by Daniel Olsen
One started running 18 months ago; the other has been running since her early childhood years. Neither of them have even competed in a race at BYU. But both of them could probably run laps around you in a track race.
Addi Bruening and Taylor Rohatinsky have both graduated from Herriman and Lone Peak, respectively. While their rivalry is young, the two raced each other in the 3200 meter race for the first time at the state meet this year. They had raced each other in a few shorter races throughout the season. Bruening edged out Rohatinsky in the 3200, but Rohatinsky took home first place in the 1600 and 800 meter races.
“Winning four different state championships throughout my high school career was awesome,” Bruening said. “I was also proud of winning Gatorade Player of the Year. I finally got the school record in the mile, and have progressed my times throughout high school.”
That was before Rohatinsky came onto the scene and made the 6A state championships the most competitive among the distance events in all classifications. The pair finished within a second of each other in the 1600 and 3200 meter races.
“The mile is definitely my favorite distance to race,” Rohatinsky said. “I am able to control that race because I know how to run it. I’m getting the hang of the other races.”
Rohatinsky won her specialty race with a time of 4:49, clocking the fastest time at the UHSAA Track State Championships a couple weeks ago. Bruening finished just a second behind with a 4:50. It was a relatively cool morning at race time, but would rise as high as 66 degrees later in the day.
“I like the fall season the best,” Bruening said. “I don’t like the heat. I like it to be a little chillier like it is in cross country.”
While Rohatinsky has learned to be confident in pushing the pace while leading the race, it wasn’t always this way when she first started running.
“At first, I just loved to pick people off one by one,” Rohatinsky said. “Coming into track season I knew that wouldn’t be an option if I wanted to get a quick time. In indoor I was too scared to lead. I would just start my kick the last 50 meters.”
That all changed this year at the Pine View Invitational in St. George. Rohatinsky decided to start off leading the pack and was able to set a personal best time of 4:48 in the 1600 meter run. That was a 13 second improvement and a significant milestone for her to shatter the five minute barrier in the mile.
Outside of the track, both girls have learned to excel in the classroom. Bruening hasn’t had time for a job and also has limited time for homework with the time commitment track requires.
“Sometimes it can be a bit hard,” Bruening said. “I make sure I have time to do both homework and track.”
While Bruening was on BYU’s radar for a while, Rohatinsky didn’t start getting recruited until her senior year. That was because she previously was committed to soccer. After a conversation with her soccer coach, she realized running was her future and stuck with that.
It didn’t come without trials. After committing to running, she broke her back sledding in her junior year and had to rehabilitate back to the point where she was able to run again.
And run she did.
Going to cross country camps with Addi at BYU and Utah State helped get her name out there last summer. While she initially had desires to go out of state for college (particularly at NC State or Arkansas), BYU caught her eye as has been the case for the Rohatinsky family historically. Her uncle and aunt both won NCAA championships and had stellar running careers.
“I loved the environment when I went on my visit,” Rohatinsky said. “I loved Coach Taylor and the environment.”
When it came to choosing a school, BYU was always at the forefront of Bruening’s mind.
”It was mostly USU and BYU who recruited me,” Bruening said. “A few other schools reached out but there was nobody I was super interested in. I grew up wanting to go to BYU not considering running, so it was a program I already wanted anyway.”
That makes sense, considering the Cougars have been a national powerhouse. They have won two team championships and several individual championships in the last couple years. However, the rest of the state is catching up as USU and SUU have recently fielded Top 25 teams. BYU will need to continue to recruit at a high level not only to have in-state bragging rights, but to compete with top tier cross country programs in the Big 12 next year like Oklahoma State.
While Jared, Josh, and Tara Rohatinsky have all made their mark in BYU distance running, a new Rohatinsky will look to make her own mark as she competes with Bruening and the other talented harriers on the BYU women’s team.
“I would love to make running a career,” Rohatinsky said. “I want to make my own name and show I can do my own thing and that it’s not just my family name that got me here.”