track Club. She has been running with Tailwinds four days a week ever since. Her parents realized she had a special talent in that first relay. “She held her own against older and more experienced girls,” they recalled
Tailwinds track coach Carl Curran identified what makes her such an outstanding runner. “Natalie is a gifted athlete who would excel at any sport she attempted. What sets her apart is her tenacity. She will not give in, even when most kids would bow out to the discomfort/pain.” As for what it’s like to coach her, he said, “She is the perfect combination of ‘tween’ and driven athlete. My job is to point her in the right direction and she does the rest.”
Rye High School Cross-Country coaches Joseph Brown and Blair Moynahan also speak glowingly of Natalie. “She has incredible drive and focus for someone so young. As an 8th grader, she fits right in with her older teammates and there is a lot of mutual respect. Best of all, Natalie’s very humble and always cheering for and encouraging her teammates!”
While Natalie excels at every distance, Coach Curran said, “My gut suggests that Natalie could be a superstar middle distance runner (1500m) given her acceleration, speed, endurance, and finishing sprint. We will continue to experiment with shorter and longer races to keep it interesting and test her abilities.” Natalie’s favorite distance to race is the 1500m.
Her short-term goals are to break five minutes for the 1500meter, beat 19:20 for the 5k, and win AAU nationals. (Her best mile time is 5:20.) Her dream is to go to the Olympics. “Running is hard work, but I’ll train in rain, snow, and 103-degree weather, and I never miss a practice. Running has taught me that if I want to do something I won’t stop until I have accomplished it.”