Monday, October 16, 2006

ATH: Taylor Faust in the News

Faust has doubters on the run
By Bill Begley, The Daily Times, Published October 15, 2006

INGRAM — Exactly one year after he faced doubts he might ever walk again, Taylor Faust covered the three-mile course at the Bobcat Invitational cross country meet in Comfort in a time of 19:09.

Not good enough to win the race, but good enough to get his face on a billboard.

“The goal now is to break 19 minutes,” the Ingram Tom Moore junior said Saturday on the first anniversary of his near-fatal crash. “At times, it’s been kind of hard. Me and Coach (Emily) King talk a lot about it. We try to emphasize what we have today and try not to always look at the past, because that can only drag you down.”

Problem is, Faust’s amazing story — of his unlikely recovery after, among other things, he broke the femur bone in both legs in a horrific early-morning car crash on Oct. 14, 2005 — is so compelling and inspiring, interest in the story won’t fade away.

Today, just off Interstate 35 in San Antonio, the 17-year-old is featured on a billboard promoting nearby Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital, where Faust first recovered from the crash. The image has appeared in magazine and newspaper ads for the facility.

“He is excited about that,” King said. “He does love those people. They put their heart and soul into helping him.

“He was so happy to get to do this thing. He came and found me at school and brought a CD that had the picture for the ad and the story about him on it. I read it and just about cried.”

Faust’s case worker at Santa Rosa promoted the idea — the story of the teen’s crash, how he was trapped in the wreckage for nearly six hours, the multiple injuries he suffered, and his recovery to run again just 10 months later in the Tyler Behrens 5K in Kerrville.

That led to a photo shoot that Faust said had him feeling like he “was Tom Cruise.”

“They did it on a track (at Fox Tech High School in San Antonio) while this football team was practicing,” Faust said. “It was weird. They had a chair for me, and they were putting makeup on me. All the players and kids on the sidelines were trying to figure out what was going on, trying to figure out if I was somebody.”

The story has spread outside even the considerable boundaries of this state. Faust has heard from people as far away as New Jersey, and received a letter of support from a couple whose son was a competitive runner who qualified for the Olympic trials.

“The Internet is everywhere, I guess,” Faust said. “I don’t think of it as anything special. I guess it’s just the context of things, it’s about doing what I had to do in a tough situation. I just tell them that I had a lot of great help, a lot of great support and that you have to keep believing in yourself and never give up.”

“I think he does realize that he is a role model,” King said. “It’s not something he tries to shy away from. But, right now, he is so consumed with getting better, he just doesn’t think about it. He’s trying not to look back.”

Faust’s times have improved since he needed 21-plus minutes to finish the Behrens. He broke the 20-minute mark over a 5K course last week, running a 19:48 in a meet at McNeil. Getting to that point has not been easy, and moving on is not getting any easier. Faust’s stride has changed — a result, in part, of the steel rods that now stabilize his femurs.

“Actually, I am surprised as how well I’ve gotten used to things again,” Faust said. “When I first started back running, going a mile or two was an ordeal. Now, I’m back up to five or, sometimes, six miles a run.

“I’ve had trouble with my gait a lot. My stride is almost a foot shorter than it was. Every now and then, my knee acts up — that just comes with the things I’ve been through — but all of that will get better with time and as I get more confidence in my running.”

King keeps a close eye on her runner, understanding that he needs to build both stamina and confidence and that building both will also exercise Faust’s patience.

“He still has a few problems he deal with,” King said. “He has a little problem getting his legs stretched out and he was a little afraid to push, to sprint, but has gotten pretty much past that now and is sprinting pretty well at the end. We’ve had to cut back on his distances in workouts, obviously, so he’s competing a lot on experience and guts.

“He’s very excited about the improvement, but he also gets aggravated when he gets beat by kids he knows he should be beating. Taylor was running low 18’s and high 17’s at this point last year. He was very excited to break 20 minutes (at McNeil) until he looked at the time he ran last year — in the 17’s.”

Getting to that point again may not happen — not this year — but Faust was not supposed to be running at all, according to some doctors who treated him hours after the crash.

“I don’t know if he’ll get past where he was last year,” King said, “but I can definitely see him getting back to where he was before.”

Saturday’s race, ironically, came on Homecoming weekend at Ingram — the same as last year — but Faust did not dwell on it.

“Not really,” he said. “During the race, I never thought about it once. Maybe a little before the race, but once the race started, I was focused on running.”

No doubt.

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