Payton Fink is leading the way for Washburn Rural cross country
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Washburn Rural cross country runner Payton Fink is fast. Really fast.
“It’s a huge privilege to have Payton Fink on the team. In terms of being a competitor and giving her absolute best,” said Rural head coach Matt Swedlund. “You can just count on her like the rising sun.”
And she didn’t even start running cross country until her freshman year.
“My brother did cross country, and both of my parents ran,” Fink said. “So going into high school, they got me out to a back to school 5K, and I ran it and did pretty good.”
It wasn’t easy for Fink to stop decide between cross country or volleyball. She had played volleyball her whole life, but had to choose when it came time to start high school.
“We knew if she did come out for cross country, that she was gonna be very good,” Coach Swedlund said.
“Going into cross country I was kind of scared leaving my past friend groups that I was comfortable in,” Fink said.
Fink says the Junior Blues made the transition easy.
“They welcomed me with open arms and (I’ve) made my best friends through this sport,” she said.
“I may have like jumped for joy,” Coach Swedlund said with a laugh. “I tried to keep my response as chill as possible. But when she decided yeah I think I’m gonna do cross country, I was like I think you’re gonna be very successful.”
Looks like Coach Swedlund was correct. As a sophomore, Fink won the Centennial League in 2022. And now as only a junior, she already has four first place finishes under her belt.
“Every win is more surprising to me, like pushing myself to the next level,” she said.
The wins may be surprising, but they’re becoming the norm for the cross country star. She now has dreams of continuing the sport in college, hopefully staying local in or near the state of Kansas.
“I couldn’t see myself going to college and not running,” she said.
But first, she’ll continue to lead her team with hopes of taking podium at State these next two years. And of course, rack up some more wins along the way.
“She wants to win for herself. She wants to be the best for her team,” said Coach Swedlund. “So it’s a huge asset to have someone like that at the front of your pack.”
“When you win just everyone is not so worried about how you do. It’s just a great environment all around,” Fink said.
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