MAIZE, Kan.—Deidra Walker and her older sister, Danielle, were not in high school at the same time, but Deidra is aware of the Maize High School graduate’s legacy.
Danielle Walker, who graduated in 2010, won league and regional cross country championships her senior year and then was state runner-up in Class 6A. In 2009, she won a state track title in the 800-meter run.
“We are competitive,” said Deidra. “Ever since eighth-grade year I was like, ‘Oh, Danielle, I’m going to break your time.’ That is a goal. Last year I was trying to compare my times to her times and see the gap between our two times. … Her times help push me to try and do my best to achieve those goals.”
Deidra is preparing for the postseason after leading Maize her freshman year. The squad won a 2011 league title in the Ark Valley Chisholm Trail’s Division I and then secured a 6A regional championship. Deidra placed second and third, respectively, in those meets.
The Eagles went on to earn fifth at state. Walker finished sixth, and she was the only Maize runner to place among the top 20.
“I really couldn’t have a better focused, committed, disciplined, supportive individual – and she’s only a sophomore,” said coach Skeeter Rankins. “Her approach to being a better runner is a championship approach. It’s what any coach wants their kids to do, how they want them to approach things – always wanting to be better.”
Deidra lost twice this year to Bishop Carroll senior Kaelyn Balch, defending state champion in 5A, and lost twice to Manhattan junior Alaina Schroeder, last year’s state runner-up in 6A. Rankins believes that Deidra has the skill and potential to match their achievements.
“What I see in her is she’s just focused,” he said. “The kids that I’ve coached that have been state champions, she reminds me of those kids. I can say without equivocation that she is every bit as focused when it comes to work ethic.”
Deidra won the AVCTL Division I championship Saturday with a time of 15:10.38. The Eagles also claimed the team title at Arkansas City.
Deidra and Danielle support each other as cross country athletes.
“I think she had a lot of influence on me because she’s one of the people that really encouraged me,” Deidra said of her sister. “She encourages me and is always wondering how I’m doing in my running and how I’m doing in meets. She’s just really supportive of me, and I try to be supportive of her and her running.”
The Maize girls have battled injuries this fall, and Rankins pointed out that the top seven athletes had not run at the same time since the first meet of the season.
Deidra helps stabilize the Maize team through her leadership and consistency.
“We’re trying to get her to improve the second half of a race, specifically the last mile,” said Rankins. “That’s where I’ve seen improvement in practice.”
“I just want to run my best,” Deidra said, “and try and run as hard as I can and as fast as I can. As long as I do that, I’ll be satisfied.”