RazorbacksSports

Taylor Werner Signs Pro Contract with Puma

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 27, 2021 – Shawn Price

UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS WOMEN’S TRACK & FIELD

Online Version: bit.ly/3t1nebN
Arkansas women’s All-America distance runner Taylor Werner celebrated another significant moment in her running career Wednesday when she announced signing a professional contract with Puma.

Twice a NCAA silver medalist and six-time All-American, Werner was an integral part of Arkansas’ three NCAA team titles in 2019, including the Razorback women’s first ever NCAA Championship in cross country.

“For me, going to Arkansas, I was all about the team,” said Werner, who earned All-America honors in each NCAA Championship that year. “So, to end on three national championships, team-wise, that meant more to me than anything I have ever done. Yea, would I liked to have won individual titles, of course, but I think winning a team title is so much more special.

“You can have multiple individual winners, you only get one team, and to do that three times – that’s insane. I would have liked to break records, win a title of my own, but to me that is the best of the best, winning a team title. I got to do that three times.”

Razorback women’s head coach Lance Harter noted: “Because of her growth and development at Arkansas, it attracted a lot of interest from a lot of the professional groups out there. We’re super excited that she had an opportunity to join the pro ranks and continue her career. I think, like many of our other post-collegians, she is going to be successful.”

Arkansas’ success with distance runners over the years has propelled many alums into the professional ranks, where multiple Razorbacks have qualified for the World Championships and Olympic Games. 

“Our philosophy at Arkansas is to make sure they always have upside when they graduate,” said Harter. “So, they’re not burned out or at the end of their career. The next four to eight years could even be better. We’re very optimistic about Taylor as she’s definitely going to be a name that the U.S. is going to be very proud of.”

Having recovered from a back injury sustained in a car accident, Taylor showcased her blossoming talent in 2019 with a pair of All-American honors at the NCAA Indoor Championships, placing second in the 3,000m and running on the Razorback distance medley relay, which was followed by a pair of All-American honors at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, where she finished second in the 5,000m after placing fourth in the 10,000m.

Taylor collected a fifth All-American honor in 2019 by placing fourth at the NCAA Cross Country Championships as Arkansas captured its first ever national championship in cross country.

“For me, the best part was I contributed to that, I didn’t watch from the sidelines,” said Werner. “I got to help and be with my team, cheer for each other and be cheered by my teammates. We all celebrated that together. When you get a whole team with that energy, it’s just a lot of tears when you accomplish everything that we did.

“It wasn’t just distance runners, it was sprinters, pole vaulters, and jumpers. It was this whole diverse group of girls that I’m forever going to be connected with. Whatever they do, where ever they go, I’m always going to be able to look at them and be like that’s my teammate.

“I got to share a once-in-a-lifetime moment with them – three times! It’s special.”

In December of 2019, she produced a career best of 15:11.19 to win an indoor 5,000-meter race in Boston. In defeating the 2019 NCAA cross country individual champion, the time by Werner came within a second of the Olympic Games standard of 15:10.00. It also would have bettered the indoor collegiate record of 15:12.22 set by Emily Sisson of Providence in 2015.

“That was the turning point for me,” stated Werner. “I was always dreaming about being top 10 in cross country. I finish fourth and I’m upset about it. That just shows you how expectations change over time. So, I went into the race wanting to re-prove to myself that I have what it takes to be a national contender. I beat the NCAA cross country champion, which was my main goal, then I look at the time and thought, ‘oh my gosh, I just ran 15:11 and broke the collegiate record.’

“It was a turning point for me, because once I got to that level within a collegiate system, I wondered what I could do in a pro system. I don’t think I reached my cap at Arkansas, but I think I was ready for more and just to focus on myself individually. I had focused so much on the team during 2019.”

Werner spent this past fall passing along knowledge during workouts to the next group of Razorback newcomers, who were racing in a shortened cross country season. After Arkansas claimed an eighth consecutive SEC title, Werner’s focus shifted to training for the upcoming indoor season.

“Once cross country ended it was like, it’s go time,” Werner said. “I got very motivated and starting dabbing into training big time. But then I got this call, and it was kind of like, ‘ok, what’s in your best interest, what’s my goal at the end of the day.’ I want to make the Olympic team, I want to do well at the Trials, and I want to run these fast times. It was time for me to move on.

“I look at it now, I’m a professional runner, this is insane. I’ve been dreaming about this since I was 10 years old, and maybe younger. The fact that this is all happening right now, it’s surreal. It means so much to me. I’m so happy.”

Werner’s reflection on her Arkansas career

“I think about this all the time. I joined Arkansas because I knew they had that tradition, they had the coaching, and all the puzzle pieces which they had put together before. I figured out quickly, it’s the people, the environment and the goals. That’s what makes this program.

“Every time you come to practice you’re not going to be negative, you’re going to do the work, you’re going to push, and that’s the environment that we set. Then look what happened. All these puzzle pieces came together, and we won three national championships.

“That is something I’m going to remember forever. It’s something that is going to help me in my professional career. That’s the mindset you need to have. It was the perfect opportunity for me to learn, and grow, and to help the team. It’s special.”  

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