Lakeville North cross-country senior Taylor Perkins, left, and her mother, Michele Perkins, both challenge and encourage one another. Michele is an assistant coach at Prior Lake, which competes in the South Suburban Conference with Lakeville North. Photo
Taylor Perkins wanted to run with her mother when she was in fifth grade. Her mother, Michele, objected at first.
She had visions of a young child not being able to keep pace with the former All-Big Eight Conference selection from the University on Nebraska. Taylor remained persistent until her mother gave in later that school year.
Taylor, a senior at Lakeville North, has since developed into one of the state's top cross-country runners in Class 2A. It wasn't achieved, though, without a little bit of heartache.
During her early years as a member of the varsity team, Taylor would be in a pack with the lead runners only to fade at the end of a race. She made the school's varsity team as a seventh-grader, and has qualified for the state meet every season since those middle school years.
"It was like I had heavy legs," Taylor said. "I couldn't finish a race. It was miserable; something had to be wrong."
She was right. The three-sport athlete (she also ran track and played basketball) was diagnosed with iron deficiency at the end of her freshman year. Her ferritin level would drop to as low as 12. The lower the ferritin level, even within the normal range of 12 to 150, the more likely it is a person doesn't have enough iron.
"My track coach joked that it was like I was running on one leg," Taylor said.
It still took time to find the right dosage to aid her in running. She currently takes four doses of iron (pill or liquid) a day.
"It was at a pretty significant level," said Michele, who serves as assistant coach on the Panthers' track team but coaches against her daughter in the fall when she is a member of Prior Lake's cross-country staff. "It was a battle to get the right dosage. I'm proud of her for sticking with it."
The two shared a proud moment together earlier this season. In the Rosemount Invitational, Taylor was the medalist while Prior Lake garnered the team title in the girls' 4-kilometer race.
"We have a good time with it at meets," Taylor said. "We're always joking around."
Along with the fun also comes the competitiveness of both.
Michele, the Class 1A state champion in 1985, still owns the fifth fastest time in state history in the 1,600-meter run, She ran a time 4:53.4 set in 1986 at Belgrade-Brooten. She ranks 11th all-time in the 3,200 with a time of 10:32.6.
"I see a lot of me in her," Taylor said. "We are nearly identical."
However, Taylor has never finished higher than 31st in the state cross-country meet. Her personal best in the 1,600 is 5:06.1; in the 3,200, she's run 11:00.79.
"I've never run well at the state meet," Taylor said. "I have never lived up to my ranking."
Michele expects that to change in her daughter's final season.
"Hard work pays off, and she is persistent," Michele said. "Her best days and years are ahead of her."
She would know. Michele now asks Taylor if she can run with her.
"I can't keep up with her," Michele said. "The times have changed."