Rebecca Story didn't believe it when her coach, Tony Cosey, told her that she had run a 59-second anchor leg in the 4 x 400-meter relay at the Division II-A Tennessee State Championships, a time that would have won the individual 400-meters.
At this point in her illustrious high school career, there's no reason for anyone to doubt her ability to do anything.
"She's the most accomplished girls' distance runner to ever come out of the state of Tennessee," Cosey asserted without hesitation.
The Christian Academy of Knoxville senior added to her legacy last Friday at Dean Hayes Stadium as she wrote the final chapter of her prep journey, winning the 800 (2:19.64), 1600 (5:03.93), and 3200 (11:00.07). When Story crossed the finish line for the final time on the relay team's championship run, it brought her total to 15 career championships between track and field and cross-country.
"Today has been a pretty emotional day," Story said after finishing the 3200. "I just wanted to run by feel today and it turned out pretty well. I didn't want to over-exert myself on any one event and not have enough left for the others."
"I've run in this meet since I was in the eighth grade when I won my first state championship, and every year it's gotten better and better," Story added.
Now that the dust has settled on her high school career, here are just a few of Story's impressive achievements (national results not included):
- 10 individual track and field state championships, which began with a 3200-meter title in the eighth grade and includes back-to-back-to-back triples in the 800, 1600, and 3200 from her sophomore through senior seasons.
- 3 track and field relay championships (4 x 800 her sophomore and junior season and 4 x 400 as a senior).
- 2 cross-country championships as a junior and senior.
- Holds the current state record in the 1600-meters with a time of 4:43.97, breaking a record that had stood for over 40 years at the Music City Distance Carnival last June.
- Girls Athlete of the Year, Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year, and Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year at the 2017 News Sentinel Sports Awards.
While Story has been successful since she began running in the sixth grade, it wasn't until halfway through high school that her perspective shifted towards the national picture.
"My seventh grade year is when I actually started winning some of the races, and in eighth grade I ran for the high school," said Story. "But around my sophomore year I started running more national races. My first national race was the 3200 at the Arcadia Invitational, and I got fourth place. That kind of put me on the map, which got me more invitations to national races, so it was a domino effect."
While Story is proud of the individual accomplishments, she said she prefers running the relay events.
"I always love doing a team event because they're a lot of fun," Story said. "If I had a choice between running an individual event or a relay, I would choose a relay every time. Running with a team is a special thing, and I look forward to continuing that at the next level."
The team-over-me attitude is something Cosey said represents the real Rebecca Story.
"The way she acts to everyone is not a façade," said Cosey, who has coached Story since she was in the sixth grade. "What I know is that if she has true and pure character, then that's what's going to make her a great athlete. You can train and run all the miles you want, but if you don't have the integrity, which is purity inside and out, then it won't have the sticking power, and she has that."
Cosey, who was the head track and cross-country coach at CAK until the 2017 track season, has spent the last year coaching elite athletes in the area like Story. Cosey was a four-time high school state champion at Central High School in Knoxville, seven-time college All-American at Tennessee, and competed in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
Even with Cosey's distinguished career and loads of accolades, the pupil has long passed the mentor, at least in terms of what she's done in high school. And he said she makes sure to remind him every chance she gets.
"She kids me about it; it was as soon as two or three years ago that she had matched my titles in Tennessee at that point," Cosey said with a chuckle. "That was always fun. We played back and forth about different events because there was nowhere she could go in high school or nationally that I hadn't been. So every time she would click one off she'd be like, 'I got you on that one.'"
"Coaching Rebecca has certainly been special," Cosey added. "They say great athletes make great coaches, and that's certainly true with her. I'm looking forward to what she's going to do on the next level more than anything."
Story is also excited about what the future holds as she prepares to make the over-2,000 mile journey to Stanford in just a few months.
"I always told myself I was going to go to the place that was the best fit for me no matter where it was," Story said. "Stanford just happened to be the best fit, even if it is far away."
Story will run in a few postseason races over the next month before a short break, and then she will begin to build up her mileage to prepare for cross-country season in the fall.